Sex Column Angers Yeshiva Students

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Part of the fun of being a journalist is the freedom to write what you feel and spread those messages to a wide audience. In the past few weeks alone, I’ve ranted about a stupid class offered by Yale, Herman Cain’s Pokemon quote, and a strange BYU crackdown against the hipster lifestyle. I’ve really enjoyed how College Magazine has given me a platform to provide commentary on some strange yet fascinating stories that otherwise might fly under our collective radars.
Sometimes, though, it’s best to keep certain things to yourself. Yeshiva University of Manhattan learned that the hard way this week after one of its publications, The YU Beacon, published a provocative essay about an Orthodox Jewish woman’s experience having a tryst in a hotel room and lamenting the decision after all was said and done. The key issue in the article entitled “How Do I Even Begin To Explain This”: the sex was premarital.
“As an Orthodox Jewish institution that teaches both Jewish and secular subjects, the university attracts many religious students who consider premarital sex – not just the act but even talking openly about it – well beyond the acceptable bounds of modesty,” wrote Sharon Otterman of the New York Times on Friday. “But it also enrolls students willing to push those limits.”
Conservative students, unnerved by this lack of humility, complained to the student council of Stern College, which produces the YU Beacon with students at Yeshiva College. Despite the departure of news editor Devorah Deutsch and co-editor-in-chief Toviah Moldwin due to their opposition to the essay’s publishing, the YU Beacon severed ties to the school and swore to become a publication independent of Yeshiva.
“To all those upset by the article, I apologize,” said Beacon editor-in-chief Simi Lampert. “But I do not regret the decision to post it. This is the reason the Beacon was founded in the first place – to be a platform for every student, not just the majority.”
Student opinion on the piece was understandably split.
“Personally, I think that the article may have had a place in a private forum geared for women that could be a source of comfort,” Deutsch said in an interview. “But, to me, if you are trying to get emotional support, it is not going to be online in such a public way.”
Yeshiva student Elana Betaharon defended the Beacon on its web site: “This is clearly a struggle the writer is dealing with and she just wanted to have her voice heard because she was struggling with guilt. There is freedom of speech; it is America, my friends.”
I’m included to agree with Betaharon, but my journalistic senses are saying something entirely different. There’s nothing wrong with a little controversy, but why go there just for the sake of it? Especially for a college publication that knows it’s guaranteed to anger a good portion of the student body.
This isn’t nearly as offensive as East Carolina running a nude picture of a streaker on the front page of its newspaper, but the situations are similar in that neither the picture nor the Yeshiva sex article absolutely needed to be printed. Beacon: leave the sex columns to Penn State's Kristina Helfer. Besides, do you really want to have any connection with that school right now?
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