Karen Owen, the recent Duke University grad who graphically documented her college sexploits in a mock honor's thesis (An Education Beyond the Classroom: Excelling In The Realm Of Horizontal Academics) is being applauded by some as an empowered woman who is trouncing the sexual double standard and giving men a run for their money with good sexual game. Others are trashing her for objectifying herself and her partners, being a slut, invading privacy and getting herself into potentially unsafe situations.
Owen ranked her "subjects" on physical attractiveness, penis size, talent, creativity, aggressiveness (which was a positive for her), entertainment and athletic ability and added photos and commentary like "that gorgeous, perfect body of his was supporting a penile structure so disproportionately small that I had to take several deep breaths and force a smile before commencing the hookup session". Her "F*** List" went viral after she sent it to a few friends, so of course producers and publishers are flocking to the smell of green.
That's nothing new, and neither are women who embrace casual sex with gusto, but something a HarperCollins editor said to Jezebel.com in an effort to get Owen's contact info inspired my post today: "I'm wondering if she has any interest in writing a book. She's like the female equivalent of Tucker Max, and I admire his sense of self-empowerment!"
Let's not confuse the sheer commodity power of exploiting crude, rude, drunken sexual encounters with self-empowerment. Tucker Max is a fellow Duke grad (JD) who certainly knows how to brand himself and make big bucks off of his sexploits - he sold over a million copies of his first book, which also became a hit movie. Owen actually compared herself to Max in her exposé after a particularly scandalous ride. But does gossiping about the size of a guy's junk or "high-fiving him while giving him a blow job in the library because ‘this is f***ing awesome!" make her self-empowered? In my book self-empowerment doesn't involve making fun of, exploiting or objectifying others. It's more about adding value to your world and others with assertiveness, empathy, resolve and resilience.
Having Casual Sex Isn't Inherently Evil or Self-Empowering.
Some people do have fun, satisfying uncommitted sex without hurting themselves or others. Regardless of gender, what I've gleaned from working with college students on sex and relationship issues for years and from the social science research on hooking up is that the ones who come out unscathed tend have some things in common.
People who are hurt by or hurt others with casual sex have one or more of the following in common.
I'm not going to analyze Owen's motives or speculate about her future. That's not my place. In today's post I just want to invite you to examine how you think about, judge, embrace or reject uncommitted sex a little more closely.
Copyright 2010, Linda R. Young, Ph.D. All rights reserved