Sex column fitting for a college newspaper
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on October 6, 2006 | PRINT

In my four years at The Tiger, I'd have to say that we've received a fair amount of letters, either praising or criticizing our staff's editorial choice, our content, our reporting quality and our policy of printing arrest reports. Without a doubt, the most contentious issue has been our sex column, On the Prowl. We get letters from detractors as well as followers, either encouraging us to continue, or telling us to keep "that sort of thing on the streets" (not really the best solution, in my opinion). In the four years that the column has run in the paper, it has had five different authors; four women and one man. On the Prowl began in February of 2003, the week after Valentine's Day. Opening her first column, Renee Riley had this to say: "Sex. It is a word that is on many young adults' minds … The problem that many come across as they begin to explore their sexual boundaries is that most people in our society today are just too shy or embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex. The subject is so vast that many questions are left unanswered. In the spirit of breaking this phenomenon of silence, here is a column completely devoted to sex. Every aspect of it." She continued to investigate why young adults begin to let out their energy through sex, and concluded that some of it was the simple taboo associated with the subject. Riley continued on, saying, "This is not propaganda for 'free love.'" The Tiger continues to follow the standard Riley set forth in her opening words. The four writers who followed her have attempted to educate students and answer their questions about sex, while generally keeping a lighter and sometimes humorous tone. It is important to note here that On the Prowl exists at the request of our staff writers; we do not make an active effort to keep the column in the paper. Rather, we publish it when it is submitted. When Renee no longer wrote the column, Alanna Jones volunteered to write it. She continued every week until she graduated, when [Anita Johnson] stepped forward and wrote for a year. During her second semester of writing, [Johnson] was busy and did not always have time for On the Prowl, and it was not published. Kells Hildebrant filled the space with a lifestyle column in [Johnson]'s absence. Our Orson Swelles persona also wrote the column once during that year, and took over when [Johnson] chose not to return. Swelles continues to grace our pages, and lately our fifth staffer to go on the prowl has been writing under the name Felicia Lambert. She writes when Swelles is too busy to contribute. All of that said, The Tiger stands by our staff writers and the column they have perpetuated. We have always received complaints and praise about it, regardless of who was writing it. Take [Johnson], for instance. When she wrote the column, it focused more on interpersonal relationships than her predecessors had. Swelles took the column not only in a more sexual direction, but looked at the issues from a male perspective. The faculty response in the past four years has been diverse; some people have come out in timid support, while others denounce us from their soapboxes. I was especially pleased when Joy Smith, Dean of Students, complimented me after my first issue as editor in chief, saying that she was happy that On the Prowl had been educational and amusing. Written by Swelles, it advised freshmen girls not to drunkenly go home with guys at parties and advocated safe sexual practices. Occasionally, a faculty member will get it in his or her power-swollen head that the administration has control over the paper's content and send us or President Barker letters demanding that we drop the column. Let me reiterate: Only our editors can control the content of the paper. No one else. The traditional argument used to defend the column is the First Amendment. Some editors have simply responded with, "because we can!" when challenged. Though they are technically correct, that doesn't do much to justify running a sex column in a generally conservative area. I would be lying if I said that the article was not meant to incite discussion or present uncomfortable taboos. But that is only part of the column's purpose.

People who read the column, students or otherwise, are exposed to generally educational material. True, some weeks it is more educational than others, but the intention of the column remains the same: to expose the reader to a sexually related subject, maybe give some advice and generally entertain him or her. Another argument that I've heard rehashed over the years has been, "if you don't want to read it, don't." In the real world, we're going to be exposed to opinions, moderate and fanatical, that may conflict with our own sets of morals. While you may believe that this is the wrong point in your life to enter a sexual relationship, that does not mean that we should not offer information about it. Heck, you could save the columns until you feel you're ready and put them to good use later. We have a pretty extensive online archive. My point here is, we're not telling you go have rampant, promiscuous sex (as detractors like to assert); in fact, Swelles himself has condemned it. Most of the articles, even if written from the first person, tend to treat the sexual experiences as part of a monogamous relationship. On the Prowl is carefully written so that it can be adapted to your sexual tastes. Alanna Jones even wrote one about everything you can do short of coitus, if you're not into it. Also, notice that the column runs in the TimeOut section, which isdevoted to entertainment and lifestyle, not serious news reporting. Some students at college (and I would presume many of the adults in the area) have a sexually active lifestyle. This column is for them. Despite the number of complaints we get about On the Prowl, they are far outweighed by the positive remarks. A few weeks ago, The Tiger published a letter from a student at USC, praising the column and expressing his disappointment in The Gamecock for not following suit. Just last week, the associate minister from my mother's church complimented the column (not something I ever expected to experience, I'll admit). I'll close with another quote from Riley's inaugural column that I believe conveys the aim and intent of On the Prowl, as I see it.

"Sex is a natural part of our existence. Exploration of this activity is important and deserves serious consideration, even those aspects of it that many consider ridiculous or unmentionable."

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