Op-Ed: Lena Dunham is “Not that Kind of Girl”

Lena Dunham is a popular actress (most known for HBO series “Girls”), writer, and avid feminist. In her memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned,” the starlet reveals her tales about her life before fame, letting her fans get to know her on a personal level. But maybe her book is a little too personal.

Lena Dunham – Photo by David Shankbone (Creative Commons license)

Warning: The book contains explicit details regarding Dunham’s sexual encounters.

In her open recollections of childhood sexual explorations, she shares stories about her advances at age seven towards her younger sister, a toddler. Though Dunham argues otherwise, I believe these occurrences constitute sexual abuse.

Her book describes a home environment that may have led to her actions. Dunham grew up in an upper class household with a father known for his pornographic paintings and a photographer mother who didn’t mind hanging nude photos around the house.

After reading her book, Kevin D. Williamson wrote in his review, “If there is such a thing as actually abusing a child through excessive generosity and overindulgence, then Lena Dunham’s parents are child abusers.”

It sounded as if Williamson is pointing fingers at Dunham’s home environment and lack of explicit boundaries as a cause of her disconcerting view regarding sex.

“I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old,” Dunham revealed at the beginning of her memoir. “Sometimes I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.”

She says she bribed her younger sister with “three pieces of candy [to] could kiss her on the lips for five seconds” because she wanted to be needed by her sibling.

Dunham wrote, “Basically anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying.”

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It is easy to argue that she was just a little kid following her own curiosity.


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But these events have been going on from age seven to age 17.

Based on Dunham’s initial reactions to Williamson’s review, it is quite obvious that the actress is upset, but she does not deny any of the claims against her.

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Dunham released an apology in TIME on Nov. 4.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a life-shattering event for so many, and I have been vocal about the rights of survivors. If the situations described in my book have been painful or triggering for people to read, I am sorry, as that was never my intention. I am also aware that the comic use of the term ‘sexual predator’ was insensitive, and I’m sorry for that as well.” (TIME).

Her apology sounds sincere, and in Hollywood it seems all we need is an “I’m sorry” to have someone back into our good graces.

Her apology is meaningless to me and many others; her careless confession tainted her professional career.

The Center for Sex Offender Management (the U.S. Department of Justice) classifies a sexual predator as someone with “deviant sexual arousal, interests, or preferences” who might engage in “sexual contact with young children or adolescents.”

Boys Town®, an organization dedicated to helping families, explains that “identifying and engaging a child in sexual activities” is called grooming.

The evidence is here, but the audience isn’t looking. The public is easily forgiving of Dunham because she’s a talented actress or an entertaining writer.

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There is also the issue of consent – did Grace Dunham say “yes”?

Not all consent is blatantly saying “yes” or “no.” The fact that Dunham had to bribe her little sister for a kiss is alarming.

Grace Dunham, the sister, said, “Most of our fights have revolved around my feeling like Lena took her approach to her own personal life and made my personal life her property.”

Of course Grace could have just said no – she could have rejected any bribes. But a girl that young does not know any better nor is it likely she wants to disappoint her big sister, the person she looks up to for guidance and will do anything to please.

Dunham said in TIME she was given approval by Grace to publish anything she wanted about her.

Maybe it’s my overanalyzing personality, but if Grace allowed her sister to publish such things about her, she might not realize exactly what happened to her (given the home she lived in, these types of activities become a norm). Young children are still learning about the world.

Is it abuse or not? That can only be determined by the one with the experience.

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Here is a link to the Boys Town® website on identifying potential predators:

Victim Grooming: Protect your child from sexual predators

Author: Nhi Le

Nhi Le – aka Nikki – joins The Eye for her third and final year as a senior. She enjoys comic books, crime novels, and an excessive use of verbal irony.

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