On the Record with Julia Allison, certified internet celebrity and the original Hoya sex columnist

img_0112Julia Allison in Tombs

It’s a bit of a challenge to describe dating columnist and alumna Julia Allison (COL `04) to anyone who isn’t already familiar with her micro-celebrity—perhaps because no two followers’ characterization of her are alike.  While Wired finds that her successful cultivation of herself and byline as an internet franchise makes her an item of curiosity and microcosm of modern media, a particularly vitriolic Gawker post described this same friend- and fame-making as “laying it on thicker than a toddler spreading peanut butter.”

But Allison’s observers do tend to agree that her life is prone to overexposure, with most bloggers concluding that other bloggers are guilty of giving her career and antics way too much attention. And Allison’s having “a Facebook account, a Myspace page, a Flickr, a Twitter, a Friendfeed, four Tumblrs, three Movable Type blogs, two Vimeos, [and] one YouTube,” certainly keeps her personal life in the public domain, if not in the limelight.

In fact, about the only portion of Allison’s career that others haven’t picked over or that she hasn’t divulged in intense detail is her two-year tenure at The Hoya as Georgetown University’s first sex columnist (which isn’t to say that her college career escaped scrutiny altogether; her relationship with Congressman Harold Ford, an incident in which she allegedly tried to get a free grapefruit by claiming to be from the Post, and allegations of plagiarism have all been much ballyhooed). So on Friday, Vox met Allison at Tombs to get her to do just that. Below is part of the resultant interview—which she kicked off, by citing her Hoya editors for limiting the scope of her columns.

Vox: Wow, I didn’t even have to ask you a question. So, how much freedom did you enjoy with your columns?

Allison: So, the administration didn’t step in and sanction my columns, but the editors did. Here’s the thing. The editor that I had my first semester Junior year was very supportive. And then you know, the editors change every semester, and by the time I ended my tenure there, I had an editor who was very conservative. In January of my senior year, I got fired, and it was very dramatic. I mean, it was massive.

Vox: Massive to you?

Allison: Well, he and I have since made amends, but at the time, we were both very hotheaded, extremely opinionated. I didn’t know how to deal with what I thought was censorship. I don’t know what the editorship is like now, but let’s just put it this way: when I was there, it was extremely controversial that I called it “Sex on the Hilltop.” And I was called the sex columnist, but I didn’t really discuss sex. Now, was that because I didn’t want to discuss sex, or I couldn’t discuss sex? I think that it was probably a combination of both …

So, I wanted to talk about what do you do when you have a roommate and you wanna hookup? I mean, this is a question that every undergraduate has struggled with. And I said, “If you want to have sex, and you have a roommate, you need to do this.” And they said, “No no no no no no, we can’t write ‘sex,’ let’s just say, ‘makeout.'”

Vox: And now that you’ve got more leeway?

Allison: Well, the irony here is that even though I was considered quite liberal here for the Hoya, I go to New York and I’m the biggest conservative in terms of sexual relations I’ve met. You  know, I’ve been called a prude, you know, all these things, because … of what I saw at Georgetown and the kind of values that were ingrained in me, I learned to play by the rules.  You know, “The Rules?” ….

I just spoke at NYU, about a year and a half ago, and they were doing this freshmen orientation with sex toys. And I don’t think that my mouth closed the entire time, it was so agape, because I was just so shocked that …. they were having, you know, this sort of open discussion. That was not a part of my Georgetown experience. … There was a letter, there was this editorial that a priest wrote that I discovered recently. Not recently, rediscovered recently, while I was at school, that basically compared students to monkeys with matches and me to—it wasn’t a fantastic analogy—me to a fire.

(The column by Father Maher that she recalls advises students against emulating “a monkey playing with sexual matches”).

Vox: What about from students?

Allison: You know students were, students were a mix. … I look back, and when I reread my columns, which is not frequently, I think, oh, these are so basic, for lack of a better word. But at the time, we really were genuinely struggling with those issues. I really didn’t know what to do when you have a roommate and you wanna hook up. The fact is, I think older writers and editors, because they’ve read everything—or they think they’ve read everything—they forget that a lot of people or young people, especially college students, haven’t.

So, at the time, I do feel like it was- i mean, it was the first dating column ever at Georgetown. And it [would have been] interesting to see what my response would have been had I written for the Voice, because it was so much more open …. whereas, the Hoya, it was like wearing a corset, or a chastity belt. I mean, I was writing with a chastity belt. Now given, I was a handful. There was a very conservative publication here, I think it was called the—

Vox: —Georgetown Academy?

Allison: Yeah. And they published a cover story that read something along the lines of—and you should look this up, it’s hysterical—”Sex, abortion, condoms, lies, and Julia Baugher.” And I was like, ‘What do I have to do with this?’ I think I became a lightening rod.

