Another kind of sex education

Jonathan Rienstra


Sex sells, as we all know. A newspaper cover that has an artistic depiction of man-to-woman oral sex would certainly capture a reader’s attention. I’d pick up that issue and immediately flip to the cover story. That’s what the editor of Spinnaker, the University of North Florida’s student newspaper, was betting on. Josh Gore picked the cover to accompany a story about the connection between oral sex and throat cancer.

Sex captivates the human mind. It’s difficult for it not to — it’s part of our animal instincts. So when people saw the March 24 cover of Spinnaker, they took notice. And some read the story and learned that HPV, an STI, affects 40 million Americans.

Readers also learned that, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year and that 8,000 Americans will die from oral cancer.

They read that Dr. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University told the American Association for the Advancement of Science that HPV causes “roughly 64 percent of oropharynxl cancers.” Oropharynxl refers to “the back third of the tongue, the soft palate, the side and back walls of the throat and the tonsils.”

Guess which part of the story got people all hot and bothered? Complaints came in to the university from concerned citizens objecting to the cover on grounds of indecency. President John Delaney told the Florida Times-Union that the cover “really kind of crossed a decency line.” Or like it didn’t, or whatever. Maybe? But then again, perhaps, sort of.

I can’t be certain, but I don’t think anybody called in to complain that cancer was killing people. Or that people had cancer. Or that the cover got people to read a story about how to be cancer- and STI-aware. Just that their sensibilities had been offended. You’re right, that’s way more important.

Never mind that it is a college newspaper for college students who are having college parties where college sex happens and information that might interest college students was included in the paper.

No, what’s important is that the problem was “compounded” because there was a high school cheerleading camp on campus last week, and we all know that teenagers aren’t engaging in oral sex. They certainly have never seen non-pornographic depictions of oral sex before because Timmy and Sally are pure. How dare Josh Gore and Spinnaker try to lure them into the proverbial van with proverbial sexies — sorry, puppies.

Dr. John Oliver, a UNF adjunct psychology professor who teaches “Human Sexuality” says in the story that even middle schoolers are having oral sex. Oh. “They get to have sex without having sex,” Oliver said. “It doesn’t seem to carry the same moral weight.”

So, teenagers actually learning about responsible oral sex practice and possible consequences might be a good thing? But that’s not the headline that the Huffington Post and Florida Times-Union want. Sex sells, not responsibility. So on the Huffington Post we find out that UNF’s “Oral Sex Newspaper Cover Angers Community [NSFW].” Compliments to the chef, that is an outstanding NSFW garnish that you added to the dish. Simply marvelous.

Credit Josh Gore for sticking to his principles. He said he does not regret the cover and that both the article and the naughty-naughty picture were both “necessary.”

President Delaney said that “it’s a student-run paper and we’re going to have some risqué things. That’s what happens in a campus environment.” Yeah, risqué. God forbid anyone ever die from looking at something risqué.