The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Sex Column Divides Student Body

4 min read


UMW is talking about sex. And not just that. It is talking about talking about sex. Students are choosing sides, and what began as the brainchild of a women’s studies class is now one of the most controversial topics on campus.
Senior Elz England and 2005 alumna Betsy Crumb began their “Sexclamations” column in The Bullet in the spring of 2005. With topics ranging from pubic hair removal to birth control legislation, the column is the first of its kind for The Bullet.
“It was meant to be an informational yet informal discussion of issues focusing on women’s sexuality,” Crumb said in an e-mail. “If you want to have sex and are having sex then we are here to help you with that choice.”
Junior Katherine Pacious disagrees, and so, she says, do over 500 other UMW students.
“I have thought from the beginning that it didn’t make sense,” Pacious said. “It’s not journalism and I think it’s degrading to men and women.”
Pacious, believing she was not alone, created a petition urging for the removal of “Sexclamations” from The Bullet.
“[It] decreases the value of The Bullet to less than that of Cosmopolitan, and diminishes the reputation of our school in the eyes of the community and prospective students,” the petition reads. The petition is printed in its entirety on page 9 of this issue.
According to Pacious, each person who signed the petition was informed that it would ultimately be submitted to the paper and printed. She also bought ad space in this week’s issue of The Bullet to print the petition.
According to Pacious, the real push for a response came when the column changed hands. When Crumb graduated last spring, England was joined by senior Daniel Ceo, who provided a different take on many issues than Crumb or England. It was then, Pacious said, that she decided to take action.
“Sure, sex is a part of college life,” Pacious said. “But it’s not what our school is about. The opinions of one or two students doesn’t speak for the school.”
Pacious went door-to-door in residence halls throughout campus, and collected 507 signatures between November and January.
“Katherine [Pacious] showed an immense amount of prerogative by getting student backup to her claim,” Bullet Editor-In-Chief and senior Stephanie Tait said. “A lot of people complain about the column, but she actually did something about it.”
The news of the petition and the fervor surrounding the column were a shock to England.
“I was floored that someone actually thought it was ‘degrading’ and offensive,” she said. “They aren’t reading the column closely enough, we always say have safe sex, and we even mention that many aren’t practicing sex.”
Bernard Chirico, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, has been reading “Sexclamations” since it debuted.
“It’s great that students are getting us thinking and upset,” Chirico said. “That’s what a newspaper is supposed to do. Things like Middlesell and The Bullet, they’re doing a neat service. They should be stirring things up. Isn’t that what it’s all about at this age?”
“The column does its job,” Tait said. “It invokes a certain amount of passion. Our goal is not to incite controversy so much as discussion.”
This year the tone of the column has undergone some changes with its new perspective. England and Ceo often have widely differing perspectives on issues regarding sex, and the column has shown that.
“This year Dan and I are often at crossroads,” England said. “So there have been more point vs. counter-point columns.”
England and Ceo have had debates in the column regarding pornography and the validity of gender roles
According to Crumb and England, the idea of starting “Sexclamations” also stemmed from the fact that many other schools had similar columns.
The Flat Hat, the weekly newspaper of The College of William & Mary, features a sex column entitled “Behind Closed Doors.”
“Alums… write in letters, but there’s not much student protest that I know of,” Jeff Dooley said, who is a sophomore and assistant sports editor for The Flat Hat.
“Behind Closed Doors,” which is written by William & Mary senior Kate Prengaman, has been in print for four years, according to Dooley.
The Feb. 2 edition of the column was a discussion of and tutorial on the basics of bondage.
“The column covers a pretty wide range, sometimes heavy stuff like STDs,” said Dooley. “Lots of oral.”
“There was definitely a buzz when [“Sexclamations”] came out,” Chirico said. “But there was no ‘get rid of it’ that I heard.”
As of now, England has no plans to address the controversy in the column.
“I don’t want to waste my column space addressing people who should just skip reading the column if they have a problem with it,” England said. “Reading the entire Bullet is not compulsory.”
“I will bring [the issue] up at the staff meeting this week and ask the editors for their input,” Tait said. “I want to make this as democratic and two-sided as possible, but we have no plans to diminish or alter the column.”
“We have lots of opposing viewpoints at this school,” Chirico said. “They should all be able to say what they believe