Why Sex is Shamed By Local Media and Why It Has to Change

An Editorial 

The recent exposure of West Asheville coffee shop Waking Life’s owners secret sex blog and podcast on their exploits, using objectifying and misogynistic language has shocked a community that had supported the business as one of its own. Imagine if for years you patronized a favorite local business, befriended its owners, and believed in their vision. Then, almost out of nowhere, it is revealed that not only did these trusted and liked community members have a secret life of sexual manipulation and exploitation, but preyed on patrons of the business. It’s a sickening thought, the idea that those guys you knew as your local baristas had a hidden perversion that they reveled in.

The Asheville community’s reaction to their behavior has been swift, with a picketing and boycotting of the business, removal of their coffee products from grocery shelves, various petitions, and a media storm that has reached viral status. National media has picked up on the story, thanks to the initial reports posted at Asheville Blog, which received anonymous files documenting the owner’s alter-egos as sexual predators. That still nobody knows who exposed the Waking Life owners didn’t stop local media from jumping on the story.  Since the owners did release self-indicting “apologies” for their behavior, it is assumed that all of the controversial content was of their doing.

So, for now, it seems Asheville is safe from the wicked ways of the two proprietors of Waking Life. But, being the firestorm it has become, one has to wonder why it took a small, obscure blog to blow the lid on such a story? Why, with so much content out there did it take so long for anyone to catch on? Where were the investigative reporters of papers like the Citizen-Times and Mountain Xpress, both of which jumped on the story and have featured it to great effect. Mountain X alone had 10,000+ views of the story in one day. That’s a lot of eyeballs for an unsubstantiated story. As far as credibility and integrity goes, is this how journalism functions today? Apparently so.

It begets the question, where is the local media on sexual matters? Where are these established community newspapers when it comes to sex? Do they just jump on a story when it has the potential to go viral, and to gain readers and ad revenues as a result? Do they revel in the moral superiority that comes from exposing the dirty perps? If these papers were so eager to jump on this story, why is there almost no media coverage in this progressive community on matters of sex, other than when it’s a scandal?  Is it reflective of an overall conservative, repressed, and Christian culture that predominates in the Southern “Bible Belt”?

One has to wonder, if there were a more open and honest discussion in local media of sex and its many issues, perhaps situations like what occurred at Waking Life could’ve been prevented or at least exposed at an earlier stage. If readers were made aware of the trend of “Red Pill”, “Pick Up Artists”, etc. maybe they would’ve recognized the signs. When you repress all discussion of sex, and make it an issue that one can’t read about in a healthy manner, it creates a culture of shame about something we all should celebrate. Many progressive communities, including San Francisco, Portland and New York City are “sex positive”. They openly debate, discuss and embrace talk about sex without shame. And their news media covers it. Not here though.

One might even think Asheville is a sexless place. Here, it’s an issue you won’t read about unless it’s a scandal, such as the Waking Life one. Note the number of articles on pedophiles that are arrested for viewing porn or are accused of some form of abuse. Or stories on teachers having sex with students et al. It’s daily fodder for the Citizen Times. Granted, these are abusive and criminal acts, but only featuring these types of stories creates a chilling effect on the discussion of sex. There’s a shaming in only covering criminal sex acts, suggesting that sex is dirty and perverted. Or that only “normal” sex is OK. It makes people afraid to even bring the topic up. Yes, there is coverage of sexual preference issues, but never in the context of actual sex. Thankfully, even with this cloud of guilt, people are still having sex in Asheville, and there are communities that share an interest in it in a positive manner. You just don’t read about it. Why?

The fact that the leading local weekly newspaper in all of its years of publishing, appears to have never broached the topic suggests an editorial policy that has surrendered itself to a conservative value system. Or maybe the editors don’t think of sex as a worthy topic to cover?  Better to cover things like “green gardening” and “wellness” that have a nice moral shine to them, than cover “dirty” sex. Ever see the word orgasm (not organic) in the local rags? Ever read about the wonderful and varied ways in which people are exploring their sexuality in Asheville? Hah! A seach of the archives of one paper reveals not a single article on the subject. And that’s from a publication that purports to be the progressive voice of a pretty open and liberal city. Sorry, but a lot of us don’t garden but we do have sex. We have the right to read about it.

What gives?

Whereas most progressive weeklies have regular features on sex, or syndicated columnists like Dan Savage or Annie Sprinkle who openly discuss sexual matters, we are in an editorial desert when it comes to sex. The fact that local media made the Waking Life story central to their editorial for several days, reaping the rewards of an outraged community is disingenuous and exploitative. Since they never cover sex, it appears they are merely using the story to boost readership. Or are they serving the community by fanning the flames of anger and outrage?

Both publication’s choice NOT to cover sex and its many viewpoints is harmful to open dialogue in understanding why two individuals would act in such callous and hurtful ways.  And to just understand how we as a community celebrate and experience sex. It is time for Asheville’s local news outlets to grow up and deal with sex as a regular editorial topic and not one for the scandal pages. By not doing so, they are not serving an open-minded community eager to understand one another. They are cloaking sex in guilt and shame.

And that is not how we live in 2015.

P.S. You can expect regular coverage of sex by Metro Asheville. And if you want to write about it, drop us a line.

Your comments are welcomed. 

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