Lena Dunham pushes wrong boundaries
Unnecessary details do little more than contribute to shock value
Lena Dunham published her memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl,” at the end of September, but the media only really jumped on it recently over some of the more controversial details that she included about her personal life. Dunham described, in unnecessary detail, some of the sexual experimentation that she engaged in with her younger sister when they were children.
Many people are understandably upset at the casual references in her memoir to things from bribing her younger sister with “three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds” to masturbating in bed next to her. The media is calling Dunham out for sexual abuse, and frankly, that wouldn’t really be a false accusation. It’s not so much what she did as a child (who, at the age of seven, wouldn’t know any better — although she implies that some of the experiences she writes about carried on until she was 17) but rather the way she is handling the situation now. First of all, writing about it in her book was completely uncalled for. As an adult, she should at least know now how weird and inappropriate what she did to her little sister was, even if she doesn’t think it was out of the ordinary for a curious child.
Her reaction is also extremely defensive without acknowledging valid criticism. Dunham took to Twitter to call the allegations against her for child abuse “f---ing disgusting and upsetting,” proving that she’s completely missing the point. Beyond trying to pass it all off as a universal childhood experience that most children go through, she wrote in her book that much of what she did to her little sister was “anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl.”
This is probably the most disturbing part of the entire situation. If Dunham keeps saying that what she wrote about was just natural, innocent curiosity, then why go so far as to compare her behavior to that of a sexual predator? She tried and colossally failed to be funny about something that should never be joked about under any circumstances.
A memoir is a memoir, and obviously Dunham can include whatever she wants to about her life. But there are boundaries, and it seems to be the case that artists are increasingly incapable of acknowledging them. Dunham, in this case, is no exception. Rather than being responsible about what she writes about and consequently endorses, Dunham wrote about her childhood experiences and is now refusing to properly realize the issue with it. Sharing the details of her relationship with her little sister with the entire world in her book served no real or important purpose — the passages about it were relatively short and serve as little more than a means of shock value.
It took a while for the media to pick up on this, and chances are it’ll be forgotten fairly soon as well. Dunham tends to get a free pass on the things she does and says much more often than she should — you can attribute that to whatever aspect of her privilege you’d like. This isn’t the first time Dunham has done something stupid and pretty much gotten away with it — or at least the criticism usually isn’t coming from the mainstream. Just because someone is an artist and makes great work doesn’t excuse their behavior, but unfortunately this often becomes the case. Dunham needs to recognize boundaries and stick to them, and we should make sure that she and other artists are held responsible for their words and actions.