Friday, October 29, 2010

Group Members, Hypocrisy, & Karen Owen

I haven’t commented on the Karen Owen affair because Owen’s affront to basic decency seemed so obvious. (Owen, for those unaware, is the Duke graduate who chronicled, through a PowerPoint replete with photos, her sexual exploits with multiple male Duke student-athletes.) The PowerPoint went viral, and even prompted a Today Show segment, which helpfully used Owen’s actions to recall the lacrosse case—insinuating that a false allegation against Duke male students, inflamed by a rogue district attorney, had relevance to an invasion of privacy by a Duke female student, after voluntary sexual intercourse.

It’s not difficult to imagine how the Duke campus would have responded had the genders of the Owen affair been reversed—i.e., if a male Duke student had publicized, sometimes in mocking terms, his sexual interactions with multiple Duke female student-athletes. Doubtless we would have seen jeremiads against Duke sexism, and perhaps even calls for another Campus Culture Initiative. Yet the Group of 88 and their allies on the faculty were silent as the grave.

Until now. Jezebel reports that three Group mermbers—History professors Jocelyn Olcott, Sally Deutsch, and Peter Sigal—used an official Duke list-serv for to invite History majors to an “informal gathering[]” with them. The topic? “Sex and the Student: Historical Perspectives on Karen Owen’s Sex List.”

Olcott (a gender specialist who once team-taught a course with Wahneema Lubiano) articulated a thesis for the gathering that combined an attempt to rationalize Owen’s decision with academic pablum: “The idea simply is that Karen Owen isn’t a person in a vacuum but rather someone within a particular historical context, subject to all the contingencies and forces of her time and place. My hope is that the setting will give faculty and students alike a chance to think through what some of these contingencies and forces are.”

And what of Olcott’s co-facilitators? Perhaps Deutsch can recall the time, just after Mike Nifong began his pre-primary publicity crusade, in which she deviated from her syllabus—in a class that contained several lacrosse players—to deliver a guilt-presuming analysis about how Southern white men had a pattern of assaulting and disrespecting black women. In language that echoes Olcott’s announcement for the Owen affairs, Deutsch asserted that because her course spent “extensive time on [naturally] race and gender relations,” it was appropriate for her to use class time to contextualize the incident, thereby helping to “explain why people were so upset.”

And perhaps Sigal, whose scholarship combines “poststructuralist gender studies and queer theory influences” with use of philology and postcolonial theory to “understand the texts that I read as literary devices which I decode in order to represent the cultural matrix,” can offer his personal perspective—as seen in the photo below, from his Facebook page—about sexually-themed exhibitionism and the internet.


DOC in TX said...

One word...slut!!!

Anonymous said...

KC, I thought this story might be of interest to you.

Obama the Thinker?
Meet James Kloppenberg, the left's Dinesh D'Souza.

A sample:

"Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance."

R.R. Hamilton

Anonymous said...

Is Karen Owen a radical feminist anti-capitalist who opposes white supremacy and imperialism, with a central commitment to creating a sustainable human presence on the planet?

Anonymous said...

Is Olcott a Communist?

Gary Packwood said...

Interesting source of evidence in-so-far as university 'List Serv's' have been around for awhile.

Hopefully the defense attorneys have a transcript of entries on that official Duke list-serv all the way back to the time when the Duke lacrosse rape hoax was planned and executed.

Including which student groups were being targeted and of course the origins of the Castrate March and street demonstration.

So much yet to learn.

Duke1965 said...

KC, you have once again caused me to shoot my morning coffee through my nose....... affront to basic decency, indeed!! It is truly amazing that your simple point (respect for other individuals' dignity and privacy) is so easily lost with all of the "analysis" of the Karen Owen matter. Kudos.....

