On The Vagina Dialogues

by Meli Garber | 10/10/07 11:45pm

After reading both Lee Cooper '09's ("Eating In," Oct. 9) and Zachary Gottlieb '10's ("Zach's Guide to Fellating Upperclassmen," Oct. 9) columns, I couldn't help but shake my head. First, because of the notable difference in how both men chose to word their responses to Aurora Wells' column ("Aurora's Guide To Eating Out," Oct. 5), and secondly because I realized that, no matter how much we try, there are still people out there who are not ready to hear a woman discuss sexuality so openly and "vulgarly."

While Cooper is clearly offended by the "double-standard" that disallows men from writing a similar op-ed piece, and goes on to claim that "equal must mean equal," I think there are a lot of little things he seems to be overlooking. Yes, ideally, everyone would be treated equally, but this "seemingly intuitive sense of feminism" that Cooper speaks of is surprisingly not seen as such by most men and even women. And because that inequality does exist and because people have not been treated equally in the past, you cannot just dismiss things by saying, "Yes, you've been objectified and disrespected for years and have only really been allowed to be educated in this institution for the past 35 years, but now that you're here, forget all that and let's act like nothing ever happened!" Women have been faced with things far worse than what would be the male equivalent of Wells' column -- just look at the porn industry... and read a Cosmo while you're at it. I do, however, appreciate Cooper's maturity (which is more than I can say for Gottlieb), and I agree that men at Dartmouth are also at times victims.

While Wells' column may have come off as mocking men who aren't as experienced, one needs to realize that the informal and joking manner in which Wells wrote her column is a common way to approach that squeamish and uncomfortable topic: sex. I would love to believe that everyone on this campus is 100 percent comfortable discussing sexuality and hearing words like vagina, penis, erection, engorgement of the labia and clitoris and ejaculation, but they're not. It's easier for people to hear and use the less intimidating words like "vajayjay" or less scientific-sounding ones like "hard," "wet," "cum."

While Wells' could've utilized medical terminology for discussing oral sex, it was her prerogative to use the type of language she felt would be more successful in getting her message across. Last time I checked, the Bill of Rights allows her to do just that.

Which brings me to Gottlieb's column. I'm glad that he seems to find himself amusing, because I can't imagine anyone else who would. Perhaps Cooper could teach him a thing or two about respect; however, Gottlieb's also entitled to state his opinions (which to me are far more vulgar than Wells'), so kudos for putting your First Amendment rights to use. What I would say to Gottlieb is that in journalism there's something known as a "so-what" factor that should be considered when writing. While some may have been appalled by Wells' article and diagram, there are others who were grateful that she chose to openly discuss the topic. Gottlieb's, on the other hand, was a complete waste of time as he lost all validity once he started cracking jokes about the subjugation of Korean women during a time of war. See, Cooper, there are still people who find humor in women's subservience.

But back to my second point of dismay, while we live in an age where sex is constantly surrounding us in the media, there aren't that many outlets where we can actually discuss it in a safe and healthy fashion. We've got kids learning about abstinence-only and therefore never actually learning about STIs nor contraception. I appreciated the fact that Wells mentioned dental dams in her article because I'm sure there are some students on this campus that may have never even seen one before. I think the greater issue here is about how one should go about discussing sex and which methods actually work in getting the point across. A huge population of Dartmouth students engage in sexual activity regularly on this campus and yet aren't aware of how to actually talk about it. Perhaps Wells' bluntness isn't everyone's favorite way, but then I would advise students to suggest other more constructive ways rather than dismiss her intentions altogether. Wells is brave enough to come out and discuss a topic that's been taboo for ages, and I commend her for doing so.

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