Sunday, May 07, 2006

A young sex reporter comes to town

When I arrived in Gerlinger Hall to listen to a lecture, I didn't quite know what to expect. The visiting journalist was unknown to me, but I soon learned that he and I shared a similar goal: pursue the issues that affect America's youth and other under-reported sections of American life.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis is an award-winning magazine writer and the youngest person ever contracted by The New York Times Magazine. He is best known for reporting on the edge of American culture, particularly on topics of sex and sexuality. He challenged gay stereotypes by interviewing San Francisco’s Regular Guys, a group of steak-eating, sporting-event-watching gay men and Boston’s Lipstick Lesbians, a group of feminine lesbians who defy the butch-dyke stereotype. One of his most original pieces was Double Lives on the Down Low, which details the lives of macho black men who go to specialized clubs to hook up with men, but do not admit that they are gay.
Denizet-Lewis graduated less than 10 years ago from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University but is already a major figure in journalism.
He says he writes about sex "because so many people write about it so badly.”
Though he lives the high life now, his stories took a lot of determination, perseverance and unpaid work. At times he would spend months working on an assignment, spending time in Internet chat rooms or at the bowling alley to establish a rapport with his subjects. The results are shown in his powerful stories about worlds and sexual trends unknown to many outsiders.
I noted in particular that he had done a story on New Hampshire high school students who engage in casual sex by hooking up on the Internet. “I’m not gay and I’m not straight. Those labels are silly,” the high school students told Denizet-Lewis.
I recently did a story on a growing trend among people my own age who seem to be afraid of defining their sexual relationships, so I was happy to see that my story ideas weren’t totally off the mark.
It was also very encouraging to me that the main advice that Denizet-Lewis gave to aspiring journalists was to look around in their own lives for story ideas. I strongly believe that my generation’s point of view is over-shadowed by that of the baby boomers and I hope to change that while I’m still young.

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