For those of you who missed it, Karen Owen, a student at Duke University, sent a summary of her sex life to some friends, via email. The content is not safe for work, but it looks safe because it’s in PowerPoint. She has bullet points, charts, and graphs. How can you not admire a woman who can graph her sex life?
Owen’s sex life is a workplace issue. For one thing, it was the third most searched topic on Google yesterday, which means a large percentage of people were reading her slideshow while at work. But more importantly, Owen’s slides capture the shift in women’s empowerment, which is happening at the workplace and having the ripple effect of empowering women in sex. Owen’s slides make me excited about the new generation of women and how much they take their own power for granted. I’m excited to see what they will do with it.
Here are some things to think about when you read her slides:
1. She used PowerPoint in a revolutionary way.
Is there a more male tool than PowerPoint? First of all, the software is lecture-y and unconversational, which is typical for men at work. Second of all, it's been the tool of choice for the notoriously boys club career: venture capitalists and the people who pitch to them. That Owen used this male tool to talk about what men are really like in bed turns our workplace preconceptions on their head.
2. She illustrates why men are afraid of twentysomething women.
The workplace has women everywhere. Even a place like Google, known for their tech guys, is also known for having a sales force full of very hot women. So middle-aged men are often alone, day after day, with single, hot young women. When has this happened in history? At this point, there is a culture of men being smitten with young women, and young women feeling empowered enough to leverage that without actually giving in.
And, when it comes to young men, they are not earning as much as the women (the Wall Street Journal reports that in Atlanta young women earn an incredible 21% more than their male counterparts). Men are not as in high demand compared to women and since young women are sexy, and young men do not have power that can make them sexy, that’s not likely to change. So twentysomething women are running circles around men of all ages. These slides do a good deal to confirm that.
3. The rules are all different.
These slides are fascinating because they presuppose that the rules of the world have changed, in favor of a woman like Owen. For example, the rules of privacy are new. Instead of resulting in a Scarlet A, or family embarrassment, Owen reveals she is smart, funny, and a great writer. (And look, agents are already calling her.) The slides also reveal new rules for gatekeeping. Owen did not need permission from anyone, or any workplace experience, to make a more significant impact on the workplace than you did today. Finally, her slides show us that the rules of learning are new. We can share all our knowledge, about anything. Nothing is sacred and nothing is secret, and we can crowdsource anything, to learn everything faster, even how to pick up a lacrosse player and get him into bed.
It’s clear to me that none of this information is ground-breaking in and of itself. There’s a huge study about sex in the US, that reveals a wide swath of the population to be pretty sexually liberal. So what makes these slides so fascinating? I think it’s her spunk and self-knowledge and enthralling sense of her own power. I wish I had had that when I was her age. I am twenty years older than Owen, but she inspires me to be brave, takes risks, and let my creativity get the best of me.