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Nov. 6 2009 - 10:53 am | 3,619 views | 3 recommendations | 18 comments

Duke University students: you should not ‘just sit around and masturbate’

A female visitor admires an adult toy at a sex...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

A Duke University study on sex toys has raised the ire of the University’s Catholic Center director. But not because he’s worried about the 18-year-old participants who might be breaking vows of celibacy, and doing it with handcuffs and vibrators. Instead, Father Joe Vetter says he’s concerned that the study will encourage young women to “just sit around and masturbate” instead of hitting up singles night to track down their future husband.

The study, being conducted by a behavioral economist and student health workers, was advertised around the Duke campus for much of October. Researchers were interested in female attitudes towards sex and sexually-themed “toys” and paraphernalia. Women filled out a survey and took part in a one-hour meeting, where they were asked to view sex toys and discuss them with other participants. As incentive to donate their time, the women were all offered a gift bag, and discounts on the items – a sex-themed Tupperware party, if you will.

You’d think Father Vetter would be pleased: student health workers say they hope the study will shed light on whether sex toys can be a useful tool in curbing campus promiscuity. But no:

“I’m concerned about promiscuity also,” Vetter said. “And to be honest, I don’t have the solution. … My concern is these students are in this developmental phase, and I don’t think it’s a good developmental practice to just tell somebody to just sit around and masturbate. I don’t think that promotes relationships.”

Sit around and masturbate? Yes, that sounds exactly like what this study was suggesting: just load up on discounted vibrators, a Sade CD and some scented candles for your dorm room, girls. Is Vetter concerned that we’re all going to stop procreating once we realize that getting off is generally easier without male intervention? If he’s so convinced that sex toys can out-sex men, to the extent that women are just going to play solo from now on, maybe Vetter needs some couples counseling and a stack of helpful reading material.

The study is already completed, but Vetter still plans to protest, by speaking on the topic at mass this weekend. Unfortunately, he’ll probably be preaching to the converted, anti-sex-toy among us. I’m pretty sure the women from the study have – uh – other plans on Sunday morning.


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  1. collapse expand

    It’s amazing (and scary) how to some people, like this “father vetter” the thought of women being in charge of their own pleasure, knowing their bodies and being comfortable with their sexuality is so threatening. I love that they did this study-even if for strange reasons (trying to solve the “problem” of promiscuity), I hope that some people will take from it new, more empowering, ideas about sexuality and relationships.

  2. collapse expand

    jd: I agree, although I think perhaps we both come from more open-minded backgrounds or social circumstances than most. Still, I hope that people discuss his comments and find the problem inherent in them, which, as you say, is this bizarre closed-off perception of women’s sexuality.

  3. collapse expand

    Hey, very entertaining post Katie. You’d think the director of the Catholic Center would have other things to worry about, besides masturbation…

  4. collapse expand

    I can’t understand how a person would not get that no matter how much you don’t like it, teenagers and unmarried people will have sex! I’m under the impression that some people feel this is something recent.

  5. collapse expand

    Given how many women can’t orgasm during shared sex, masturbation seems like a happy choice to me. Even getting married — OMG — won’t stop women from this terrible habit, he should know.

  6. collapse expand

    To be fair, Vetter surely frowns on male masturbation as well. Which might mean he’s doing it wrong. He doesn’t just want to control women’s sexuality. He doesn’t even want to control only Catholics’ sexuality. He wants everyone – including non-believers – to adhere to his arbitrary rules.

  7. collapse expand

    “Father Joe Vetter says he’s concerned that the study will encourage young women to “just sit around and masturbate” instead of hitting up singles night to track down their future husband”? Can one not do both?

  8. collapse expand

    Wow! So colleges are THAT packed with students that they have time and resources to conduct such a study. The economy really must be in the toilet, huh? This brings up an interesting question: is there a non-profit that collects and distributes donated “toys” to women with low incomes? (Pun intended)

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  10. collapse expand

    The catholic church never fails to surprise me.

    But what he’s describing with sex toys and women is what happens to many men with internet porn. Perhaps he’s touching on a bigger issue of technology battling human interaction for a person’s personal time.

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    About Me

    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

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