Friday, October 8, 2010

A List for All: The Foibles of Horizontal Academics

As I near the age in which my body parts start to hurt more often in the morning, I can look back on my youth and think to myself about all of the things I should not have done.  I certainly should not have been allowed to buy a '76 Pontiac Grand Prix with a 400-cubic inch engine (with a mere 2,000 miles, sitting in my brother-in-law's garage for over a decade) as my first car at 16, putting me behind the wheels of a 130-mph tank.  In my defense, I bought it with money that I saved up.  I probably should not have played quarters with 151 straight that one time when I was a youngin'.  That did not go well the following morning.  But one thing I never did, or really thought of doing, was conducting a comparative analysis of my sex partners, for a senior project, on PowerPoint, and then email it to friends with the hope they would never send it out to anyone else.  Oops.

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Karen Owen Sex List: Equal Opportunity Sexual Humiliation?
Posted by April Peveteaux

Duke University is buzzing about Karen F. Owen's f**k list, a PowerPoint presentation, no less. The recent grad created an impressive 42-page document titled "Senior Honors Thesis" on her drunken (mostly) sexual exploits with Duke athletes.

It's a thorough report including quantifiable methods of ranking each subject, anatomic details, and sext transcripts. If I had been Karen Owen's friend, I would have been impressed, if not disturbed, by Owen's attention to detail and memory recall. As an outsider, it makes me feel dirty. While Owen only sent it to three friends, as a person under the age of 60, she should know that once something is distributed electronically, it doesn't matter if you send it to one person, or one hundred.

Jezebel interviewed Owen, who is seemingly mortified that her list is now the topic of national attention, yet she did point out that frat guys have been doing this for years.

She's right, but does that make it okay?

In order to buy the argument that this is somehow gender equality, you have to accept that men are aggressive and take what they want with no regard for the feelings of women. Of course, the Duke lacrosse team, many of whom Owen bedded, already have that reputation. You also have to buy the argument that women are weak and have little control over their sexual choices. Owen's treatment of these men negates that stereotype, as do 99% of the women I know.

So even though the expert on the TODAY show annoyed the hell out of me as she spoke of being very disappointed in girls losing their modesty (note, not frat boys -- that's just to be expected) and seemed concerned about "morals," we cannot have a double standard. It's not okay to sexually humiliate anyone. Even if you think these testosterone-fueled athletes on the prowl really, really deserve it. What if Subject #2 killed himself after reading her assessment of his personality and penis?

I'm all for owning your sexuality. But being proud of getting hammered and going home with a similarly inebriated jock is as much of an accomplishment as finding a liberal on campus. Subjecting your targets to public scrutiny when you made the choice to get on that tiny, flaccid penis is bad behavior. No matter who you're bedding.

Do you think it's okay that Karen Owen showed this list to friends?

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Granted, it was not nice for her to name the young fellows that she bedded.  I am sure the fellow who rated a 1 was not very happy to see it.

Still, how much of this is an overresponse to the fact she is a female writing about this?  There seems to be almost a fetishism for women writing about their sex lives in this country.  Not that I am opposed to that, naturally, as a male admirer of the writings of Anais Nin (yes, I admit it, I read her in my undergrad years), but when I read the responses to this story it almost has nothing to do with the poor fellows on the Duke lacrosse team getting outed for their prowess, or the lack thereof (not only that, who is to say that the reviewer of their abilities is not herself biased, making the research unreliable?).  Almost universally, the comments are based on personal and moral judgments of the female student as a "whore," "slut," and "loose woman," as women tend to be to the targets of these kinds of attacks when committing the sinful act of 'behaving like one of the boys.'

I ask this as an open question: If a male member of the Duke basketball team (I will give some relief to the lacrosse team) wrote a thesis on the performance capabilities of a dozen or so prior female partners (and named them), does anyone think that the player in question would be called a "whore" or "slut"?  I think we know the answer to that one, instinctively.  Of course not.  We would be focusing this story on where it belongs, the naming of names, and violation of privacy of the person having his/her sex life being put on a PowerPoint display without any foreknowledge or consent.

As for the research itself, I must say, Ms. Owens, your methodology has some externalities.  By only sleeping with members of the lacrosse team, your study is barely a comparison but more of a single case narrative with thirteen parts.  For it to be research worthy of its name, it must be randomized, which is to say a cross-section of students, some athletes, as well as fine arts, sciences, social sciences, and maybe even business majors (just to see how awful they are).  Also, the n-size for most studies, to be credible, must be on the low end of 40 to be considered valid.  I do not think that 13 is going to cut it for research, making this a meta-narrative of your sex life.  Lastly, your causal variables (i.e., "raw scores"), like 'physical attractiveness' and 'athletic ability,' could have been collapsed into the same variables.  No good study of such a small sample size should have more than a few variables (maybe up to five, but then you need a larger sample size to support eight variables).

Still, you have to like the creativity of the assignment.  I think this was my favorite part.


The wonders of youth.

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