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Defending Lena Dunham is defending rape culture

By now, almost everyone has heard of the controversy over Lena Dunham’s book “Not That Kind of Girl.” She describes a few instances in her life between ages 7 to 17 that are criticized as being sexual abusive against her sister, and this has sparked a large debate that is mostly taking place on the Internet.

When I first heard of the story, I was quite confused because I only heard the story from when she was 7 years old. As a 7-year-old, she spread open her infant sister’s vagina and told her mom her sister had put pebbles inside of it. People were claiming this was abuse, which Dunham was arguing against. At first, I sided with her, thinking there’s no way this could be abuse because most 7-year-olds are so ignorant of sex and sexuality and do not even know the proper terminology for genitals. They are even less likely to know that it’s sexual. Even if their parents had attempted to explain genitals were sexual, there is no way a child could comprehend what it means for something to be sexual.

However, what disturbed me was the pleasure she got from putting her sister under emotional distress even at such a young age. Dunham would deny her sister certain things until her sister was nearly begging for them, and only then would she say yes, although she had the intention to say yes the entire time. She also paid her sister in candy to kiss her for prolonged periods of time, which may not be abuse but is nonetheless disturbing behavior. Dunham’s parents should have corrected her behavior when she was young so she did not continue these actions as she got older, and after hearing about her “exploring” with her sister when she was a teenager, it became clear to me that Dunham was never told her actions were inappropriate, and she had not received education regarding consent.

When I first heard of Dunham masturbating in bed next to her sister at 17, I was told it was incorrect information, a typo made by one website. But then I saw quotes from her book detailing how at 17 she would sleep next to her little sister’s “sticky muscly little body” and masturbate. Regarding the behavior she committed when she was a child, Dunham described herself as acting like a “sexual predator” toward her sister, but this quickly changed from an issue of childhood sexual exploration to sexual abuse as she continued these behaviors in her teenage years. As a teenager, one knows what is sexual and what isn’t, and a teenager should know masturbating next to someone without consent is sexual abuse. Her little sister couldn’t consent. Therefore, what Dunham is claiming was “sexual exploration” during her teenage years was in fact sexual abuse.

I’m not saying everything Dunham did as a means of sexual exploration is abuse, but once she understood what sex was and what it meant for something to be sexual, she should have stopped “exploring” with her little sister. The fact that people are defending Dunham’s actions as a teenager is just proof that we are living in a rape culture because those people cannot see how the lack of consent is problematic and are trying to claim her actions are normal. A rape culture is one that normalizes rape and sexual assault, and that’s exactly what’s going on in this case.

Vicky Taft is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in English with a minor in psychology.

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