Racy spot: Readers blast UVA "slut"
Gretchen Zimmerman is pretty upfront about her love of sex. In fact, she began writing a first-person account of her history as a "slut" in the February 23 Cavalier Daily.
In her first sex column, headlined "Welcome to the G-Spot," she professes herself "self-assured in my sexuality" and announces that she keeps a condom in her wallet.
"I'm not ashamed to admit that I have a sex drive," writes Zimmerman.
She didn't mind the 145 emails she got from strangers for her first column. "Most of the emails were really positive," she says, and they came from such far-flung places as China, Scotland, and Oregon.
What Zimmerman was not prepared for was her testimonial being posted on Fark.com, a site that links to offbeat news stories and allows readers to post comments. "G-Spot" got 69,000 hits within one day of being published and hundreds of comments, "mostly negative," says Zimmerman.
The Fark.com community was so taken with Zimmerman's column that traffic flooded her sorority's website. "They were specifically looking for pictures," says Zimmerman, who learned that Gretchen Zimmerman is a common name, particularly in the Midwest.
Overwhelmed, Zimmerman requested her article be removed from the Cavalier Daily website the day after it was posted.
"Completely unprofessional," blasts Kimberly Liu, a fourth year Cavalier Daily columnist (and former Hook intern). "There's no way the editors should have done that," says Liu.
The CD's ombudsman, Emily Kane, also criticized the online removal. "Though understandable, this action makes the paper look weak," writes Kane.
"I took it down at [Zimmerman's] request for about 24 hours," says Cav Daily editor-in-chief Chris Wilson. "Normally, I would not. But we're experimenting with something new. We're in uncharted territory."
When Wilson started his term as editor in late January, he decided to start a new page on health and sexuality that featured two sex columnists alternating each week. "Sexuality is a very important issue on a college campus that's not very often talked about," says Wilson. "I wanted to treat sexuality in an honest and candid manner."
Sex columns in college newspapers have become a trend, and not just at West Coast liberal bastions like UC-Berkeley or Ivy League schools like Yale or Harvard. Even newspapers at the heartlandish University of Kansas and Baptist-run Wake Forest University have sex columns.
Zimmerman describes her columnist counterpart, Katja Schubl, as more philosophical. "Mine's more blunt, more brash," Zimmerman says.
The third-year elementary education major regrets making her debut column so autobiographical. "I wanted it to be an introduction– this is who I am," says Zimmerman. "Now I'm going to take myself out of it."
Some were not impressed with her candor. "I personally thought it a horrible column and asked the editor not to run it," says Liu. "It's not a news story. Women talking about their sex lives is not interesting or new. We've had Sex and the City for six years now."
The columns also drew criticism from ombudsman Kane. She took issue with Schubl's attempt to describe the taste of semen as, well, "tasteless."
And she says Zimmerman's column reads too much like a diary. "Simply talking about one's sexual history and how it's unfair that people misperceive one as a slut is not enough," writes the Kane in the March 1 paper.
Editor Wilson stands by his columnists. "I give all columnists a great deal of freedom in what they write about," he says. "I discuss standards of taste beforehand. There are guidelines for having a good topic and not just a general smut column. They've both done a good job being honest."
And to those who find the columns inappropriate, Wilson responds, "Something would be wrong if they didn't."
Zimmerman's parents read her column, despite her request not to. "They didn't understand why I'd written it," she sighs.
But the 21 year old had always wanted to write and to tell the story of her transition from "Miss Goody Two Shoes" to so-called slut.
"I'm writing for a university population not my parents or people across the country," she says.
To capitalize upon Zimmerman's expertise, The Hook, which ditched its own sex column, Savage Love, nearly two years ago, has to ask: What's a common mistake guys make?
"Just because you could make your last girlfriend happy in a certain way doesn't mean you can make the next one happy that way," says the sexpert. "Girls are like snowflakes."
Gretchen Zimmerman's Cav Daily sex column got over 83,000 hits once it was posted on Fark.com.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO