NEW YORK – Parents know their kids take philosophy, mathematics and literature courses in college. But students are studying a more titillating subject between the sheets of the school newspaper: sex.
Sex columns have become mainstays in several college newspapers, dispensing advice on everything from relationship issues to that troublesome bump you've had "down there" for a week.
And just as much as they're taken for granted on campuses, they've got others hot under the collar.
"When you send your kid off to college, you expect them to learn about math, science, history, not the latest sex advice," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute in Washington, D.C.
"I find it offensive," said mother Rose Masterson of Kingston, N.Y. "Maybe I'm getting old, but I'm really just amazed at how much [kids] have listened to the media giving disinformation."
Yet institutions such as New York University, the University of Kansas and Yale University all include student-written columns that range from the clinical to the raunchy.
"It's pretty explanatory how you go about having sex," said Meghan Bainum, sex columnist for the Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas. "But there's so much more that makes up sex."
Bainum's columns tend to be on the sensational side of the spectrum. In her 2002 Valentine's Day piece, she saucily recommended the use of sex as a weapon:
"Ohhh, revenge sex is cold," the 21-year-old wrote. "But sometimes cold and dirty is what you need."
At the other stylistic end, at the Washington Square News, NYU doctoral student Yvonne Fulbright uses her studies in international community health and human sexuality education to discuss STDs, condoms and the biology behind orgasms. But she never gives relationship advice.
"A lot of people are looking for a role model or someone to play the big sister, but it's not my business to tell people what I would do because that's my own business," she said.
Editors in chief at both writers' papers said on-campus criticism is virtually nonexistent. But conservatives and some parents were aghast.
"This is perpetuating the far-left line that you can do anything you want as long it feels good," Masterson said. "It's OK to sleep together when you date somebody, maybe wait until the third date. These are totally immoral comments."
The 51-year-old mother of eight kids -- three have finished college and two currently attend -- said even when the columns address issues like venereal disease, they lull young people into a false sense of security.
"It allows the children to think, 'Well, it's pretty safe,'" Masterson said.
Knight agreed, and said the proliferation of sex columns was a sign that political correctness has trumped common sense and decency.
"Most of these columnists are loath to give a factual picture of sexual risk because they are afraid of appearing homophobic or like prudes," he said. "Kids deserve to learn the truth: that promiscuous sex with or without condoms leads to heartbreak, venereal disease and unwanted pregnancy."
The columnists said their pieces advocate responsible sex, or even a chaste lifestyle. But the main message behind their columns is that sex is not something to fear.
"This is a time you figure out who you are as a person, and that includes sex," Bainum said. "If we give people guidance on all the other crap they go through, why not give people guidance on sex, too?"
Fulbright said those who don't want to discuss sex simply don't have to read her column.
"These columns are like the weather report," she said. "I don't tell them to have sex or do anything they don't want to. But, like you read the weather report to prepare for when bad weather comes, students might one day need the information I give them."
But Knight wasn't biting.
"Other generations have kept their pants on," he said. "Why can't this one?"