Looking Back: The Sex Issue(s)

College newspapers are meant to challenge what is expected from a news organization. But, most people don’t expect to be confronted with a cover story featuring a female student taking her top off.

Well, that’s exactly what happened in 2008. The Oakland Post ran such a cover photo with a two page spread talking about sex at Oakland University.

The story began with the editor-in-chief and the managing editor interviewing a student who had recently ended a serious relationship. The story talked about the emotional side of sex.

Then the story got a bit more serious. The Oakland Post ran a “Let’s Talk About Sex” survey. There were 136 students polled, totaling 97 women and 39 men.

Some of the numbers The Post found were startling. About 12 percent of respondents didn’t use any form protection while having sex. Nearly 70 percent of sexually active men had never been tested for STIs.

The most startling statistic of all? Only about 60 percent of respondents said they did not feel their first sexual experience was the result of pressure.

The article argued that men don’t actively seek out healthcare related to sexual health as women often do.

“It’s like trying to get a guy to ask for directions. It’s that exact impulse,” said Dr. Drew Pinsky, one expert interviewed in the sex edition.

This issue was startling in another way: the photos used were of the soon-to-be managing editor and the then-sports editor of The Oakland Post. They were not in a relationship with one another, but the photos were staged to be used in the paper.

Said cover photo had the woman taking her shirt off, shot from behind, sitting on top of the man.

This issue, according to Garry Gilbert, the advistor for the Oakland Post, sold out. Everyone on campus wanted to get their hands on this steamy issue of the paper.

In addition, this issue won the Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Wojcik and Managing Editor Nick Degel an award from the Michigan College Press Association.

“That was one of my favorite stories during my time at OU,” Wojcik said. 

This wasn’t the first sex issue Oakland’s student newspaper ran. One of the events that led to the downfall of The Oakland Observer was the 1963 sex survey.

Wolf Metzger, an Austrian transfer student, came to OU to be part of The Oakland Observer. One of the first things he did once he became editor-in-chief in 1963 was to put out a poll of students in Fitzgerald House about where they had sex and who they did it with.

Chancellor “Woody” Varner was not too pleased and worried the survey would tarnish the reputation of the university. Varner even questioned whether or not the paper had the right to conduct this survey. Today, there is no doubt this survey would be legal and allowed, albeit still a little controversial.

Instead of publishing the survey, Metzger decided to run a story detailing the censorship Varner had created for The Observer’s story. Varner tried to convince The Observer staff not to publish that piece as well. Apparently, Varner spent three hours trying to convince the staff not to run the piece.

Instead, Metzger sent it to the printers. University administration sided with Varner, and soon he had all copies of this issue destroyed.

This issue does not exist in any known archive of The Oakland Observer, and thus the results were lost.

The Monday following the original publication, Metzger was removed as editor-in-chief. Outside news organizations began reporting on this story, but often took Varner’s side.

In a way, this was the beginning of the end for The Observer. This sex story was the first noted example of university censorship of the paper, and only a few years later, The Observer was killed off by the university.

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