Washington State Student Newspaper Sex Column Featured on ‘The Colbert Report’

Anal sex is huge right now at Washington State University. A seemingly innocuous column in The Daily Evergreen student newspaper touching on the backdoor shenanigans has officially entered the viral stratosphere – landing on an episode of “The Colbert Report” earlier this week.

The fun, perfectly sensible piece by staff writer Abby Student (yes, it’s her real name) pokes at the prevalence, psychological underpinnings and physical concerns of anal sex. It mixes references to an iconic Robert Frost poem (“The Road Not Taken”) and a comic strip joking about “backstage passes” with some basic advice about “safety first” and engaging in Kegel exercises post-anal-sex to help regain “bowel control.”


It also provides an historical overview: “Although for thousands of years the Christian church condemned the practice of both oral and anal sex, its practice has been recorded and dates back centuries in cultures worldwide. Ancient engravings, paintings and artwork from Asia, Europe, South America and parts of the Mediterranean depict heterosexual men engaging in anal sex. … Certain Polynesian cultures practiced it as a primary form of birth control.”

The column spun slightly out of control upon publication – earning pockets of criticism including from one woman who called the columnist “‘cheap and easy’ and actually posted the words, ‘I am ashamed for your parents’ to our online edition.”

The Huffington Post also picked it up, referencing the column as part of a slightly wider look at anal sex – which it dubbed “The Latest Rage on College Campuses.” The HuffPost write-up nabbed more than 400 comments and 2,800 Facebook Likes.


Cue Colbert. On Tuesday, the faux-conservative Comedy Central host had a funny field day with the HuffPost pronouncement about this “backdoor approach to sex,” while repeatedly citing the Evergreen article on which it is based.

Along with the obvious anal wordplay, he focused his punch-lines on the story’s apparent tie-in to digital-era journalism: “Folks, it is this type of bold reporting that draws the youths to the new media. Old media just doesn’t reflect their interests. I’ve watched hours of CNN’s Ukraine coverage and they haven’t once mentioned any kind of butt business.”

Candace Baltz, director of student media at Washington State University, was kind enough to weigh in. As she shared with me last night:

There’s never a dull moment when you advise college newspapers, is there? There’s just no telling what a Tuesday might hold. Abby’s work — and yes, her name really is Abby Student — is everything you’d want out of college journalism: It’s accurate, it’s brave and it serves the community interest.

“Any time something impacts more than a third of the students — and more critically, their health and safety — it’s a legitimate topic to explore in a newspaper. That the topic makes some people feel awkward or uncomfortable doesn’t keep it from being valuable. If anything, it underscores the importance of addressing the topic in a respectful, well-researched manner so readers can make informed decisions regarding their behavior.

“A negative, knee-jerk reaction to the student newspaper’s decision to cover the topic of anal sex within its sex column seems to come from those who have not actually read Abby’s work. They are reacting to the subject, not the writing. Abby treats the topic of anal sex — and all of her columns — with as much respect as we’d expect a professional journalist to treat any other subject: She interviews experts, cites research and writes clearly to inform her readers of important information that could improve and protect their personal health and safety.

“The general reaction on campus to being featured on ‘The Colbert Report’ has been good — Colbert did a great job poking fun at an inherently funny topic. We all laughed pretty hard. The students learned how quickly a story can go from their paper to the national stage, and the experience solidified for them why it’s so important to take their roles seriously and do good work. This would have been a completely different experience if Abby hadn’t done good work to begin with. But she did, and we’re proud of her, the attention and the discussions it’s sparking.”

For more on college media’s sexual accomplishments and imbroglios, pick up a copy of my book Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution.

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