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Campus Overload Live with Jenna Johnson: Love and sex on campus

Jenna Johnson,Dan Reimold
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 1:00 PM

Campus Overload's Jenna Johnson introduces you to ambitious student leaders, journalists, activists, interns and newsmakers from colleges across the country in her blog daily. In her live chat, she'll be answering your questions about college life, on and off campus.

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Jenna Johnson: Happy Thursday! With Valentine's Day coming up, I figured it would be a good day to chat about sex on campus. -- but in recent years we have seen a boom in the number of student sex columnists, magazines and blogs. Colleges are hosting "sex weeks" to explore topics like sexual health, LGBT issues, the intersection of love and religion, or the "hook-up culture."Joining me is Daniel Reimold, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Tampa and author of "Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution." College Media Matters, and can answer questions about student media.Okay -- fire away with those questions!

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Dan Reimold: Let's talk about it.

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Question from Jenna:: How should a student newspaper go about hiring a sex columnist? Is this a position that typically has to be approved by higher ups? Should there be ground rules?

Dan Reimold: From everything I've come across while writing the book, I'd definitely advise a sit-down with the columnist early on to help nail down how far he or she can go and what topics might be out of bounds-- and to warn them that they will enjoy the perks and downsides of the celebrity that comes from writing about such an intimate topic.

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Anal sex: How prevalent is heterosexual anal sex in the college age group?

Dan Reimold: It seems to be linked to both a general gross-out factor and the pure "journalism shock" of turning a newspaper page and seeing such an explicit activity being discussed.

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Question from Jenna:: To write your book (which I encourage every student editor out there to read), you read more than 2,000 sex columns written by more than 120 students. What makes for a BAD column? And what should sex columnists NOT do?

Dan Reimold: Many columnists, in fact, preach the opposite: Slow down, or at least, step back, think about things, and make sure sex is something you really want.

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Question from Jenna:: We live in an age of Google, and what you do in college can now follow you forever and ever. Do any student sex columnists worry about this? Do they ever use pen names?

Dan Reimold:

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They are at it Again....: There are two guys on our floor who cannot keep their hands off each other. We have become the audience for wrestling matches or skits they work up. Once in a while, it is ok. But this is all the time. They are totally stoked on one another, but don't realize it. How should be go about dissolving their perfect little world?

Jenna Johnson: How do you really know they don't realize it -- and, either way, why is it really any of your business? If seeing two guys wrestling makes you uncomfortable, go to your dorm room and shut the door. If the situation truly is impeding your ability to live and learn, talk to your RA.

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Columnists: Are male or female college sex columnists better received by their fellow students?

Dan Reimold: It is true though that the more high-profile male sex columnists I have come across favor a slightly more self-deprecating style, especially when addressing their own sexual experiences. Overwhelming misogyny-- even in jest-- seems to be off-limits for male writers. As a whole, the women are more aggressive in attacking the male species and its sexual and romantic shortcomings than vice-versa (with exceptions of course). Most likely, I imagine even the male columnists would agree that the men deserve it.)

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Question from Jenna:: Okay, we can't have this chat without at least one Carrie Bradshaw question... Has the popularity of Sex & the City inspired more young journalists to write about love, relationships or sex? (Or do sex columnists get annoyed when they are compared to CB?)

Dan Reimold:

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Parent in Alexandria, Virginia: I cannot even begin to express my discomfort with what seem to be usual-and-customary practices on many residential campuses, including the most academically prestigious. I work near Georgetown, and it appears that the majority of the undergraduate girls have quite conspicuous ink. The "vibe" shrieks of "I Am Charlotte Simmons." Please help reduce my anxiety!

Jenna Johnson: Well... let's remember that college students have been having sex for generations, so it's honestly not a new problem... and studies have shown that students these days are much more aware of sexual health issues...But the best thing you can do to reduce your parental anxiety is talk with your kids about healthy relationships. Sure, it's uncomfortable for many families to discuss the ins and outs of safe sex and sexual health issues. But it's easy to talk about the hallmarks of healthy relationships, self esteem and confidence, tasteful fashion and drinking safety. And use things that you have seen at Georgetown as conversation starters with your kids.I hope that helps!

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In bed with sex columnists: I imagine it could be a tad intimidating to date a sex columnist, wondering what of your experiences -- or the columnists' inner thoughts -- might end up in his or her column. Have you seen these columns spark problems in the columnists' own relationships? Do columnists set ground rules with their partners about what parts of the relationship might be off-limits for public consumption?

Dan Reimold: The one thing almost all columnists agreed upon, however: Once the relationship ends, all bets are off.

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The latest: What are the top three latest "trends" when it comes to love and sex on campus?

Dan Reimold:

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STD Testing: Should you ask your sexual partner to get regular STD tests - even if you are monogamous?

Dan Reimold: But they are in fact leading the charge on communicating the importance of sexual protection and open communication.

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Jenna Johnson: A student journalist at the University of Nebraska's Daily Nebraskan (where I was once editor) resigned this week after writing an article about architecture students hooking up. The piece reads: "These architecture students may be unknown to the rest of the student body, because according to them, nearly all of their time is spent suffocating within the studios the building contains. Such isolation is undoubtedly building up high amounts of sexual tension. So, now is the time to release their dirty secrets to the rest of the school."The piece quotes several students, but doesn't use their full names. Since it ran last week, the paper has received tons of angry e-mails and letters. In a staff editorial, student editors promised more editorial oversight of controversial topics. And the student journalist has since resigned, according to the local paper.What do you guys think? What's the balance between tasteful reporting and journalistic freedom?

