'Oxy Confessions' unsafe, unproductive for community

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If anyone asks if I have a Facebook, I tell them I do not. If they somehow find me on Facebook, I refuse their friend requests. It is a forum I use strictly to communicate with friends who live abroad. And to read “Oxy Confessions.”

When I first began reading the page, I thought of it as a guilty indulgence and a distraction. It held a similar appeal to picking up a People magazine, except with the added allure of possibly finding something written about myself. But as I, and 1,300 others, perused the page, I kept reading confessions that nauseated me.

In the last issue of The Weekly, writer Olivia Landon explained the positive aspects of the anonymous page. While I found the piece to be both strongly written and compelling, I cannot help but disagree. The many hyper-sexual and violent confessions mitigate any lasting positivity.

“To the blond sophomore kines major with the sexy new haircut: I want to make you as sore as you get from those intense workouts I see you doing at the gym,” confession No. 2925 reads.

“Cute guy in my economics class: any time, any place, any hole,” confession No. 2506 reads.

A third confession references the writer’s desire to stab the subject with his penis. The entire confession has not been reprinted because it so clearly implicated a specific individual.

In what world is writing about someone in graphic sexual detail complimentary? Most people have their kinks and fetishes, but being publicly made the object of someone’s is not flattering. It is scary.

The first two of confessions make it more difficult for the subject to be identified. The third, on the other hand, does little to protect the subject and in doing so violates her privacy. It allows an unwilling participant to become entertainment for 1,300-plus people, and it opens up tangled questions about safety, violation and rights to privacy.

A confession is supposed to be inherently some kind of catharsis, whether the secret be negative or positive. Post Secret, a community art project that provides a forum for confessions, epitomizes the way in which a massive (often anonymous) community can provide a safe space for the release of secrets. It catalyzes friendships and communities and provides a forum for conversation for those in need.

So why is “Oxy Confessions” both unproductive and unsafe?

Firstly, the moderator does not restrict such degrading confessions. And while he or she has done an excellent job providing resources to those who confess feelings of depression or alienation, it does not mediate the overall hyper-sexualized and contentious tone of the page.

What the page really does is allow people to feel as if they are engaging with their peers in a manner of exchange and debate, while in fact indulging themselves in their own opinions. Yes, debates over sexual identity, privilege, race and culture do unfold on the page. But the thoughts exchanged remain in stasis – they are comments on a web forum and nothing more. “Oxy Confessions” acts as a warm blanket which strips students of the compulsion to have such discussions in person. In doing so, it does nothing to change the intellectual or cultural landscape of the college.

More importantly, however, it draws explicit attention to individuals whose identities are hardly veiled. It also fetishizes entire ethnic communities it would take a page of this paper to list all of the sexual confessions that reference Blasians and Asians alone.

The explicit nature of these confessions does not prove an open sexual discourse, but rather the presence of a repressed sexual culture. When we cannot turn to our sexual partners and say exactly what we like and do not like, when we cannot be honest with ourselves about our personal kinks, when we feel discomfort with our own bodies or the bodies of others, our desires will find a way to manifest themselves. They will manifest themselves in violent, sexual discourse, and they will further threaten the respect and acceptance which build a strong community.

Ari Laub is a senior English and Comparative Literary Studies major. She can be reached at alaub@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyALaub.