Warning: Material not suitable for Penn parents.
By Yochi Dreazen
The sounds of Salt N Peppa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” echoed through the Annenberg Center’s Zellerbach Auditorium on the eve of Valentine’s Day — minutes before Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adam Corolla, the hosts of MTV’s hit advice show Loveline, did just that. Taking questions from an audience of more than 950 students, the pair — who were in the midst of a college tour that would take them to more than 30 schools around the country — spent nearly two hours discussing the finer points of love, dating and sex in the nineties (with an emphasis on sex).
“Thanks for coming out and wasting a Saturday night with us,” Corolla joked as he and Pinsky began the event. “We’ll do this just like the show, but I’ll try to work the f-word in.” (He succeeded.) The sold-out event followed the television show’s question-and-answer format, with Pinsky, a practicing internist specializing in substance abuse, dispensing the serious advice and Corolla, a former stand-up comedian, providing the jokes. Just like on the show, there was no shortage of young men and women ready to share intimate details about their sex lives and relationships.
The often X-rated discussion was not, to put it mildly, for the faint-hearted: A male student asked whether being circumcised reduced the level of his sexual pleasure (probably, but the procedure brings several important health benefits). A female student wondered whether having a threesome with her two housemates would damage their friendship (maybe, but friends can be easily replaced). And a male athlete wondered whether having sex the day of a sporting event would impair his ability to compete (yes). Other students asked about masturbation, how to deal with a friend “suspected” of being gay, and why straight men are attracted to lesbians.
“I was a little shocked at some of the questions,” said College senior Dara Gruen, one of the event’s organizers. “I mean, it takes guts for students to share such personal information about their sexual problems in front of so many people.”
There were some important differences between the Penn event and the actual show. On MTV, for instance, Pinsky tends to do the bulk of the talking, with Corolla chiming in with the occasional aside or quick joke. At Penn, by contrast, Corolla answered nearly every question, and frequently cut Pinsky off in mid-sentence. As a result, though organizers had billed the event as a mixture of entertainment and education, the performance was, essentially, a long stand-up comedy routine.
To take one example, here is the pair’s response to the female student concerned that a mènage à trois with her two housemates would destroy their friendship. After asking whether the three had any relationship other than a friendship (they didn’t), Pinsky said, “In that case, if it destroys a friendship, it’s sad but it’s not devastating,” while Corolla gave the housemates the green light. “Go ahead and do it,” he said to deafening applause. “You have our blessing.”
Later in the show, when a male student asked for guidance about how to deal with a roommate whose masturbation kept him up at night, Corolla offered this advice: “You shouldn’t confront him about it, but you should make it clear to him that you’re wide awake. Do it subtly, like by coughing and saying, ‘Hey, jackmaster, mind keeping it down over there?'”
Pinsky did broach the occasional serious topic, like testicular cancer or how to diagnose sexual addiction, but such moments were a distinct minority, a point Gruen readily concedes. Still, she adds, “students came to be entertained more than to be educated. This event was not meant as a lecture on sexual health. It was meant to be a fun time, and I think we delivered.”
There was another important difference between the event and the actual show. On MTV, callers to the show are anonymous, and audience members ask their questions from a different room in the studio so that they can’t be identified. The intrepid Penn students seeking answers to their most vexing (or embarrassing) sexual concerns had no such luxury. Instead, they had to pose their questions in front of nearly 1,000 classmates and friends.
“It’s kind of disturbing when you know at least a quarter of the people asking the questions,” said sophomore Margaret Allen. “There are some things that you just don’t want to know about the guy who sits next to you in class.”
Yochi Dreazen, C’99, is an English and history major from Chicago and former managing editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian.