Salon Loves Our Sex Parties, But Is Salon Liberated and Free?

 The first image that came up when I googled “hispter party.”  C/o The Peanuts Gang

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Benjamin Winterhalter ’07 really wants you to know that he’s cool—but not, like, Pitchfork-Modest-Mouse-hipster-on-a-bicycle cool. No, he was cool before cool even knew it was cool. That, I assume, was the point of his Salon article “What I learned at the hipster sex party,” which asks important questions in its subtitle, like, “The place was so hip even the guy from MGMT was there. But were we liberated and free? I guess so.”

He explains up-front what he’s about to share with us: “What follows is my best reconstruction of the events of a party that took place in 2003 on the campus of Wesleyan University, one of the most hipster colleges in America.” Actually, not according to the Huffington Post, or Her Campus, or College Magazine. We’re still getting over the rejections. “It’s a good illustration of certain facets of hipster culture.” Fascinating. “It involves a minor brush with fame.”

I don’t feel like recounting what he says in this story. Read it, or don’t. It’s fun to note, though, that the author was a Philosophy and French double major, did crew, and wrote his honors thesis on The Edge of the World: Facts, Solipsism, and Self-Knowledge in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.

What all of that amounts to, I feel, is approximately nothing. I do not consider myself special or unique or extraordinary as a result of the fact that I saw the singer of MGMT cover Nine Inch Nails at a Sex Party in 2003. I just happen to have encountered this particular band well before they became popular, which is no more a point of pride for me than the fact that I was 3 years old in 1988. I should not have told this story.

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So why did Winterhalter tell this story? Why now, 11 years after the fact? Is he dismantling the claims of “before it was cool” by exposing the constructed nature of “before it was cool” stories with his own story of “before it was cool”? Is he defending hipsters,  is he showing them to be posers, or is he saying the people who call them posers are, themselves, posers? (Sex parties, if you’re wondering, were abolished by Eclectic in 2010.)

Wesleying staffers chimed in:

  • zstevenz: I have a reaction and it is—oh god this guy is really trying to be “cool” while talking about “being cool.” I urge everyone to stay far away from this article.
  • Roxie: Why do things like sex positivity and queer pride always get put under the umbrella of liberal mystification/hipster silliness? Those are real political movements that matter a lot to a lot of people. I mean I guess he did say that although the sex party purported to be engaging with political themes, they mostly seemed like a flimsy excuse to have a cool sex party. But I don’t think that’s true–turning theory into practice is awkward territory to navigate, but it’s still a worthwhile endeavor. Why does he assume the girl who acts confident when others get self-conscious is trying to look cool? Like maybe she’s just down with being topless?? And going to a sex party just to judge everyone is a pretty shitty breach of the social contract designed to help people feel more comfortable with their bodies in a public space. Also the whole part about Andrew VanWyngarden seems like it belongs in Us Magazine, not Salon.

Only time will tell. Maybe 11 years later, someone will publish something in Salon that will explain all of this to us.

Corrections, as he mentioned, “may be kindly addressed to Benjamin Winterhalter, The South Pole.” Or you can find his email.