Vox: Do you think negative reactions were indicative of a more conservative campus atmosphere in general, or do you think it was a select group of people who were reacting vocally?

Allison: To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer. I do know I had a friend who worked in the Admissions department, I’m sorry, in the Office of the President, and he told me that they actually received letters  that certain alumni wouldn’t donate anymore because of my column. I’m totally serious. It was a really controversial column. And it was funny because, at the same time, there was a sex columnist at Yale who was writing columns about blowjobs. I could never ever write something like that.

Vox: Actually, the Hoya has run their sex column as a couple of different incarnations since then. There was “Between the Sheets” and Stephanie Hannah’s “A Compromising Position.”  Her first column was about how to lose your virginity.

Allison: Wow, they would never let me run something like that, ever. I mean, they edited out the word “sex” from my column, and I am not making this up. … And that’s the funny thing, because they referred to it as “the sex column.” It was hysterical to me because outsiders got incensed about things they had never read. And if they had read it, they would have realized that—they wouldn’t have gotten incensed about it. I haven’t read my columns in a while, and I’m 100 percent sure that they didn’t say anything that you wouldn’t have been able to say to an Eighth-grader.

But it was the idea of a sex column, that it just drove them nuts. And I think that they conjured this image up in their head, because there were a lot of sex columns, the first wave of college sex columnists that I was amongst. There was one at Kansas and she had stripped for Playboy, and one at Yale, and I think that there were these ideas of what a sex column [was] that gave people preconceptions.

Vox: From all this, it sounds like the limitations on your column was less a product of the Hoya being stodgy than it was of certain groups within the University being stodgy.

Allison: The Hoya could’ve, whatever editors were there, could’ve done one thing or another, they had enough autonomy, but the culture as a whole was very conservative. That was when the LGBTQ movement was so controversial. Maybe now that seems silly. There were so many wonderful things about this University, but it didn’t open my mind in that manner. There was an image consciousness among students that I’m not sure existed at other universities.

Vox: Do you know if you were among the first sex columnists at a Catholic university?

Allison: Oh yeah. I might’ve been the first. That’s the reason it was controversial. Had I gone anywhere else, no one would’ve noticed.

22 Comments on “On the Record with Julia Allison, certified internet celebrity and the original Hoya sex columnist

  1. Yeah, I don’t really see what was particularly unreasonable about Maher’s piece. He basically said that college students tend to act out and give bad advice divorced from whole, relevant, meaningful experiences in which they can soundly ground their reasoning. I don’t know how this isn’t true of most people below the age of 25.

  2. Our ’04 class embarrassment changed her name after her rotten behavior at Georgetown and has seemingly hit the skids. You can only ride Internet “fame ” for so long, particularly when the former Ms. Baugher has done nothing of any importance and couldn’t possibly handle a real job. Not surprising to note that she’s still pulling out the ol’ “controversial” SITC lift a la her stupid Hoya column. The woman has never had an original idea in her head.

  3. Pingback: Julia Allison: The Original Catholic Sex Columnist - The Sexist - Washington City Paper

  4. Interesting that she never mentions that the reason she was fired from The Hoya was plagiarism. Given that omission, perhaps the entirety of her interview should be taken with a grain or two of salt.

  5. Julia Allison Baugher totally plagiarized for the Hoya. And her mom edited all her articles. So controversial and risky lol.

  6. For readers who came along after the whole Julia Baugher brouhaha, City Paper editor Erik Wemple wrote a good run-down of it in 2004.

    Highlights:

    -Being accused of copying some of an iVillage article for The Hoya. Make up your own mind, but Wemple’s example is pretty damning.

    -Being accused of pretending to be an Express columnist to get a charge for a grapefruit off her hotel bill. In response, she said she was actually just trying to use her powerful position on The Hoya.

    And Mediabistro has a story from a former Hoya EIC on Baugher/Allison: “One day I was proofing pages late and she was taking her dog around saying ‘my rat dog hates conservatives, my rat dog wants to pee on the pages.’

  7. Actually, I was very much NOT fired for “plagiarism,” allegations or otherwise. I was fired for throwing a MASSIVE fit and bitching out the Hoya’s then-EIC Josh Zumbrun, for not running an op-ed by the EIC of the Georgetown Law Weekly defending me in response to Father Maher’s piece. Josh, who was at the Washington Post and now at Forbes, has backed me up repeatedly on the record about this. Did I handle myself professionally? No. I’m sure I did say that my dog would pee on his op-ed pages. But was I fired for plagiarism? Absolutely not.

    The allegation of plagiarism to which you refer was the second half of one 800 word column I wrote in December of 2002, about what holiday gifts to buy for your boyfriend. The gifts I chose and the manner in which I presented them were too similar to an iVillage article which I had read prior to writing my column. The Hoya editorial board convened on the topic in January of 2003, and ascertained that it was careless and messy, but not plagiarism. I wrote Sex on the Hilltop without incident until January of 2004.

