Recent Duke University graduate Karen Owen produced a mock thesis, in the form of a power point presentation, entitled “Excelling in the Realm of Horizontal Academics”, in which she gave a detailed and explicit review of thirteen Duke athletes’ sexual performance. Owen sent the presentation to a number of friends via email, presumably not realizing that this presentation would inevitable leak out and make its way to all corners of the internet.
Among the highlights of the 42 page presentation were the names and faces of her sexual partners. She gave each a score along with comments that ranged from flattering to humiliating. She said each man was a ‘subject’ and that sex was ‘data collection’. Of one less than talented sex partner, she said that ‘it was over too quickly.
Owen also described having sex while blacked out on alcohol and sex in the school library during finals week.
Most of the thirteen athletes were, ironically, Duke lacrosse players.
This marks the second time in the last four years that Duke lacrosse players have been involved in the middle of a sex related scandal when, in reality, they did nothing wrong.
In 2006, a group of Duke lacrosse players were accused by a stripper of rape; the case was a toxic combination of race, sex and socioeconomic factors. The players were prosecuted and widely believed guilty, until it was found that the rape story was concocted and that the prosecution had concealed evidence that the alleged rape had not happened. The damage, really, had already been done, however, as the athletes’ names and reputations were tarnished and their lacrosse season canceled by the university.
In the case of Karen Owen, there is no accusation of wrong doing by the athletes, but it would seem likely that they are embarrassed at least and could have personal problems as a result at worst.
Talking about sexual conquests on college campuses is nothing new and not particularly offensive necessarily over the long run. But putting detailed explanations on the internet and exposing private and humiliating details for all to read is an entirely different level.
In the Duke rape case, there seemed to be a rush to judgment by many as privileged white males were accused of raping a seemingly less privileged African American woman. It was, clearly, an example of reverse racism and sexism.
The reaction to Karen Owen’s “Excelling in the Realm of Horizontal Academics” will be interesting to observe. If a male student at Duke did this same exact thing to thirteen female students would it be taken more seriously? It remains to be seen whether Owens’ mock thesis be mostly laughed off or will it be seen for what it is: an egregious invasion of privacy for which she should be held morally and legally accountable.
Source: Kashmir Hill, “The Privacy Landmine That is Duke Graduate Karen Owen’s ‘Senior Thesis'”, forbes.com