Editor’s Note episode 12: The Sex Issue
It’s that time of the year, again––Valentine’s Day. After the release of Student Life’s annual Sex Issue, Multimedia Editor Jaden Satenstein talked to Editor-in-Chief Emma Baker and Managing Editor Kya Vaughn to break down the results of our infamous sex survey.
The transcript of the episode can be found below. It has been lightly edited for clarity:
JADEN SATENSTEIN (0:09-1:21) It’s that time of the year, again––Valentine’s Day. A time for rom-coms, overpriced chocolates, and, of course, those pesky birds and bees. So, let’s talk about sex.
I’m Multimedia Editor Jaden Satenstein, and you’re listening to a special edition of Editor’s Note, Student Life’s weekly podcast breaking down our biggest stories with the reporters and editors that covered them.
Every February, Student Life publishes the annual Student Love edition, affectionally known as the sex issue. Over the past three weeks, 781 Washington University students participated in the infamous sex survey, sharing their most personal, and often embarrasing, sexual experiences. I talked to Editor-in-Chief senior Emma Baker and Managing Editor senior Kya Vaughn to break down the survey’s results.
To start off, I asked Baker the main question I had when I first learned about the Sex Issue as a freshman staffer: Why do we do this?
EMMA BAKER (1:22-1:46) It is consistently one of our most read and engaged with issues. I think because they’re questions that no one knows the answers to really. And, for those that choose to, I think a lot of college is figuring out this stuff. And so it’s a really interesting way as a newspaper to get to engage with a topic that we know is important to college campuses, and do it in a fun way and try it and bring some light to the conversation.
JS (1:47-1:53) Diving into the survey results, Vaughn mentioned the wild campus spots where students said they’ve had sex.
KYA VAUGHN (1:54-2:12) I feel like people get super creative in all the different ways and places you can have sex on our campus, which I was not aware of. My personal favorite this issue is the South 40 hammocks. I feel like, ergonomically, that’d be challenging. So that, yeah, definitely looking at the locations is my favorite part of this.
EB (2:13-2:33) I know it’s a place on campus, but the DUC showers as a place is always very confusing to me. And the fact that people are having sex in the DUC showers is just a layer on that. And it usually gets on our most popular locations listed every time we do the survey. So I’m always charmed by that statistic.
JS (2:34-2:54) Yeah, I was looking at a lot of the different places listed, and South 40 study rooms are a big one, or common rooms, academic buildings. 27 people listed the elevators. I don’t know how that works. But one of my favorites that someone wrote in was Ibby’s. And I can’t tell whether or not that was a joke, but part of me hopes it wasn’t, because that’s kind of funny.
KV (2:55-3:05) It definitely makes you look at campus a little different. Every time you walk into a room, the stats are always somewhere going to be in the back of your mind.
JS (3:06-3:28) Oh, wow. Yeah, I am for once grateful that I’m not on campus. The survey also revealed that 71% of students said they’ve had sex. That number is the same as last year’s, which surprised me, personally. I know a lot of people thought it would go down because of COVID.
KV (3:39-4:04) I think kind of with the pandemic going on, I think a lot of people have been isolated, in isolation. I think we have had to kind of adapt. And some people have been, you know, staying away from others. At the same time, I feel like, with us being in this isolated place, a lot of people are kind of wanting some sort of human connection. I feel like we haven’t had it in a long time. I think it’s kind of, I don’t know, maybe forbidden in a way, because you’re not supposed to during the pandemic, in some aspects, so I feel like it might be kind of a tasting the forbidden fruit kind of thing.
EB (4:05-4:15) I think also, statistically, we do see a bit of like a fuzziness around the margins. So it’s going to fluctuate a little bit year to year, and then certainly everyone brings their experiences with them to college.
JS (4:16-4:21) Are there any other ways that you think COVID has changed the relationship or hookup scene at Wash. U.?
EB (4:22-4:47) I think what we did see that’s very interesting is this uptick in people that are using apps and websites. Even not for meeting people in person or for doing that kind of activity, but just for having that sense of connection. And I think navigating dating on college campuses during COVID is is quite an undertaking. And I think we kind of saw some natural reactions to that with the digital spaces.
JS (4:48-4:58) So, my favorite part of the survey is when we ask people to share some kind of funny or embarrassing sexual story. Are there any submissions that you found particularly memorable this year?
KV (4:59-5:09) From this year, definitely the penis stuck in the washing machine story. To this individual, I hope you are doing okay now.
JS (5:10-5:37) So, another thing people share is music. Music they listen to while doing the deed, everything from Taylor Swift to Rob Apollo was mentioned. Someone also dropped in Chancellor Martin’s 2020 graduation speech. I like to think that is a joke. But do you have any favorite songs that were mentioned? Something that you’re like, ‘What a strange thing to put in,’ or anything else that stood out to you?
KV (5:38-5:51) “Sicko Mode” was an interesting one that stood out to me. And then also, just in general, some of the songs with faster tempo. I don’t know, I feel like I have questions about these fast tempo songs and sex, I really do.
EB (5:52-6:06) There are also a couple where I would scroll through and look at the lyrics for the songs. And they were so sad. And I was very perplexed by that. And I was interested to see the frequency with some of those sad songs make their way into the responses.
JS (6:07-6:14) Yeah, that definitely reflects the mood of the past year. Was there anything else from the survey results that stood out to you?
EB (6:15-6:33) Something that I always find really interesting to look at––and it’s less of a funny statistic––but it’s how many students are getting tested every year… I think we expected a bit of a dip in all of the statistics this year. But I’m consistently worried, if not interested, to understand how that number goes down year to year.
JS (6:34-6:57) You know, that’s interesting you say that, Emma, because I noted that about 38% of people said they’ve been tested for an STI, compared to that 71% saying they’ve had sex. We always find that the number of people that have been tested is pretty significantly lower than the number of people who say they’ve had sex. What do you two think students should know about their sexual health?
KV (6:58-7:32) I think some people also just are not aware of all the STI screening resources that exist out there. I know Habif does an STI screening, I think it might be twice a year, but least once a year. I know they do that every year. They also have a whole section on their website dedicated to information on STI and STD screenings on-campus and at multiple off-campus locations. If you’re more comfortable with that, you can schedule appointments to do it at Habif. So I think people just generally aren’t aware of where they can do it, and also how much it does impact your health, and the health of your sexual partners.
JS (7:33-7:35) And is there anything else either of you wanted to add?
EB (7:36-7:58) I think also it’s quite fun that, of dating apps that were most commonly used for the students that took the survey this year, Datamatch made it up there. So that’s certainly taking a hold on campus. And that was something I don’t think we’ve seen before. Even if it was on campus last year, I don’t think we saw that in the survey. So it was really interesting to see that people are, if not taking it super seriously, using it in frequency.
KV (7:59-8:13) I’m really interested in the post-sex snack category this year on the Sex Issue. And I really like chicken nuggets as an answer. I think it’s a stellar post-sex snack. Good job chicken nuggets.
JS (8:14-8:29) The Sex Issue is now available on stands and at StudLife.com. And, if you’re anything like the 36% of respondents who said they read erotica, we’re sure you’ll enjoy it. For Student Life Media, I’m Jaden Satenstein.