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The Virgin-Whore Complex

This piece is part of a larger series on Karen F. Owen's "F**K List," a leaked PowerPoint on her sexual activity, which she composed about her undergraduate experience at Duke University.

Think back to AP English: you’re flipping through the pages of Hamlet, the famous scene when Ophelia condemns herself to a watery death. Now think back to the countless essays you had to write about it…any words come to mind? Virgin-Whore Complex perhaps? Yup, 400 years later, it’s still an issue. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s the idea that a woman can either be strictly abstinent, or a disrespected slut — no fun for us either way!

 
I have to admit — I found the F**K List hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. It painfully reminded me of a recent episode of Jersey Shore (yes, I confess…I watch it) when Mike “The Situation” called Angelina a whore for “sleeping” with two guys in two days. Both guys and girls shrugged and admitted that there’s a double standard, but did nothing about it. This is exactly the attitude that women have been fighting against for years — to get rid of the tolerance for this destructive double edged sword. The F**K List presents a new, more in-depth challenge. Sure, it’s true that Karen Owen, the author of the PowerPoint, is completely open about her sexuality and that might be considered a positive. But her very, um, thorough analysis of 13 men makes sexually active college women look like the out of control nightmares our mothers feared, rather than liberated young adults. Allow me to demonstrate:
 
“Needless to say, this was my first introduction into the glorious, alpha-male dominated world of Duke Lacrosse hookups.”
 
Okay, so hookups have become a staple on college campuses across the country. But let’s face it — it’s a male scene, as Karen rightly admits. Secondly, as she points out, she pretty much just sleeps with the lacrosse team — roommates, frat brothers and friends passed out on the floor not excluded. Now clearly she has a type, namely, beautiful sculpted athletes, but by playing into the hand of the Lacrosse team, she appears weak and used. What I mean is that instead of an independent woman, she just seems like their communal sex monkey — feed her alcohol and take her home. Repeat, share, enjoy. Sound empowering to you? Didn’t think so.

 
“I remember hearing a voice telling me to get into a waiting cab and, I blindly obeyed. I woke up the next day with absolutely no idea where I might be…judging from our unclothed condition it was fairly obvious that we had done more than merely pass out.”
 
Honey, if you’re so drunk you don’t know which way is up, please don’t go home with him. Seriously. Don’t do it. It might have worked out okay for Karen, but inevitably sex she didn’t even remember ensued. By condoning her experience, Karen is working with a seriously dangerous gray area. Remember the sex ed talks when your instructor tried to explain rape? Thought it was confusing? Yup, it’s possibly even more so for guys. So encouraging them to take you home and have their way with you — when your brain is so impaired that it stops forming memories for a few hours — doesn’t help. A) It’s a dangerous situation for women to be in, and not one that should be taken as lightly as it is here and B) it can mistakenly lead some guys, perhaps like Subject 5, to think that taking advantage of women incapable of making decisions is okay. Now I’m not begrudging the entire college population the right-of-passage drunken hookup. But the random blackout hookup just isn’t safe, and putting it in such a light context only encourages dangerous behavior.
 
“Subject 13 represents a somewhat unusual case, simply because I met and conversed with him multiple times before physical contact was actually initiated.”
 
Two guys. One night. Did I mention that they’re roommates? Liberating — perhaps, but really just dangerously close to crossing into Slutsville, population of 1 and whoever is passing through.
 
Now guys — I hold you to that standard too. But, Karen’s escapades with her various pieces of man meat make her appear out of control. While getting it on in the shower, a previously “tested” roommate walks in on her. While leaving the newly christened library stairwell with the man of the night, she bumps into another subject. And when leaving after two rounds with one specimen, she hops into someone else’s car for one last, erm, dance with his roommate. Funny? Hilarious.
 
But in all seriousness she also seems out of control. The F**K List can’t help but give you the impression that ‘man, she would just sleep with any of these guys.’ Her stories inevitably start at Shooters, He's Not Here (another drinking event), or on a quest for weed. The fact that she comes across as an out of control party girl means that it’s easy to not take her seriously and contributes to the argument against women. How are we ever supposed to break the Virgin-Whore Complex if we fuel the fire?
 
So yes, the F**K List is hilarious. But, it adds to the social norm that is so unfair to women. This fake thesis, unfortunately just confirms the worst. If women have sex with lots of guys, they are whores. If women stay abstinent, they’re a prude. This shouldn’t discourage women from enjoying being young and sexually active — even more so it shouldn't encourage them to fling themselves to one side of the spectrum.
 
In order to fight back against the double-edged sword, we can’t act like the Staten Island Ferry (thanks Jersey Shore). We have to find that happy medium — and the F**K List is not that.

Olivia Ford is a Harvard junior from Louisville, KY, and is happily pursuing a History & Literature major with a minor in Spanish. At Harvard, Olivia is involved with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, gives tours for the Admissions Office, and is an active member of Delta Gamma. Olivia’s favorite things include riding her horse Finnegan, letting her dogs Zeke and Zephyr take her for long walks, watching the ending of Pride & Prejudice on repeat, and wearing high heels despite the brick sidewalks of Cambridge.
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