Media Matters

Another Current Catastrophe

It's a brave new world at Newsweek's college porn mag.

By 5.17.06

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They're at it again.

A few months ago, I documented for Spectator readers the disaster that is Current magazine. Current is published by Newsweek -- the full title is Current with Newsweek -- and distributed on college campuses like Georgetown University, the "Catholic" school where I pick mine up. As I said in the previous piece, Current is written and edited by students; call it a farm team for the mainstream media. It is glossy and liberal and snarky and way too cute.

It is also deeply, deeply obsessed with sex -- or what passes for sex among college students and their journalistic mentors these days. As I wrote in my last piece, I find this more dull than titillating. Our culture is so steeped, marinated and befogged with sex that a strange switchback has taken hold: the crushing of desire. It's like being a baseball player in a season that never ends. For the first few months you're excited. Then comes fall, and you're tired. Exasperation follows with winter. Then, boredom. Eventually a kind of zombie psychosis settles in. You become the joyless sex slaves of Brave New World. (And by the way, ever notice how liberals are ready with the 1984 Orwell reference whenever the government datamines, but the slow descent into violent, dehumanized pornography never conjures Huxley and Brave New World?)

Zombie psychosis is as good a word as any to describe the large drawing that makes up half the contents page of the summer issue of current. It depicts a couple in bed. The woman is straddling the man, but she faces away from him and is reading a book. The man is sitting up. He is tapping away at his laptop, which is resting on the woman's backside. She is -- barely -- clothed. How to put this delicately? He is faced with, um, the female derrier and birth canal, and is entirely focused on the computer screen.

This cartoon is supposed to draw the reader in to the story that goes with it, about the abstinence movement on college campuses. It is intended to emphasize the strangeness of abstinence. And the article by Rebecca Rohr bolsters this position. Rohr interviews some kids wearing abstinence rings, then concludes that "with an estimated 75 percent rate of sexual activity, it may take more than a trinket and a pledge to accomplish this goal. For now, it seems, college students and sex are in a long-term relationship."

Oh, perfect. Miss Rohr will have no trouble jumping from Current right to Newsweek. She has mastered liberal no-bias bias. Hey, these kids are trying to wait until marriage and that abstinence may be the wave of the future. But statistics are statistics, and no "trinket" or dumb pledge is going to change that. What doesn't fit Rohr's thesis is ignored. The trauma of abortion, teem pregnancy rates, the recent report that the pill kills sexual desire? Hey, didja hear that 75 percent of college kids are doing it?

Quite a contrast to the piece that appears a couple pages later, on Femsex, the new workshop given at Brown, Harvard and -- natch -- Berkeley. It's a "safe space" for people "to explore their sexuality." All are welcome; students "use the term 'phe' instead of he and she." According to one facilitator, Femsex is "a sex-positive women's space." Hear, hear, says writer Alexandra Hiatt -- a positive space "and a stimulating one at that."

So: abstinence, an impossible joke. Femsex, healthy and stimulating.

Yet Current may have accidentally stumbled across the truth even while trying to subvert it. When I first opened the magazine and found myself face to face with the drawing I described above, I didn't think of an abstinent couple who are so de-sexed that she can read and he can blog while their bodies are virtually doing it. I instantly thought of the joyless sexual promiscuity of Brave New World and our pornified culture. It reminded me of the lost souls in Huxley's dystopia, who can have all the sex they want, yet it is sex without procreation, personality, heart, or laughter. I thought of those stories, now quite common, of men who cannot get aroused by a beautiful woman in their midst because their internal sexual gears have been stripped by photography, which is the only thing that can stimulate them. Indeed, the poor slob in the Current cartoon may actually be viewing porn on his laptop while his partner remains lost in a book. I also quietly thanked God that my Irish Catholic father was misguided enough to teach me that women are creatures on infinite magic and mystery, and that a very good way to screw yourself up is to violate that mystery in the name of -- well, something. It certainly doesn't lead to knowledge or happiness, if today's students are any indication.

Even a blind pig finds an acorn. In showering us with yet more sex, Newsweek may have accidentally slipped in some truth.

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About the Author

Mark Judge is a Washington writer and author of God and Man at Georgetown Prep, Damn Senators: My Grandfather and the Story of Washington's Only World Series, and other books.