Karens Owens and "The Duke Fuck List"
[Forgive the raw and unedited nature of this post, and that it's a few weeks late, but I'm still on tour for my new book Assholes Finish First.]
I’ve had a ton of bullshit forwarded to me, but in the eight years my website has been up, there are two things that have been sent to me more than anything else: Maddox’s original “I am better than your kids” post, and Karen Owen’s mock thesis, known as “The Duke Fuck List.”
[If you don’t know what the Duke Fuck List is, stop reading this now, it’ll be pointless. If you want a quick breakdown of the facts, get them here. To see the actual unedited Powerpoint slides, get them here.]
And everyone who sent it to me wanted to know what I thought about it. Not just randoms either; a lot of media came to me for comment. I usually ignore media requests for commentary (much to the frustration of my PR guy, Jeff Chassen), but when Nightline asked me to do an extensive interview about it, I agreed, because I figured this would be a perfect way to get my thoughts on record without having to spend the time writing out something long and exhaustive.
They filmed a 30 minute interview with me, 25 about Karen Owens and 5 minutes about the general college sexual experience. And of course they edited out everything I said about Karen Owens. That’s super, thanks.
So during a long plane flight I wrote out my basic thoughts:
1. The Duke Fuck List was not written for public consumption: This is the most important thing to remember, and it should color every piece of analysis on this subject:
She did NOT intend this list for public consumption and did not ask for this attention.
These are her most private thoughts that were written with an audience of her closest friends in mind. We are reading her diary. Just put yourself in her position: What if someone published your diary, against your wishes? Or printed the lewd conversations you have with your best friends? You know what would happen? EXACTLY what happened to Karen Owens. Somerset Maugham wasn't kidding when he said "There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror."
Obviously it very stupid for her to put the real names of the guys she fucked into this list, but she made a mistake. We all make mistakes. So many people made the assumption that she's just a media whore looking for attention, but not only has she not taken any of book or TV deals offered, she's gone into hiding. Why do you think she did that? I'll tell you why: She did not do this on purpose, and she is freaking the fuck out over the reaction to it. Not many people can handle the spotlight searing into them at full blast. You have to be either very emotionally strong, or crazy, to be able to endure the abuse you have to take when the focus of the world goes onto you.
So before you say anything about her--good or bad--remember that you are evaluating a person based on their private diary that was published without permission.
2. All the negative media commentary about her is bullshit: The first reaction I saw was people calling her a whore, and yelling about how she represents everything wrong with society and women and all sorts of other bullshit.
I mean, come on. She fucked 13 Duke athletes over 4 years of college. So what? I’m awesome, not a statistician, but 3+ guys a year is pretty average. If you think that behavior makes her a whore, you don’t know what a real whore is.
Granted--that number is ONLY Duke athletes, and not the total number of dicks she had in her. But even if you double it to 26...well yes, that’s a little slutty, but it is a crazy outlandish number that proves she’s the world’s biggest skank? Not even close. I went to Duke for law school and fucked a bunch of undergrad girls when I was there and she seems pretty average for a socially active girl at Duke. This behavior is very normal.
And seriously, all these talking head idiots need to shut the fuck up about every little thing they don’t like representing moral decline. People have been fucking and sucking and doing debaucherous shit since ancient Rome. If you’re calling her a whore, either you are very naive and don’t know what a real whore is, or you’ve done the same thing and are being a lying hypocrite about it.
Make no mistake about it, that's what most of the media commentators taking huge shits on Karen Owens are--hypocrites. They're just using her as a pedestal for them to get on and proclaim their own moral righteousness. I'm not buying it. How many fundamentalist preachers and anti-gay Senators have to get caught fucking men before people understand that the ones who most oppose something in public are usually guilty of it in private?
3. Karen Owens is not an empowered woman: As a reaction to the negative commentary, there was a wave of people defending her, mainly by calling her “empowered.”
The first time I read this I laughed out loud. Surely only a dumb sorority girl looking for justification for all the dicks she sucked last weekend would think that. Then I saw it over and over again...and realized people were serious. I’m all for hooking up and having fun, but do people really think a drunk slut throwing herself at athletes is empowering? No fucking chance.
I will explain to you what is really going in the simplest terms possible:
To most of the guys on her list, Karen Owens was nothing more than life support for a vagina. Which is fine…except she doesn’t understand that at all, and that is the opposite of empowering.
