Letter from the editor: Let’s think about sex for what it is

What name do you call a porn star?

Do you call them by their performer name, or is that insulting? Do you call them by their real name? Well what if you don’t know their real name? Is it intrusive to ask?

These are questions most people never think they’ll have to ask themselves. But they’re exactly the questions that were racing through my head as I prepared for my first-ever interview with a porn star, escort and dancer, who just so happens to be a fellow UB student.

As Elliot, the name he goes by both socially and in the sex industry, and I began talking, every question felt similarly heavy and complicated. I didn’t want to make a wrong assumption about sex work. I didn’t want to ask something that was too intrusive.

Even my initial Facebook message to Elliott took careful planning and rewrites. I didn’t want to come off too strong and that I was entitled to interview him.

But as I began to speak with Elliott, I realized he wasn’t scared to talk about sex like most people are. Any wrong assumption I made in my questioning he corrected with a laugh and a dive into a conversation about that aspect of sex work. He nearly cut me off to say “yes” when I began to ask if he’d feel comfortable posing for a photograph with his face.

Obviously there were a few things that Elliott didn’t want to get into, mostly pertaining to his person life.

But when it came to sex, he could talk openly and honestly as if we were talking about classes, bars, the Stampede wait time or whatever else UB students small talk about it. He wasn’t afraid to share his performer name and face, even though an employer could recognize his face in the future.

But so what if they did?

Does having sex on camera for others’ enjoyment make him any less of a lab technician? Does providing companionship and maybe an orgasm to a lonely person make him any less of a medical school student or whatever he chooses to do?

The truth is we’re all scared to talk about sex – at least in a way that can be seen on the Internet. We all know it’s forever. We go through it every year at The Spectrum as we attempt to put together a sex issue and students only agree to talk to us if their name is changed.

Whether it’s fear of an employer, parent or even fellow peers seeing it – no one wants his or her name attached to sex.

And I must admit I’m no different. I’ve written up a sex advice column I was proud of, but when it came time to publish I got too scared to put my name on it.

I consider myself open about almost all aspects of my life. If the other people around me are comfortable, I’m always willing to talk about sex both seriously and jokingly – usually at my own expense.

So why then couldn’t I put my own name on a sex advice piece? I wasn’t writing about anything illegal or unmoral. Why would talking about sex make anyone think less of me as a person? Why was I so worried about it if they did?

For whatever reason, sex is hard to talk about. But it’s what we at The Spectrum tried to do with this sex issue. We wanted to start conversations about one-night stands, Plan B, age gaps between sexual partners and escorts. We wanted to bring sex out from something you only can only discuss in private and onto the newsstands where students can read and educate themselves.

I think it’s important that we do.

Sex is normal. Sex is natural. Sex is what nearly 47 percent of UB students are having at least a few times a week. Sex is something we need to be open about if we’re going to tackle the problems that come with it like disease and assault.

Sex is human.

Maybe one day The Spectrum sex issue won’t need an editor’s notes stating, “The names in this story have been changed.” Maybe one day a story about a male escort in a student newspaper won’t be much of a headliner grabber. Maybe one day I’ll get the courage to publish that sex piece with my name attached.

Maybe one day we’ll think of sex for what it really is.

Tom Dinki is the editor in chief and can be reached at tom.dinki@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tomdinki