As to "imagining" the reaction if the gender roles were reversed, and a male Duke graduate were to "tell all", there actually is such a person (although his "subjects" are not Duke female athletes). His name is Tucker Max (Duke Law 2001), and he is famous (or notorious, depending upon your point of view) for his detailed accounts of his drunken adventures and late-night sexual encounters. He has been sued by at least one of his alleged partners, a former Miss Vermont, for invasion of privacy. However, his tell-all writings have also garnered him fame and fortune. Incredibly, he is a best-selling author of two books, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell", and more recently, "Assholes Finish First". Wikipedia credits Mr. Max as the originator of the writing genre known as "fratire". He is also the author of a popular blog ( In short, he is Prof. Deutsch's worst nightmare. Interetingly, his blog readership is estimated at 30% female!!

Ah, the PC Wars roll on............. I'm waiting for Tom Wolfe to help us make sense of it all.

Locomotive Breath said...


KC - are you ready to abandon Keynes and Obama yet?

skwilli said...

Reading about the "academic" atmosphere at Duke always makes me wonder how these (class,gender, race) classes would compare to the Calculus, Physics, Organic Chemistry, and Physiology I was obliged to negotiate? Probably, at the end of the class, the prof just assigns whatever grade he feels like anyway, according to the politically-correct winds. A totally alien landscape to my world.

Anonymous said...

Well, I must be, at last, driftly toward old age and senility because I honestly am speechless at Ms Owens' self-absorbed obscenity. And, more so, by the excusing, academic posturing, pseudo-intellectual dribble on the chins of our three Groupies. Gosh, silly me, I thought making love was supposed to occur between consenting adults, in private, and be based on something akin to (at least) affection, if not forever love. So much for morals, ethics and even fair play.
What a sorry state of affairs at a University I USED to respect and love so much.

guiowen said...

I realize you don't pay too much attention to Justice4Nifong, but you would be interested in knowing that some of the trolls there now claim this Karen Owen affair is vindication for Mike Nifong.
(Disclaimer: she may share my last name, but is no relation of mine.)

Anonymous said...

What sort of dope must Peter Sigal be, to put such a laughable image on his Facebook page? And yes, that is HIM on the right, wielding the mini-paddle to spank the bad boy's back.

And if Prof. Sigal perhaps had some kind of brilliant context explaining it, why has he chosen (apparently) to shut-down his Facebook site? Is it unfair to assume that he has realized the idiocy of his own actions?

Just askin'.

I'll be interested in any reports as to the actual substance (if any) of this talk. I assume, (or I hope) perhaps unfairly, that the overall point will be:

Karen Owen's actions were obviously caused by MEN, including men who died 150 years ago.

Unlike the lacrosse players' "actions" (in truth, nothing except providing employment to a stripper who chose to be that)...., which of course are also in historical "context" with a small number of inbred Southern rapists who died 150 years ago.


So, whether it's a Duke woman being a jerk, or some Duke men being victimized by a female mental case, the point is that it is always, always, the fault of men, and their always-despicable "context".

Jamal Matsuzaka said...

KC, I'm amazed that you are befuddled. The equation is very simple. If female or minority, then victim. If female or minority does, then justified or empowering or both. If done or claimed to have been done to female or minority, then crime.

Anonymous said...

It looks like Duke needs to teach a course on the legal consequences of invasion of privacy and cyber-bullying.

Anonymous said...

Right, Tucker Max is the obvious person to bring up here. But if I recall, the Group of 88 was largely silent after his presentation on Duke's campus. Perhaps KC's imagination has gotten the best of him once again.

Anonymous said...

Wow- To see a photo like that posted for the world to see by a college Professor......I don't know what to say. I certainly wouldn't want this guy teaching my kids.

And as for Ms. Owen, her parents must be so proud.

Chris Halkides said...


Thanks for a sensible discussion of this tawdry business.


Anonymous said...

And in case you think the academic sewers will be cleaned any time soon . . .

"Duke University Seeks Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences"

And guess who's considered a strong candidate? -- current Dean of Academic Affairs (and Gang of
88er) Lee D. Baker.

Duke Prof

W Kirby said...

KC - Thought you might like to see this, from the Sports section of today's Chicago Tribune. Columnist David Haugh writes about the NCAA and athletes violence against women. Expert, Wendy Murphy is quoted:,0,6337305.column