You can easily find a picture of Karen online, and if you do, you’ll see what I'm talking about. She’s a cute girl, but not smoking hot, the type that you’ll fuck if it’s available and easy, but won't really put work into. And that is exactly what she did: Make herself easy and accessible to the guys on her list. I mean, look at how she describes meeting one:
“After many long looks exchanged between us on the path to and from Wilson Gymnasium, he finally approached at Shooters II and asked for a dance before suggesting that we exit the premises.”
From there she went home and fucked him. Hardly even had a conversation. That’s empowering? No, that's easy.
I know too well the reality of the situation, because I’ve been the guy the guy that the Karen Owen type goes after many times. For a high status guy who gets lots of girls--e.g. an athlete at Duke--Karen Owen is nothing more than a piece of easy ass. Why? Because that's the way she acts. She tried to make it sound like she was using these guys for her experiment, but that was only the explanation she tacked onto her actions afterwards. That's not what was happening in the moment; no, at the time, it was the guys who were using her. Except she doesn't understand that at all. The best evidence of that is her words:
“On the way out, we walked past Joe Tkac (lacrosse), who took one look at me, said ‘Oh heyyy, Karen…what are you up to tonight?’ and died laughing.”
They are laughing AT HER, because they all know something that see doesn't: They see her as nothing more than a cum-dumpster. Pour beer down her throat for two hours, her legs open, shoot your load, and move on.
If you still don't get it, and still think her actions were empowering, explain this paragraph:
“He was the first guy I have hooked up with that kept an intense level of eye contact throughout the hookup, which honestly brought the entire experience to a level of hotness that I had never before experienced.”
That's describing the guy she gave the highest score too. Go look at the actual scores: The only two guys she gave a 12/10 to are the two that treated her the least like a whore. Pretty much all the rest used her like a dishrag and tossed her out, and she subconsciously graded them lower because of it. The guy she graded the lowest is that one who didn't kiss her, fucked her quickly and then left the bedroom, treating her like a prostitute.
What do you think that means when the lowest score goes to the guy who treats her like a hooker, and the highest goes to the one who treats her like a human? It means she wants affection and connection from her sex, except she doesn't even realize it. The guys aren't playing that game; they just want to fuck a bunch of girls. She thinks she’s a participant in this game, but she’s not--she's the one getting exploited, but she doesn’t understand her own emotions enough to see it and change her behavior. That's the opposite of being empowered.
Here’s the deal: A woman can be sexually active and explore lots of men, and can do it in an empowering way--but the key to that is SELF-AWARENESS. Karen has none of that. She gave her vagina away like a free refill at McDonald’s to any guy who even held her glance, but then tried to only evaluate the actions of the guys who fucked her, without even giving a mention to her own behavior or emotions. That’s not empowering. That is being blind to the nature of your own life, which is just sad. Calling her empowered is an embarrassing disservice to women who really are empowered.
4. Comparing the two of us: Though she actually mentions me by name in her thesis, I think any comparison between the two of us, either good or bad, is bullshit. Which makes sense, because it was a HarperCollins editor that made the comparison first, and they’re all morons. We have two meaningful things in common that I can see:
-We both went to Duke -We both write about our sex life in explicit and honest terms
That's it. If anything, there are more differences than there are similarities, in terms of writing style, humor, content voice, etc. She's clearly an intelligent girl, but in all honesty, I thought her thesis was a little boring. The only good part was her honesty; anytime she got long-winded and started going into detail, it got tedious and bogged down. But again, considering she wrote it for her friends, this is normal; they can fill in the context in a way we can't so again, it's unfair to judge her writing based on this alone.
5. There is no double standard in how she’s being treated: The entire idea that she’s being criticized because of a double standard is complete bullshit.
If you don’t believe that, look at the difference in how the media treats me versus how they treat Chelsea Handler. She writes about doing the exact same things I do; I’m called a misogynist, she's called empowered. Or Sarah Silverman, who makes rape jokes--and I don’t--yet I’m called a promoter of rape culture, and she is called a feminist. Get the fuck out of here with that double standard bullshit. If there is a double standard, it’s actually the other way around at this point; women can get away with much more in media than men can.
Don’t get me wrong: Karen Owens got SHIT ON by a lot of people, and I think it was totally unfair, but the REAL reason she's being criticized has nothing to do with a mythical double standard. So why is it?
6. She told the truth, and people can’t handle that: There is one main similarity between her writing and mine, and it explains why her list got so much commentary, both good and bad:
Her list is something that almost nothing in media is: Raw and authentic and honest, and THAT is why so many people freaked out over it.
