updated 10/15/2010 2:18:53 PM ET 2010-10-15T18:18:53

It became the PowerPoint seen 'round the Internet.

A Duke graduate rated her sexual encounters with 13 university athletes in graphic detail, then e-mailed it to just a few friends, who forwarded it to a few of their friends, who sent it on to a few of their friends, and so on.

Then websites like Deadspin and Jezebel got a hold of it, and suddenly it had gone viral. The salacious interest isn't just because the 42-page PowerPoint involves sex: It's also because a woman wrote it and because the campus is Duke, where a stripper said three lacrosse players raped her at a party in March 2006. State prosecutors determined the attack never occurred. A few of the men Karen Owen included in her PowerPoint were lacrosse players.

"It's a girl basically bragging the way boys bragged when the double standard was in full effect," says Duke sociologist S. Philip Morgan. "It's a story about sex, and it's a story about gender."

Story: Duke coed’s scandalous sex ratings are viral sensation

Messages left for a Karen F. Owen in Connecticut by The Associated Press weren't returned, but she has told the website Jezebel that she didn't intend for the PowerPoint to be sent to more than three friends.

She said she regrets the list, titled "An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal activities," and that she would never intentionally hurt the men included on it.

Duke officially has been mostly quiet about the PowerPoint, with a spokesman saying only that the school has reached out to the students involved.

And Morgan said this week that a survey of Duke students he did last year shows that they're not actually hooking up all that much, despite what outsiders might think after reading Owen's PowerPoint. He described hooking up as some level of sexual activity in a relationship with no commitment.

"When this woman's thing went viral, everybody's interested," Morgan said. "Why? Because we're interested in sex. That doesn't mean all the undergraduates at Duke are having sex."

'Hookups at Duke'
What Morgan found is that Duke students are just as likely to not be having sex or be in a committed relationship as they are to hook up. He presented the research in April at a nonprofit meeting, and it's under review at a journal.

The online survey of about 750 freshmen and 750 seniors (about half of each class) asked students about their sexual activity from mid-August 2009 to just before Thanksgiving 2009. Of the one-third who said they had hooked up, only a third of that group had had sex. For the rest, "it was what my generation called making out," Morgan said.

Video: Duke alum’s sex-rating report goes viral (on this page)

"All the attention is on hookups at Duke," he says. "But Duke is a very diverse campus, and there are large portions of the student body who are not participating. Over half the Duke freshman class before Thanksgiving were still virgins. The notion that this is the hedonistic center of the world just doesn't jive with the facts."

On campus, reaction has been mixed to Owen's presentation, in which she named her partners and included photos, then judged them by their attractiveness, creativity and other assets. They got bonus points for having Australian accents or being professional surfers and demerits for being rude — or Canadian.

Karen Owen’s presentation included a bar chart rating her lovers’ performance.

Owen isn't "a crazy, promiscuous slut," says Martin DeWitt, 21, a Duke senior. "She's like a lot of college students. She, in many ways, is a normal upper-middle-class white female at a college, going to clubs with friends, mixing with the guys and going home with a guy whether you know him or not, then never talking to him again."

When Duke senior Kelsey Porter, also 21, learned of the list, her first thought was of the middle-school girls she mentors as president of The Girls Club. They often talk about the Internet and how it's not a private space.

"It just goes to show you that something you put on the Internet isn't private," she said. While she's surprised at just how widely distributed the list was, "it's the day and age we live in right now," she said. "Anything you put on the Internet becomes public property."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Duke sex report sparks gender debate

  1. Closed captioning of: Duke sex report sparks gender debate

    >>> how we actually get there, just ahead on our special series "today's" journey to secret kingdoms, we're going to travel to the real timbucktu.

    >> reporter: at duke university , a joke between girlfriends just sparked a national debate about men, women and sex.

    >> i had the best time of my life last night, twice and once this morning.

    >> reporter: men have been getting away with it for years, bragging about their sexual conquests. the ladds can play that game too. karen was a student at duke, just graduated and wrote this 42-page december siration about -- no secrets here, karen used their names and shirtless pictures. we're hiding their identities. karen ranked the men by physical attractiveness, talents, creativity and aggressiveness.

