Addressing the topic of sex in a public forum isn’t easy. Just ask Jazmine Ancira, second-year at Cabrillo College.
Ancira, writer for Cabrillo College’s paper The Voice, didn’t expect to receive such strong backlash in response to her article published last month, entitled “Sex and the City College.” However, her article, which offered sexual health advice and detailed tips from her colleagues at Cabrillo, was rendered offensive by faculty and community members alike.
The concept for “Sex and the City College” was inspired by the legacy of a previous managing editor of The Voice, who had been interested in starting a column on the topic of sex astrology and compatibility.
“We have a lot of cool people in our staff and they were like, ‘We’re all for it,’” Ancira said. “We wanted to do something out there and edgy … Sex is everywhere. Why not? We are a college.”
At first, the article received only positive feedback from students, but things began to change.
“It took us a week or two to realize that all these people were pissed off,” Zach Stoloff, editor of The Voice, said. “We began to get tons of letters, complaints from alumni, people from the community.”
David Ambrosini, Cabrillo College faculty member, wrote in a letter to the editor, “I don’t want the public to believe our College approves of or supports this particular article. I don’t think it is part of an informative sex education opinion or discussion.”
Ambrosini called the article “lewd, decadent, and pornographic.”
This response struck a chord with Ancira, who argued instead that her article’s educational component is important to consider when determining the value of the work.
In its first section, Ancira’s article uses medical advice to answer three “questions about sex that some of us never grew courage to ask,” consistently advising proper use of condoms and protection from bacteria.
“I honestly did not feel like it was pornographic or anything,” she said. “It’s education about sex, which is not talked about, and maybe people do want to talk about it.”
The second section of the article includes two student-recommended positions to experiment with during sex, called “The Hot-Tub Hug” and “The Lap Dance.” It also includes a student quote in which the phrase “hit it from the back” is used to describe a favorite position.
The language was called out by Ambrosini, among others. Stoloff, editor of The Voice, argued that the phrase reflects the vernacular of the Cabrillo College campus.
“‘Hit it from the back’ is a phrase which may be (and probably is) shocking to a certain population of people who aren’t familiar with the modern, youthful colloquialisms of sex,” he said in an editorial for The Voice published April 5 to defend the infamous article. “However, this is the dialect of English spoken frequently at Cabrillo College.”
Stoloff also received complaints about a YouTube video, entitled “Wii Sex,” that originally accompanied the online version of the article. Although Ancira’s article is still available on The Voice’s website, the video was removed from the site. Stoloff maintained that his reason for removing it had nothing to do with appeasing those who were offended.
“If the video had any journalistic value to it, I would have kept it up,” he said. “Most of the criticism was directed at the column itself.”
Kristin Fabos, director of marketing and communications at Cabrillo College, said of the article, “Our position is: it was informative, it was instructional journalistically … absolutely there is the First Amendment right for freedom of speech in journalism.”
Addressing the appropriateness of the article and the goals of journalism, Dr. Brian King, president and superintendent of Cabrillo College, responded to the issue in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press.
“Some faculty, staff and community members have shared their concerns with me that the articles were not appropriate for a campus newspaper,” he wrote. “The balance between absolute First Amendment rights and good journalism is at times subject to differing interpretations.”
Stoloff also acknowledged the article’s controversy in his editorial but argued for the integrity of The Voice in spite of the negative responses.
“Being that we are all journalism students trying to learn to do things the right way,” he wrote, “it is a contradicting suggestion that The Voice must reflect well on the school. Rather, the job of a journalist is to get the scoop, and get it accurately.”