    It’s tiresome to discuss a non-issue which happened seven years ago, but at least get your facts straight.

    And speaking of getting the facts straight, since we’re discussing it, I absolutely DID – inaccurately – say I was from the Washington Post while being obnoxious at the front desk of the Mondrian in LA, but it wasn’t to get out of a bill for grapefruit. It was just to complain about how much they were charging for them.

    And btw? Learned my lesson on that one. Never complained about egregiously expensive grapefruit again.

    At least not while pretending to be a columnist for the Washington Post. ;)

    Bottom line: I was young, I was stupid, if I could go back, I sure as hell wouldn’t say it again.

    But if that’s the worst thing I ever do, I’ll consider my life a success.

  8. According to Wemple, 13 out of the 16 gifts you wrote about in your column were in the iVillage article. And you wrote: “If she gets you this, she’s probably thinking… A Framed Photo of the two of You: I will stalk you when we break up.”

    iVillage: “If You Give: A framed picture of the two of you…You’re Saying: ‘Either wedding bells are about to ring, or I’m psychotic and will definitely stalk you if we break up.'”

    So if the Hoya’s editorial board decided this wasn’t plagiarism, it seems to me this judgment is more a reflection of the ed board than the originality of the article. Discussing a seven year-old issue can be tiresome, as you say, but maybe necessary if there’s still a debate over the nature of the mistake. Copying from someone else’s article can be called a lot of things, but I don’t think “messy” is among them.

    And while there are (very few) appropriate times to use emoticons, addressing seemingly credible allegations that you impersonated a Post reporter isn’t one of them.

  9. Again, Sam – both of those incidents happened over seven years ago, when I was in college.

    I’ve published over ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY articles & columns since then, done over THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY tv segments – so excuse me if I don’t think that both iVillage and a college dating column advocating a framed photo as a gift for your boyfriend is much of a big deal at this point in my career.

    As for the emoticon – dude, the entire situation was ridiculous, and it’s even more ridiculous to be discussing it seven years later. Senses of humor are fun. You should try getting one.

  10. I don’t really understand the pendulation between “it happened seven years ago, whatever, it’s not a big deal” and the insistence on such meticulous fact-checking on the blog of a publication of a university that you left, well, seven years ago — it’s all very eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too.

    Whatever. It’s not a big deal.

  11. Five years ago, rather. Just for the record.

  12. My goodness you certainly have a lot of time to argue with everyone who presents a less than pretty-pretty-princess version of yourself, Miss Baugher.

  13. OMFG! In your own words Julia: “… it’s even more ridiculous to be discussing it seven years later.”
    Have you looked at YOUR OWN vanity blog lately? You know, the one you plan to sell for “fuck you” money (your phrase).
    You consistently publish pictures from EONS ago. Here I am with (one of the long list of) ex boyfriends; here’s me in my prom dress; here’s me on the ski hill with the politician I dated; here’s me on holiday 2 years ago, here’s another picture of me 2 years ago, and another, and another …
    Zzzzzzzzzzz.

  14. “But if that’s the worst thing I ever do, I’ll consider my life a success.”

    Julia Baugher, that’s not the worst thing you’ve ever done. There are many, many worse things, which are documented all over the internet. Your delusions are pitiful. Speaking of delusions, why do you never mention your freshman year spent at Indiana University? It it because it doesn’t fit in with your revisionist history?

  15. I find it strange how, whenever you’re confronted with past bad behavior, you trot out the: “That was **INSERT NUMBER HERE** years ago!!!! Get over it already!”

    Why do you think misdeeds have expiry dates, much as you think women do?

    Plagiarism is one of the worst journalistic sins that can be committed. It deserves to not EVER be forgotten. It isn’t explained away and shrugged off because it happened five years ago — if so, a lot of the industry’s most notorious plagiarists would still be employed.

    But you trot out this excuse all the time, including when you outed someone’s mental health issues on Gawker and then demanded he buy you a laptop. In fact you even threw that in his face when he protested: “That was WEEKS ago! Get over it!”

    What a strange, strange world you inhabit, Julia Allison Baugher.

  16. (Actually, Edgar, lots and lots of alleged plagiarists are still in the biz, from writers Steve Ambrose and Ian McEwan to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and a host of other academics. If you can find it, Lieberman’s wife wrote a ballin’ takedown of some of the journalists who went after her husband after he plagiarized part of a speech, noting that there are lots of very-employed journalists out there who have lifted copy. http://www.slate.com/id/2140636/)

  17. Impressively bad. Key word is still “bad,” tho.

  18. Pingback: Sex Toys in the News | KamaSutronics

  19. Pingback: Former Hoya sex columnist, Julia Allison, stars in Bravo’s Miss Advised : Hilltop Hub

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