    >> at first i was pretty excited when i saw it. i was like, good for her, this is awesome.

    >> reporter: karen wrote this about a duke lacrosse player, experience was on his side and he used it. and another man, he was terrible, don't even bother to kiss me more than a few seconds. karen meant the sex list only for her friends, but it made the rounds. this girl gets a fist pump and then some from me, one woman wrote, but karen has critics too.

    >> i think what she did was unnecessary, selfish.

    >> reporter: do you think if a guy did this it would be different?

    >> i think everyone would think they're -- oh, the lacrosse players , they're horrible people.

    >> reporter: karen has gone into virtual hiding, but a blog for women says they recently spoke with her.

    >> i spoke to karen , she feels badly that she unintentionally violated the privacy of her partners, but doesn't feel bad about actually having sex with them. she has changed the stereotype of what women want, plenty of women want just what men want which is to have fun.

    >> so on the duke campus, the question, have the tables finally turned on them? for "today," jeff rossen , nbc news.

    >> judith is a psychologist and dan abrams is nbc's chief legal analyst. good morning to you both.

    >> let's talk about the legal side, you are a duke alumni , 1988 ?

    >> yes.

    >> the athletes that karen owen writes about, she showed us the pictures of them, she named them. do they have any legal resource at all?

    >> possibly, are they going to say any of it is false? are they going to say they never had sex with her? assuming they don't do that, the next lawsuit would be an invasion of privacy case. sex is the sort of thing that leads people to file them. remember, they may not just be suing her, they may sue the people who distributed it because they may be more responsible legally than her because they're the ones who got it out there and the minute you send something out, you're responsible for that content that you're distributing.

    >> i wondered if she would be liable at all because when she sent to it her friends, she didn't have any expectation they would send out us.

    >> you could slander sm someone by saying something to one other person. the question is anybody actually going to file a lawsuit? i'm not sure that any of these guys are going to want to be in the business of filing a lawsuit, but we'll see?

    >> are you going to be the one that got the ten that files the lawsuit or are you going to be the one? that's the core psychological issue, she acted not like the classic victim when guys do this traditionally, but like the aggressor. she had high risk , no attachment sex, she's comfortable with it. then she bragged about it, a traditional gender bending behavi behavior.

    >> quite a few consider her a hero for turning the tables and do what men, many people perceive, have done for years.

    >> i'm not at all surprised by the shock, and yes, this is what it feels like when you're sitting by the phone and you're bragging in the locker room and it doesn't feel so bad to be on the aggressor side.

    >> i would think that if it had been a man who had written this about women, i think there would be a lawsuit. if you saw 13 women described in the way she described them, somebody would want to exact either some level of revenge or to get money for it et cetera because of the societal differences.

    >> certainly there would be traditional moral outrage. look at these indencenssensitive guys. here's like young women do this, they get drunk and they think, i wonder if i could have a piece of him and then they go home and tell their girlfriends and they're not embarrassed or shocked. that's a kind of -- that really takes us aback.

    >> now that it's out there, she doesn't look good either, ultimately.

    >> he's going to have to account for this on future dates. but she's not expressing herself as embarrassed. what she's expressing herself in a traditional male way is i am so sorry if i hurt anyone's feelings or invaded their privacy.

    >> what about a book deal, this is all coming if she wants it. this has made her a commodity.

    >> you chose not to run it, why?

    >> we were actually in the process of blurring out the names and the faces for our sports grid to put it on that site. and the reason in the end is because the other sites put it up without blurring out the faces first. so i thought as a legal matter, i was looking at it as a lawyer and saying if we put up these faces with these names with this sort of stuff on there, we might get sued. so in the process while we were spending the hour, hour and a half of doing it, some of the other sites put it up without blurring it. and so it was an interesting -- we went through a whole back and forth about this, about what to do with this. because on the one hand, it was fascinating, on the other hand it was kind of gross and on the other hand, it was somewhere i was worried legally.

    >> and with ten seconds to go, a lesson here?

    >> social issues are more important than the legal issues, when you send your daughter to college, she's going to face a lot of options, if you don't want her to face this one, talk it over.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments