Oberlin Blogs

Sex and Editing

April 8, 2012

Joe Dawson ’12

A new thing I decided to try the last semester of my senior year: editing for a campus publication, namely Oberlin's fledgling science publication, The Synapse. It's something I've kind of wanted to do the first three years I went to Oberlin, and my class schedule is a little less crazy this semester so I'm trying it out. It's been a really fun thing that I was pretty sure I would be able to do. I tend to edit the tar out of my own writing and figured I could probably do the same to others. I know I'm a little sensitive to criticism and could probably find ways to give critiques without hurting anybody's feelings.

A couple weeks before the latest issue was supposed to go to print, I had a meeting with Adrian, a writer, and Francis, one of the editors-in-chief for the Synapse. I was taking over the editing duties for Adrian's article, which still needed some big structural changes after a few drafts. I was pretty sure I could help Adrian out with the changes he needed, but the challenge was breaking it to him that the draft he had, the fourth he had written, would have to undergo major reconstructions if it was going to be published.

We talked about the article generally for a while. Francis started asking Adrian questions, and I quickly saw why Francis had the job he did and why I probably couldn't do his job. Francis asked questions like "Why did you write this article?" and "What are you trying to say?" Important questions, but pretty pointed. One exchange made me say "ooof" under my breath:

Francis: "So, as your article is now, does it support your thesis well?"
Adrian: "Well, I think it does a pretty good--"
Francis: "No. It doesn't."

It was what Adrian needed to hear. He got serious about revising his article, went back to the outlining and planning stage to make the paragraphs he already had work much better together. His article is going to be a double feature in Issue 1 (the second issue) of the Synapse, and he should be proud of it. If it were just me and Adrian, we probably could have gotten there eventually, but with Francis's cut-to-the-heart style, we got halfway there by the end of that first meeting.

There have been times, single moments when I'm confronted by a person who shows me that I will never be able to do certain things. I don't consider myself a prude, in fact, if I were the type of person to talk about it, you would learn that I'm a bit of a sexual expert. But I don't talk about that stuff.

Last Spring Break, I went to Chicago (and wrote about it here and here) for an Improvisation Intensive for the ages. Obehave was killing time between improv shows our first night in Chi-Town, and after spending 45 minutes in our van watching people in Subway eat their sandwiches we decided to see the city a little. It was chilly and we wanted to spend as much time as we could indoors. We sprinted from the van to the first adult toy store we saw.

It panned out exactly as you would imagine. Obehave went straight for the more phallic toys and made them into fake noses, using funny voices to create both summits between UN representatives and high class British teas.

Here was my moment. As I was walking toward the front of the store, a few ladies behind the counter were passing around a tube of lube and dabbing on their fingers. As one of the women rubbed her fingers together, she uttered a phrase I knew I would never ever say:

"I like this one a lot. I think this is my new favorite silicone-based lube!"

Again, I'm not a total prude. I wasn't shocked or offended at all, just struck by the young woman's expertise and comfort in the world of intimate paraphernalia. As comfortable as I can be talking about sex, I knew that I would probably never be on the same level as this woman. I guess that's another career path closed off to me, another dream trodden underfoot.

And while it doesn't feel good, knowing you'll never be a sex worker (that's what you call them, right?) or a cutthroat editor for a magazine, it is a quick way to learn about yourself. As soon as the realization sets in, you start to ask why. Why do I have a hard time giving harsh criticisms? Because I hold my own writing dear, I don't like to be criticized, and I tend to take things personally when someone says something that I'm proud of could use some improvement (and I don't show other people things I'm working on until I'm proud of them. Two-in-one). How come I wouldn't be a good worker in the flesh trade? Maybe I'm just less receptive to props in what I believe should be a minimalist production (you are naked, for goodness sake). Perhaps my Midwestern upbringing or genealogy (I have both Mormons and Catholics as forebears) has rendered me more blush-prone than I would like to imagine. I think that's probably the case.

I asked to try the lube out myself, hoping to appear worldly and sexually in-the-know. I tried it and said confidently:
"As sili's go, it's not bad. Love Slide has a less chalky aftertaste." And left the store to audible gasps and swoons.

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