Whatever else that's said about the Duke Fuck List, it is unquestionably really honest, and honesty is it's touchstone for attention. Don't believe the morons who think the attention she got is because she's a woman writing about sex. That’s bullshit; women have been writing about sex like Karen Owens for centuries. Christ, one episode of Sex and The City is more scandalous than anything in her list. And you can’t open a college newspaper without some stupid cum-dumpster writing a crappy column about her latest sloppy, horrible blow job. No, she got attention because it is what none of that shit is: Honest.
In fact, I'll go so far as to say that she is one of the very first female sex writers I’ve ever seen who embraced the reality of her sluttiness and sexuality and openly discussed it as it happened, without projecting some idealized, unrealistic version of herself to the reader. The average female sex writing is a just an annoying mix of bluster, whore logic, fake confidence and bullshit. Not since Barbie Cummings have I read a female sex blogger with even the faintest shred of willingness to admit to the reality of her most lewd acts, but Karen does that in spades. Whenever anyone does that, especially a girl talking about sex, the world sits up and takes notice.
Anyone remember Jackie Kim, the girl who wrote the email to her friend about how she was evaluating a guy she went on a date with? People freaked out. Or Jessica Cutler, who’s blog was incredibly honest and raw and became hugely popular. Why did EVERYONE read her blog, yet no one read her book? Because her book was just a jumble of stupid ex-post whore-rationalizations. Her blog was honest and authentic.
Why do you think my writing is so popular? It's honest. That's what all the idiots who try to imitate me don't get. It's not about the drinking or the fucking or the crazy stories. It's not even about the funny, as much as it's about the honesty. No one is ever honest, but when you are, when you say the things everyone knows but won’t admit, it’s so shocking and amazing that the world can’t help but stop and look.
But here’s the thing about being honest: All the liars HATE you for it, and most of the people in the world are liars. They lie to their bosses, they lie to their families, they lie to themselves, they lie so much they don’t even know they’re lying anymore. If you have the courage to be honest--even a little bit--all those liars will hate you, because your honesty reflects their lie back on them.
Oscar Wilde wasn’t kidding when he said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” Karen now understands the reality of this statement as much as I do.
- She's a college girl, stop expecting her to understand everything: There is nothing stupider than holding someone to a standard of behavior and understanding that is decades above their age. I think most people have forgotten that she's only 22. I was a fucking idiot at 22. No one has any idea what they're doing at that age, why should we all expect her to?
In fact, you know how I learned what I know? BY DOING WAY MORE AWFUL SHIT THAN SHE DID. How do you understand where your limits are? Push them. How do you figure out what you want from life? Try everything and see what fits. How do you know what not to do? Do it, and see how much it sucks. Success doesn’t teach anything except to repeat what you just did. Experimentation and failure instruct, not success. There is no other way to learn what life is without actually living it, and truly living life means you're going to make mistakes.
Did she learn the lessons she should have learned? Will she understand all the things she needs to from her experiences? Who knows. She damn sure didn’t get it when she wrote that piece, but who does understand it at 22? I’m 35 and I’m only barely beginning to get it. All the shit I’ve written about self-awareness is completely true, but I knew precisely 0% of that when I was 22. People are holding her to a standard that they did not meet at her age, or even meet now. There is nothing worse than demanding something from someone else that you don’t do yourself. Glasses houses motherfucker.
8. Leave her alone: When I put up my website, I used my real name. I asked for attention. Whatever happened after is the consequence of making myself a public figure. People want to take shots at me, that's fine. I don't complain about all the shit I've taken, because I asked for it, both the good and the bad.
Karen did none of that, yet she's getting treated that way, and it's bullshit. Karen Owen is nothing more than a pretty normal 22 year old girl, who made the mistake of trusting a friend with something she never should have. Her worst flaw as a person is probably that she’s very lonely (probably had shitty parents who ignored her), and she doesn’t know how to handle this, so she was a bit too slutty in college and subsequently got used by a bunch of guys, then invented a narrative to rationalize the behavior in her mind.
So what? We’ve all done something like that in our lives too. She did nothing wrong, she didn’t hurt anyone (on purpose), and she isn’t a symbol of anything, good or bad, about America. She’s just a lonely little girl who didn’t ask for this attention, doesn’t know how to handle it, and just wants it to end--and all of us should understand that and leave her alone.