UNF Oral Sex Photo Controversy

A photo suggesting oral sex on the cover of a student newspaper has generated controversy.

Believe it or not, the photo below is generating some controversy.

Florida Times-Union (“UNF student newspaper catching flak for racy photo“):

The University of North Florida’s student-run newspaper – and the school’s administration – have been fielding complaints about a controversial edition featuring a cover photo depicting oral sex.

The article in Thursday’s Spinnaker discussed recent findings that throat cancer is on the rise among people who contract the sexually transmitted disease HPV (human papillomavirus) through oral sex. But many readers thought the racy cover photo was distasteful and took away from the message of the story.

In the photograph, a fully clothed man is shown simulating oral sex on a woman sitting atop a stool and wearing only a red bra. Neither’s face is shown.

The paper’s editor, Josh Gore, defended the decision and said he felt the shock value was “minimal.” Most of the complaints, Gore said, have been from UNF employees and people outside the university, not fellow students. “We put this on the cover to show students that HPV is a real concern with oral sex,” said Gore, who graduates in May. “I think this is a real important issue to touch on, and this is the way we decided to illustrate it.”

The cover is intentionally provocative but, one presumes, had the intended effect of getting people to take a second look and piquing student interest in the story about an important public health issue. College students are mostly over 18 and, like it or not, many of them are having sex—oral or otherwise—and at risk for HPV and other STDs. Getting their attention in a competitive information environment is challenging. To the extent a mildly risque cover achieved that goal, good for the editors.

FILED UNDER: Education, Environment, Media, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    When I first saw the photo I thought it went way too far, and was not at all in good taste.

    Then I saw that it was in a university’s newspaper and not a national or community rag. Maybe, just maybe, college students respond to racy and provocative more than they do mundane and safe?

  2. John Burgess says:

    “Maybe, just maybe?” You’re kidding, right? Right?

  3. Neil Hudelson says:


  4. michael reynolds says:

    I really wish the various national moral scolds, from Common Sense Meda on the Left to Focus on the Family on the far Right would take maybe a semester of intro to philosophy courses. Some logic, some epistemology, some semiotics, that kind of thing.

    Then maybe they could decide whether the problem is in the WORD or the THOUGHT.

    Because half the time they’re busy freaking out of a dropped f-bomb, and the rest of the time they’re busy freaking out about how people cleverly use the word, “f-bomb,” but mean the same goddamned thing. Which would mean, duh, that the word is not the issue. Which would leave them no way to effectively demand censorship or artist’s self-censorship.

    In this case we have a photo that reveals none of the forbidden bits that would cause apoplexy in the Scold And Nag Community. But it may cause people to form mental images of those forbidden bits and that in itself should be forbidden.

    Likewise the word “clam.”

  5. Tylerh says:

    The students are to be commended for a great advertisement.

    Not only does this ad’s hook cut through the clutter of our ADHD media culture, but that hook conveys the key message: you can get HPV from oral sex. No additional exposition required.

    “Obscenity” is defined by local standard. Unless you know the UNF community standards, you have NO IDEA if this is “offensive” or not.

    The BYU student newspaper’s readership would definitely find this ad offensive. This same ad in the Bennington student newspaper would probably be considered boring. So let the UNF community work this out amongst themselves: it’s their community.

  6. Franklin says:

    I just figured the guy was a gynecologist.

  7. Janis Gore says:

    As a woman, I’d say I went to college entirely too long ago.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    And Janis takes the thread,

  9. Franklin says:

    Michael- seconded!

  10. tom p says: