A story in The Sun today makes a pretty remarkable claim: 722 female students at Oxford University are members of a social network set up to facilitate casual sex, Shagatuni.com. Do the maths: that’s one in ten women at the university.
Does that sound implausible to you? Because it should. Here’s why The Sun should never have run the story, and why you should think again before believing the hype.
About a fortnight ago, I spoke to Tom Thurlow, founder of the site. Thurlow shared some pretty impressive statistics with me: most notably that the site boasted 840 members from Oxford University – and that 62% of them were women. (By the time he’d given the story to The Sun, the number of women had crept up.)
Needless to say, we were going to run the story… but we couldn’t do it. Because anyone who has taken even the most cursory glance at Thurlow’s site can see how absurd his claim is.
Unlike others who reported it, I’ve actually bothered to register a paid account on the site to check it out, and here’s my verdict: it’s too good a story to possibly be true.
The Sun, however, has fallen for it hook, line and sinker, running with the headline, ‘Having it toff: Oxford girls top student sex website’.
Are we seriously to believe that 722 female Oxford students match Tom Thurlow’s colourful description of them as “wild” and “uptight in the day” but “by night always the craziest”?
I don’t think so. Not least because the site’s sign-up process uses a cunning sleight of hand, unreported by The Sun: it doesn’t actually ask you what university you’re at.
All the site asks for is a postcode. That way, Tom can quote figures for “Oxford women” without having to confirm that they are currently enrolled students at the university.
He might well have 722 registered women in OX postcodes, but there’s no way to know if any of them are students.
And guess what? Thurlow even admits as much. “I can’t check for certain if they are students,” he told me. “If there was a system I would but I don’t know how I could check that.”
Using the site’s basic search function, I discovered that there are only 55 women aged between 18 and 23 within five miles of Oxford. Here’s a selection. Can you spot any tutorial partners? Yeah, thought not.
I’m not accusing Thurlow of outright dishonesty, but don’t be fooled by The Sun‘s credulous reporting: there’s no evidence that a single current Oxford student is registered on Shagatuni.com.