Reading through the Hustler digest keeps me from sleeping through my Monday morning alarm or hitting the snooze too many times—usually. Last week’s digest, however, made sure that I woke up. As I initially scrolled through the headlines, I could have sworn I read “your campus hookup stories.” What? Maybe it was just Monday morning grogginess. No, I read it right. And no, the word Vanderbilt hadn’t been taken out of the Vanderbilt Hustler.
I was, quite frankly, disgusted. Aren’t we above this? Who wants to read about this? And if the student body wants to read about it, who wants to know that we want to read about this? How unprofessional. What a poor reflection on our students and community.
I let thoughts like this run through my mind for a while throughout the day to get the reaction out of my system. By Tuesday morning I had calmed down, so I proceeded to play devil’s advocate with myself. Am I just being a prude? Isn’t this all in good fun, not unlike the bawdy conversations I have with some of my friends? Am I projecting the ethics and norms under which I was raised on others? Could my disgust just be a projection of sexual frustration?
Questions and introspection aside, I don’t think my disgust was not unfounded. To be sure, our sexual experiences are nothing to be ashamed about, and there’s no sense in pretending the past didn’t happen. But recognizing what we do in the dark doesn’t give us license to air out our dirty laundry.
there is no gain in putting hookup stories in a publication
While The Hustler is directed at the Vanderbilt community, it is just as much the window through which the world sees that same community. Your friends at other universities might not bat an eye at a headline that reveals a few vignettes of bathroom stall or roof sex—they might even get a chuckle out of it. However, family members, old family friends, friends of friends, potential employers, etc. are all looking at The Hustler. Is this really part of the image we want to project?
Publicizing these stories contributes to a vision of Vanderbilt students, and college students generally, as unapologetic sex animals; which is unfortunate, because we are so much more. We are human, and the lives of students have many sides. But there is no gain in putting hookup stories in a publication (emphasis on the public) that are otherwise shared amongst friends and fellow students after a few drinks. In the words of Pokemon Professor Oak, there is a time and place for everything, but not now.
Furthermore, the action of publicizing sexual action, especially in a fun and flippant tone, is intrinsically problematic. It is glorifying sexual experiences, a sexual lifestyle and fetishization, without critically looking at whether these experiences have intrinsic value or are not actually all they’re cracked up to be. Or, worse yet, raising up these experiences as something to be desired, leads to serious unintended consequences. Pursuit of sexual experience can lead to seriously harmful acts such as sexual assault and sexual harassment, as individuals try to pursue sexual experience.
In sum, the publication of sexual experience offers little more than an ego boost and a few chuckles at the expense of constructing a poor student identity and perpetuating harmful norms. It is a net loss, and a very dire one at that.
Dominic Rottman is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.