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Prude or promiscuous, it's your prerogative

By Erica Sylvester Campus Talk editor
On May 1, 2012

As this year's sex and relationship columnist, I've encountered a lot of mixed reactions to my articles. Some people raved, found them hilarious and complimented my writing style. Other people took offense to some of the content, and The Stylus received a few letters to the editor about it. Neither situation is necessarily bad.  It's an opinion; you either agree with it or you don't, and that's fine.
I like sex, and I like writing about it or topics relating to it. It's really that simple. I grew up in a household where my family and I could openly talk about sex and relationships. I never had to hide my feelings on the subject. But to some people, sex is taboo. They  believe it shouldn't be talked about in a public platform.
I've never put much weight on the subject. I will candidly talk about sex with anyone as if we're talking about the weather, or last night's episode of Glee. It's a topic that fascinates me because people have wildly different reactions to it. I try to write about sex in a humorous and informative light. I've never written about past hook-ups or experiences, or used an anecdote of any kind. I've never written about a topic I don't feel comfortable talking about. Everyone draws the line somewhere.   
From a societal standpoint, sex has a stigma. As a female, the spectrum seems to fall between being a slut or a prude. If you enjoy sex in any context and openly accept that, you're a slut. If the idea of talking about something sexual makes you blush, you're a prude. I don't agree with this. There's also the idea that being comfortable with sex makes you empowered - I don't necessarily agree with that either.
"Slut-shaming" is a popular term to describe the idea of shaming a woman for being sexually open and acknowledging or acting on sexual feelings. Why this is prevalent enough to deserve it's own trend, I don't know. If a girl likes sex and she makes it known, that's her choice. Likewise, if a woman chooses to keep her preferences private or remain abstinent, she doesn't deserve to be labeled a prude. Either way, who are you to judge?
If you're a girl and you want to hook up with someone without commiting to a relationship afterward, do it. If you want to make out with both men and women because you don't think it's a big deal, then get your mack on. People shouldn't tell you not to simply because they disagree with you or it's against their religion.
I'm not about to launch into a grand debate about feminism. I don't consider myself a feminist or an anti-feminist. At the end of the day, I like what I like and that's just me. It's not so self-absorbed to say I only care about my sexual preferences, it's just that I don't have any reason to care about someone else's. So why should you? I don't think anyone should be criticized simply because they're too open or too closed off about their sexuality.
Men and women shouldn't be condemned for their sexual proclivities. Some people are comfortable talking about sex and others aren't. I don't understand why it's so necessary for people to criticize someone else's life when it has virtually no impact on their own.
Like I said before, just because a woman is comfortable with her sexuality doesn't make her empowered. Talking about last weekend's hook-up or your favorite blow job techniques on the way to class isn't empowering. It's merely going to reinforce the debate I just tried to refute. Doing what you want to do and feeling good about it will empower you. Justifying every sexual encounter you've had because you need to mask your insecurities won't.
Being empowered doesn't mean you have to impose your feelings on someone else. People need to stop feeling guilty about having too much sex, or not enough of it. Realize that it's about accepting your wants and desires and respecting others' choices as well, even if they don't match up to your own.
It's sad we can't really expect people to be open-minded with our decisions, but we should at least be able to agree to disagree. Throughout my column this year, I've never intentionally ousted someone for their sexual preferences. If I don't have an opinion on a certain lifestyle, or don't know much about it, I'm not going to write 1,000 words condemning or praising it. If it's safe and consensual, no one else's opinion really matters.
I understand not everyone - even in a college setting - believes in the "college hook-up culture." Some people came to school imagining a scene straight out of Van Wilder. Others came to find themselves and experience as much as possible. Almost all of us came to further our education, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun along the way.
I totally believe it's possible to come to college, fall in love and maintain a healthy relationship throughout the four years we're in school. It's also possible to get drunk and hook up with a new person every weekend and still get good grades. Even still, it's possible to abstain from sex and have a ton of fun. The only time any of this should ever be an issue is if people aren't being true to themselves and are involved in a certain behavior because they're pressured into it or out of it. We're all just trying to figure out who we are and that definitely doesn't require someone else's input.

Get empowered

"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
- Will Rogers, actor

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you."
- Lao Tzu, philosopher

"It's not what you call me, but what I answer to."
- African proverb

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive."
- Howard Thurman, author

"The question isn't who's going to let me; it's who is going to stop me."
- Ayn Rand, author

"It's not your job to like me, it's mine."
- Byron Katie, author

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."
- Coco Chanel, fashion designer

Follow Sylvester on Twitter @ESylv23

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