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Women Kissing Women, and Other Topics

HerCampus BU online mag covers sex, fashion, careers

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How pleasurable is it for a woman to kiss another woman?

We don’t know if BU students are preoccupied with the question. But based on the popularity of the Kate Perry song “I Kissed a Girl,” the BU edition of HerCampus.com presumed they might be. So the online magazine for college women investigated and recently published a story whose headline summarized: “I Kissed a Girl (and It Was Only Okay.)”

“I love to kiss. It’s as simple as that,” the correspondent writes. “Sometimes, a kiss is just a kiss. No fireworks, nothing gross, but certainly not something to sing about. I kissed a girl, and you know what happened afterwards? Absolutely nothing.” While acknowledging that some people welcome sexual identity labels such as gay or straight, she writes, “For a girl who wants to see what happens when she tries something new and doesn’t want to be judged or questioned afterwards, it can be tiresome to be bombarded with labels for what happened as a joke.”

With versions at about 100 colleges nationwide and attention in such media as the New York Times, HerCampus’ trio of Harvard-educated founders has become the Helen Gurley Brown of the Twitter set. The site has already attracted enough advertisers to turn a profit.

BU’s edition launched in 2009, the same year the site was founded, and has logged 24,000 hits to date, according to correspondent Allison Milam (CAS’13, COM’13). Other recent posts to HerCampus BU include “Spotted: Sub-Zero Style,” featuring photos of students with tips on keeping warm and fashionable simultaneously, and “Boo RateBU,” a critique of the now-infamous online photo gallery of the University’s putatively attractive female students.

The site is constantly seeking contributors on campus, although it should be noted that student correspondents are not paid. “Whenever a girl reaches out to us, we ask what they want to write about,” Milam says. “Advice on sexuality, living the city lifestyle, dating, school, style, you name it. We’re up for it all. We’re able to include so many different perspectives, whether it’s the girl with the long-distance boyfriend or the freshman with the absolutely unbearable roommate. We can’t have just one writer doling out advice.”

HerCampus BU includes features common to all HerCampus sites, such as “Campus Cuties,” which provides photos of male students along with a brief caption. Of course, BU’s version includes campus-specific “cuties,” from the a cappella group Dear Abbeys to the men’s club lacrosse team. (“Why choose one when you can choose the whole team?” is the caption under that photo. “With spring athletics starting up, this team gives you no excuse not to catch a game on Nickerson Field.”)

Milam, who pulls no punches in her critique of RateBU (“BU is better than this. We don’t want to be known as a school that promotes unavoidable judgment, self-absorption, and superficiality.”), says “Campus Cuties” is not hypocritical. “We don’t pick though a crowd of guys and find attractive ones to feature; we look for guys who have a talent or ambition.”

HerCampus also relies on recent graduates for contributions, providing wisdom from those who’ve “worked through a lot of the kinks of college life,” according to Milam. Hence, for example, the Entrepreneurista blog, which focuses on workplace and career issues, written by Molly Fedick (COM’10), founder of the online sitters network Babysitters of Boston.

Tailoring coverage to this campus is key. “The BU reader is definitely more urban than the reader at Bowdoin and isn’t spending her time at football games, like the reader at the University of Florida,” Milam says.

“BU is unique in that it is located in a city, so students are much more engaged with the surrounding areas and with things going on off campus than are students at other schools,” says Stephanie Kaplan, the CEO, editor-in-chief, and a cofounder of HerCampus. The University’s size and numerous programs also fuel students’ far-flung interests, she says. “BU women care about looking stylish, as opposed to just wanting to wear pajamas to class, taking advantage of the city they now call home, and looking to establish their own careers” by tapping BU’s large alumni body.

For Milam, whose COM major is advertising, HerCampus is not just about covering the here and now, but also preparing for her future.

“Most communication-oriented jobs, whether you’re working for an ad agency or a fashion magazine, are looking for clippings and proof that you know how to write,” she says. HerCampus not only lets her write about things she cares about, she says, but also gives her bragging rights at that future job interview.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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