Today’s first “On The Square” essay comes in from Matthew Lee Anderson , who looks into social critic Caitlin Flanagan’s take on Karen Owen, the Duke senior who seduced thirteen Duke athletes as “research” for her undergraduate thesis. Owen’s misspent thesis, Anderson suggests, proves a source of both horror and of hope.
Flanagan seems to fit Owens into her pre-determined template of female desire gone awry. For Flanagan, female sexual desire is deeply enmeshed in the desire to be seduced, taken, treated . . . .with a measure of aggression, which explains why Tucker Max is (thank God) inimitable by the female sex, despite their best efforts. Flanagans Owensnoting the questionable relationship to the real Karen Owensis the antithesis of Bella, the heroine of the extraordinarily successful adolescent novel Twilight .
. . .
I appreciate Flanagans optimism that Owens feels regret for doing what seems so obviously destructive, but interpreting Owens behavior through the lens of Twilight is also the easy way out for social conservatives. Treating Owens as motivated by revenge may implicitly reinforce the traditional sexual morality of Twilight , but in doing so also allows us to avoid accounting for the more difficult prospect that Owens is, if not happy, at least not particularly concerned about her choices or motivated by a sense of animus. While an instinctive social conservatism might be okay, we need to ensure the facts fit.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?