Duke University Sex Thesis – What Do You Think?
I heard about this story on Cosmo Radio on my drive to buy a new battery for my car yesterday (which not-so-conveniently wouldn’t start just when I needed to head out for some appointments). I usually don’t blog on the weekends, but I simply didn’t want to wait until Monday to talk about this. The story is basically this: Recent Duke University graduate, Karen Owen, wrote a 42-page PowerPoint presentation “thesis” titled, “An Education Beyond the Classroom: Excelling in the Realm of Horizontal Academics,” where she detailed her sexual experiences from her sophomore year to her senior year of college. In the document, Owen ranked 13 men according to their physical attractiveness, athletic ability and sexual talents (with scores for size, talent, creativity, aggressiveness, entertainment and bonus points for other factors). Most of her sexual conquests (which she called “subjects”) were Duke lacrosse players (you’ll remember the infamous Duke lacrosse scandal of 2006). In the “thesis,” Owen included full names and pictures, mostly athletic shots and photos taken from Facebook, and went into pretty graphic details about each encounter. She even compared the men’s scores via a bar graph. In May, Owen sent her “thesis” to a few of her friends, as a sort of inside joke among women. Well, as these things do, the “thesis” was eventually sent across the entire Duke student body, and has gone viral. Since the end of this past week, the story has been featured on cable news, The Huffington Post, TIME magazine, the Today Show, The New York Times and ABC News, among others, and has become a hot topic on blogs all across the Internet, calling it a “Fuck List.”
Use this link or this link to see the full PowerPoint presentation Owen developed. And seriously, check it out. It’s well-written, and interesting as hell. If you find dating blogs even remotely interesting, this takes it to a whole new level. Probably not suitable for work, however. For the most part, the guys this girl slept with are friggin’ hot – they are the cool guys in high school and college that EVERY girl wanted to be with, the unattainable guys that were often jerks but their looks helped them get away with it. These are the guys girls like me love to hate – and secretly wish they could get.
Owen talked with media outlet Jezebel, who broke the story, and said, “I regret it with all my heart. I would never intentionally hurt the people that are mentioned on that.” With that statement, Owen has basically gone into hiding, closing down all her social media sites and going dark. There are reports that she has been offered a book deal.
The Duke University newspaper ran an editorial this week about the topic, titled, “Karen Owen Shatters the Glass Ceiling.” This piece heralds Owen for her efforts on the behalf of feminism, saying, “The way in which her PowerPoint presentation (complete with pictures and sexual analyses of such things as her subjects’ stamina, performance and, of course, “equipment size”) created such a dramatic volte-face of gender norms makes Owen, in my mind, the most average-looking sororstitute feminist since Lucretia Mott and Suzy B.” The editorial goes on to say, “Owen doesn’t come off as some low-rent harlot or like a jealous and bitter girl; she comes off as a funny, actually intelligent lady who likes to show people a good time. And she has nothing to be ashamed about.”
Check out this piece which questions whether Owen is a feminist hero or a cautionary tale of promiscuity. Oh, and just because I think this is pretty interesting, check out this word cloud of the online conversation regarding this story.
There are people on both sides of the aisle. Some think this is awesome – freedom of speech in its truest form, and Owen should be free to boast her sexual exploits in any way she pleases. For years, men have done this very same thing in every locker room across the country. Then, there are others that are calling her a slut, are offended with how openly she detailed her conquests and are deeply concerned for the privacy of the 13 men.
I can see both sides. I’m especially torn because, well, um, look at this blog. I’m not detailing every minute detail of my sexual conquests, but I’m here recapping my dating and relationship experiences with the men in my life. Sure, I use pseudonyms, but my close network of social contacts know each and every person. My blog is connected to my Facebook page. My blog is connected to my Twitter account. My blog is directly connected to my name, and therefore the company for which I work. Most men I date that are not randoms on Plenty of Fish can be easily identified by going through my friend list on Facebook. Or by simply tracking the people with which I spend my time and the social circles I frequent.
And then, there are blogs similar to mine that are anonymous (some even password-protected). These blogs are incredibly salacious, exceptionally interesting to read and often provide the down and dirty details of not just the blogger’s dates, but when they invite their dates upstairs for “coffee.” They might not go as far as attributing a score for every man, but they talk about size, performance and virility … all the things that Owen is talking about. If you are opposed to her “thesis,” are you opposed to those blogs too?
Here’s another question that has arisen in this whole situation: Is there a double standard here? What if a man had published this “thesis?” Would we be all up in arms about male chauvinists and angered by the way men have repressed women sexually for centuries?
So I’m here to ask you all, readers, what do you think? Do you think Owen is a modern-day feminist hero or is she completely out of line? Do you think this is different from the dating blogs that we know and love so well? Is there anything intrinsically wrong with what Owen did, and if so, how does that differ what I’m doing here (and what many of you are doing on your blogs)? Sound off in the comments.