The Bleak, Barren Lives of the Sex-mad Student Columnists of Berkeley

The latest stop in my peregrinations around the world of the online versions of student-run college newspapers was a column called, straightforwardly enough, Sex on Tuesday, in The Daily Californian of the University of California, Berkeley.

I am not sure why Tuesday is the designated day for chronicles of astronomical levels of promiscuity and joyless hookups. Maybe the columnists need Monday to write up, in a mixture of slang (one did not realize that there are so many idioms for so many forms of sexual behavior) and the anatomical knowingness highly oversexed undergraduates think is hip, their lubricious weekends.

Tuesday is the day for publication of such topics as, “Queer men on sexual display,” “Post-sex chatting,” (sounds so romantic), “I don’t wear bras,” and “I wanted to be like women in porn.”

And remember taxpayers, this is routine, weekly material in the student newspaper of one of the leading public universities in the US. You are helping to foot the bill.

Note the total disregard of any sort of human feeling in the bed-hopping described in these columns. Much of the action therein is swift and devoid of any notion that sex can be a beautiful—or meaningful—thing, as it certainly can be in a marriage. Coarseness is de rigueur in Sex on Tuesday. Perhaps, they could start a column, “Remorse on Wednesday,” or “Sense of Shame on Friday.”

Let’s look at one of these columns in detail. This particular specimen was published on April 27, 2021 and is entitled, “Sleeping with a stranger.” Probably not a good idea (think Looking for Mr. Goodbar). But hey, that’s just me.

One reads this piece trying to figure what the young woman’s goal in writing it was. She seems to grasp that sleeping with men she doesn’t know much at all is a bit, well, slutty. She regards waking up in a state of nakedness with only a vague sense of where one is and who the man next to her is, as a perfectly normal state of affairs:

We’ve all been here: Waking up confused, disoriented, disheveled, rapidly trying to replay the events from the night before in our minds. Good old one-night stands. They happen to the best of us, the worst of us, and, to some of us, they happen often.

This is not good public health or hygiene and it is not my idea of feminism. Has this poor young woman ever known what it is to be loved by parents or a young man who knows both her first and last name? A man who cares for and about her? One who actually knows her as an individual person, not simply as a sexually desirable—and conveniently available--object?

And who, by the way, is her intended audience?

And do the Sex on Tuesday writers ever stop to think of how they will come across to potential employers down the road? (How about potential in-laws? How about one’s future children?) I would think that when this girl applies for jobs future employers will google her and say, “Hmm, she sleeps around a lot and seems wildly indiscreet, self-absorbed, and something of an exhibitionist. Not what we are looking for in our [insert workplace or profession of your choice here: bank, high school, home health agency]…”

And what if they fall genuinely in love with someone? Will they have to say that they have picked up in these erotic escapades a disease that they do not want to pass along to someone they realize too late that they now love?

And where is the university in all of this? Could they at least try to offer some sort of counter-narrative to passages like these:

While there are, of course, different types of one-night stands, my personal favorite is the sleepover. Often I don’t plan to sleep over. But the overwhelming exhaustion I feel post-fuck makes the thought of squeezing my jeans back on and walking home or locating my friends feel almost impossible. Sometimes he’ll offer to share his bed for the night, other times I’ll pass out in it regardless…

Yes, parents--this is what passes for student journalism these days at UC, Berkeley. This young woman finds sexual intercourse terribly tiring and she can’t even work up the energy to try to find her friends—who, apparently, don’t even notice if one of their number is out at all night. Perhaps they are busy being similarly exhausted elsewhere for similar reasons.

Do students at this school ever, you know, study?

There are some signs in this particular column that this young woman realizes that the life she is leading is going nowhere fast morally and, given her references to enervation, physically:

My makeup is usually smeared and extra gross as I try to untangle myself from the sweaty and possibly naked stranger lying beside me. A wave of regret washes over me, but it never lasts.

All so sad and so soiling for her and for the young people who read this record of degradation over their lattes.

Even after painting a dreary picture of clumsy copulating she says that such encounters have become imperative to her sex life—and, this is the saddest part of all, she even says, “There’s a certain beauty in the ability to have free sex without commitment…”

Does no editor or caring adult take this young person aside and say, “That is not beauty. That is libertinism. It’s not good for your soul. It’s not good for your body. It is in fact, quite ugly.” But no. This is an institution of higher education in California.

Do faculty at UC, Berkeley ever read the student newspaper? If so, shouldn’t some psychology or public health professor write a rebuttal to this sort of column? Are they afraid of hurting the self-esteem of student writers or seeming paternalistic (or—gasp—prudish)? One would think that some beneficial dialogue might ensue if a faculty member wrote a letter to the editor and said gently but firmly, “Sex with strangers and allowing oneself to be used is not a healthy lifestyle.” Couldn’t hurt.

This unfortunate young woman even finds casual sex good for her and a pathway to a robust sense of self:

Being able to authentically and freely fuck whoever, whenever is almost therapeutic. Casual sex is a realm in which I can explore my desires and dislikes with honesty.

Tumbling into bed with the nearest available man is even a way of furthering brotherhood:

People often say there is so much you can learn from strangers. I’ve found that to be especially true in having sex with them.

Well, I suppose…

One wonders if men note what she says of herself and write little reminders to themselves to indulge her on this front:

I like my hair pulled during sex…

Is this true of all the women at The Daily Californian? And is this the thing among the college crowd--to write to frankly of one’s liking for being roughed up during sex with strangers? Again, where are the adults at this university? What message does this send to male students? “Well, yeah—I pulled her hair. Women like that.”

It strikes me as a bit weird that casual references to sadomasochism seem hunky-dory with the editorial leadership of The Daily Californian and just another day at the office for its readership. And this is a generational cohort that lives and breathes for #MeToo moments. Beating up women is acceptable in the personal lives of female left-wing students, one gathers. That is modern feminism for you.

Sex on Tuesday is your guide to a world in which finding oneself involves sleeping with strangers and desire leads to running mascara and stumbling home alone in the morning. So empowering!

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