Picture this: the year is 1988, and a new fad called “sex” is spreading on college campuses. Even the blowhards at Princeton are, in the wise words of my Politics professor, itching to get “rough and loose” with their compatriots. What was once a chaste college town is now a No Man’s Land for the pathologically perverse. The pages of Proudhon, Playboy, and Pornhub are running through Princeton; it’s a grim look.
The Masthead of the Nassau Weekly observed this troubling trend, and in their alternative, weekly greatness, decided to do something about it. So they published the very first Sex Issue: “The Levine and Shoulson Report,” described as “an undercover look at Princeton sexual patterns and attitudes.”
The “The Levine and Shoulson Report” is now conspicuously absent from our archives — missing from the single copy of the April 28, 1988 issue. Only snippets remain. But with contributions like “A man defends mainstream males,” we can only assume that it rivaled the Kinsey Report in its quality, publicity, and societal impact. A fine craft indeed.
In 2006, Princeton underwent the Second Great Sex Revival, and the Nassau Weekly again found itself thrust into a position of moral leadership. Our predecessors only had to glance over at the file cabinets in Bloomberg 044 to figure out their response. It was time for another Sex Issue.
The 2006 issue managed to capture the beautiful equipoise that brings the Nassau Weekly, the 2000s, and sex together: earnestness with an awkward edge. The best way to show what I mean is to simply list the issue’s fourteen titles:
The Cock (and Bull) Market
Looking for Love in the Stacks
Yucking at Fale
Sex Ed 101
The Bad Sex Contest
Assault 1, Silverman 0
The Princeton Rub
Not Just “Like a Virgin”
Humpalicious Honchos, Bodacious Bigwigs, and Kinky Kingpins
To the eyes of an outsider, this lineup could be a series of self-help pamphlets, the chapters in a book, or the courses cross-listed as “GSS.” Very little about “Humpalicious” screams high-profile journalism. But as soon as you start reading, it becomes clear just how many sides to sex there really are: the personal, the fictional, the political, the satirical, the educational, the fantastical, the informational, the anthropological. You can see for yourself on nassauweekly.com, where the entire issue is posted in our archives. But here are a few sentences to give you a taste:
“Let’s face it – not everyone is good at sex.”
“Princeton. A well-established, reputable institution. A hotbed of intellectual curiosity and homoeroticism. Wait – come again?”
“The incest taboo is something anthropologists have grappled with for ages.”
“A few years ago, I attended a lecture on disability fetishism.”
“Nefertiti, Egyptian Dominatrix Queen”
“He swept her off her feet like a stallion sweeping a girl off her feet, and laid her gently down on the bed like a gentle eagle.”
Some will claim that the 2006 Sex Issue was nothing more than souped-up smut, meant to clickbait the horny. But why not write about sex? Who are we kidding? The very fact that the Sex Issue was absurd, raunchy, and at points, downright bad, achieved something that a zipped-up report could not: preserved a very candid snapshot of how Princeton students thought about sex. It’s nice to know that our ancestors were not the plodding, cherubic pre-lawites that we make them out to be. And it’s reassuring that how college kids talk about sex hasn’t changed much—it remains a preoccupation so weird, so uncertain, and so thought-provoking that it can fill a whole issue of the Nass.
In the words of the 2006 Winner of the Bad Smut Contest, “this most sensual issue of the Nassau Weekly” follows a long love affair between the Nassau Weekly and sex. Indeed, in such a world where tradition is shaky and morals are loose, we can find solace in the fact that the Nass has never lost sight of its sexy heritage. All hail the Nassau Weekly Sex Issue.