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Question from Jenna:: It seems like a lot of sex columnists focus on heterosexual relationships. Have you seen many columns aimed specifically at the LGBTQ community?

Dan Reimold: They are mainly asking questions, discussing their own experiences, and starting conversations that hopefully can lead people to be more knowledgeable and accepting of areas of sex that fall outside the traditional straight/monogamy scope.

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love and sex on campus: Jenna, I strongly beg to differ. It is a fact that sex has NOT "always" been a part of college life. To the youth of today it may seem that way, but this it not truth. One who knows and remembers well...............

Jenna Johnson: Really!?! College students one, two or three generations ago never ever had sex?!Joking aside, you do have a point. Thanks for chiming in!

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Going beyond: Is it a college thing or has the casual hook-up culture extended beyond the college years and become the new lifestyle for Gen Z?

Dan Reimold: Nowadays, students are jumping right into hardcore marriage-like relationships at a blistering pace, often accompanied by sex at their first or second meet-up.

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The best: What's the best college sex columns you've seen? Can you point us to a few articles?

Dan Reimold:

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Morality: Do you think columnists have a responsibility to advocate for a moral basis to sexual relationships - as opposed to vewing it solely as a recreational activity?

Dan Reimold:

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Valentine's Day: If romance is dead, as you put it, then how big a deal is Valentine's Day on campuses now these days?

Jenna Johnson: Well, on many campuses, any holiday at all is an excuse for great drink specials and house parties. But I think a lot of students will celebrate this Valentine's Day like many adults -- couples will plan a special night out, groups of single girls will gather to watch click flicks and everyone else will try to forget that it's VDay.BUT, least we worry that romance is completely dead, I was at Virginia Tech this week and spotted a sorority selling roses as a fundraiser.

Dan Reimold: A conversation between one student editor and me earlier this week...Me: What do you think of Valentine's Day?Student: It's an industrial moneymaker and guilt-tripper, a total waste of time.Me: Would you still want a Valentine's Day gift if someone got it for you?Student: Yes. . . . a teddy bear. :)

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One Generation Ago: Graduated in the late 70s, have 3 in college now. Casual hook-ups were NOT considered respectable back then, they were considered trashy. Lots of sex among monogamous couples was considered okay in my day. But even better for a guy... even better than a sexual relationship... the girlfriend who would do laundry.

Jenna Johnson: Ugh, not matter what the generation, no girlfriend should be stuck doing her boyfriend's laundry!You are right -- casual hook-ups are much more common and casual now than they were back in the day. But I think there's still an element of shame attached, especially for women.There has been a lot written on this topic. Someone earlier mentioned Tom Wolfe's fictional character Charlotte Simmons, a college freshman who sleeps her way through a prestigious university. On the non-fiction side there's Laura Sessions Stepp's book, "Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both."

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"Love and Religion": How much do students think about the relationship between sex and religion? Won't it be one or the other for most faiths? How do they reconcile their traditional beliefs with what they do, especially for the most sexually active?

Dan Reimold:

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The Book: Has the fall of "dating" had any impact on marriages and families after college? Experts say it is taking longer for students to grow up, get a real job, and start a family.

Dan Reimold: Tough call.

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Woodbridge VA: So do any schools keep pregnancy data? What happens if a student wants to keep her baby and still be enrolled? Do babies live at dorms?

Jenna Johnson: I'm not sure if there's a uniform way this information is collected -- I think it varies campus to campus. And while pregnancy is a closely monitored issue when students are under 18, it is less monitored at the college level.I don't know of any traditional dorms that allow babies, but many schools offer apartments for older students or those with families.Even professors have a difficult time staying on tenure track while raising children. Undergraduate and grad students have an even more difficult time -- especially because they are not usually given maternity leave and childcare is expensive. (I wrote an article last year about University of Maryland graduate students pushing for more family friendly policies.)

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Grindr: What's the deal with the Grindr iPhone app? I hear now there is a hetereosexual version?

Jenna Johnson: For those not familiar, here's an explanation from Grindr's Web site: "The go-to place for gay, bi, and curious guys to meet, the location-based Grindr is free, fast, and fun. It uses GPS technology in your iPhone or BlackBerry and Wi-Fi in your iPod touch or iPad to determine your exact location and instantly connect you with guys in your area."I don't know of any other versions. Anyone out there who can fill us in?

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Marriage?: "Nowadays, students are jumping right into hardcore marriage-like relationships at a blistering pace, often accompanied by sex at their first or second meet-up."There's a lot more to marriage than just sex.

Jenna Johnson: Ah, good point!

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"they do not preach': So columns like Savage Love are not the way to go then. That columnist preaches a particular view of sex and dumps on anyone at all that disagrees with his particular 'world view'.

Dan Reimold: It's sex." :)

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Dan Reimold: Happy Valentine's Day!

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Jenna Johnson: Lots and lots of wonderful questions -- thank you to everyone who wrote in! And a very special thanks to Dan for making time to help answer questions.Again -- if you work for a student newspaper, I highly encourage you to regularly read Dan's blog, College Media Matters.Have a great week. Happy Valentine's Day!

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