On race, feminism and allegations concerning Lena Dunham
November 5, 2014 3:41 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of accusations that Lena Dunham sexually abused her sister (who denies the allegations) The Daily Beast looks at Dunham as an icon of feminism and whether that role means she receives less criticism.

The accusations originated from the website Truth Revolt, who are basing the claims on excerpts from Dunaham's book, Not That Kind of Girl. Others have argued the Dunham's descriptions, while awkward, are her narrative to describe.

Dunham demanded a retraction from Truth Revolt, who have refused.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (249 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 


She was seven years old, full-stop
posted by Bookhouse at 3:48 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


She was seven years old, full-stop

And, to add to that, her sister was 1, and it is fucking creepy as shit that people are sexualizing the natural body discovery process of a child.

Also, of note, it was her sister who had put pebbles in her vulva, no Dunham.

I was actually in a conversation last night at the bar about this, which is kinda funny.

But, yeah. I guess everyone wants a reason to hate someone.

(also, of note, the rumors that I had heard repeated before about Dunham had exaggerated the "molestation" to some kind of series of grotesque levels of abuse, way above and beyond anything even remotely related to the actual story from the book.)
posted by daq at 3:57 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Roxane Gay:
There is a great distance between thinking LENA DUNHAM IS A CHILD MOLESTER and thinking, yeah, inspecting her sister’s vagina seems like an awesome choice. There are multiple places within that distance and I stand in that place where I think the shit is weird, it makes me uncomfortable, but I understand why the information was disclosed in the memoir, and it did not diminish my experience of reading the book or my opinion of Dunham as a talented but flawed young woman.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:00 PM on November 5, 2014 [19 favorites]


The whole thing is just sad and uncomfortable and I don't even know what to think. I like Samantha Allen a lot and I like Roxane Gay a lot and at this point I'm basically just trying to read all the perspectives from people I respect.
posted by kmz at 4:01 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I believe if it were a 7-year-old older brother rather than an older sister, the conversation would be rather different, particularly in light of her later teenage behavior.
posted by chimaera at 4:04 PM on November 5, 2014 [20 favorites]


Young childhood play and experimentation of this sort is utterly within the realm of normalcy, right? That's been my understanding, so this is surprising to me. I even remember my English teacher explaining this when we read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Is this one of those things we should all be aware of, but is too taboo of a subject to be common knowledge?
posted by naju at 4:05 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


It seems increasingly obvious that what is behind the hate for Dunham has little to do with this latest manufactured, fake outrage, and is a general disregard for popular artists (particularly, but not exclusively female) who step outside a prearranged narrative. This generally results in the news cycle where creative people are built up and then torn down, as needed to drive click-throughs, ad impressions, etc. I'd love to see the press trigger that larger conversation about its habits in this regard, instead, but I'm not optimistic it will ever happen.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:05 PM on November 5, 2014 [48 favorites]


One thing I really respect Lena Dunham for is that she is willing to talk about things -- especially sexual things, body things, and sex-adjacent things -- that make people deeply uncomfortable.

Maybe I was also a child pervert, but there are a lot of things that we, as a culture, just agree not to talk about when it comes to children's bodies and sexuality.

In general, Dunham is not interested in obeying those kinds of boundaries, and whether you like her work or think she's a good person or a real feminist or a hipster or what, I think the world is a better place for her willingness to transgress in this way.
posted by Sara C. at 4:06 PM on November 5, 2014 [53 favorites]


She was just a child is one thing. To dismiss how it affects her sister is another. Not saying that people here are doing that but I have seen a lot of conversations around this as defending that she was a child and not taking the impact this could have had on her sister into consideration at all.

You don't have to label her a child molester to hold her accountable for her actions and as someone who was severely abused by a sibling that was also a child I find the erasing of the impact this may have had in her sister very hard to understand.
posted by kanata at 4:07 PM on November 5, 2014 [21 favorites]


Seven years old is older than many people are willing to give credit. Universal curiosity does not compel necessary investigation at that age. Also, there is a discussion about narrative descriptions of things that happened at a much later age.

Although this started out as a right-versus-left kind of accusation of mudslinging, the discussion has moved pretty far beyond that with people all over the spectrum weighing in on it with differences of opinion, so the framing of this post might not properly reflect the public discussion that has developed from it.

I have a hard time seeing it as abuse, but I'm troubled by the thought that we hand-wave all of this as "just normal child stuff." Yeah, not in all families. It also doesn't mean that it isn't open to discussion simply because it happens often. It also creeps me out a little bit that even if we put it somewhere in the realm of normal, it is still really, really weird to put that "normal thing" in a memoir and not expect it to raise a few eyebrows.

I think her one saving grace would be to emphasize, as she does in her book, that she was an unreliable narrator and it was made up in part. But I'm guessing that might affect the overall readerly perception of the book's veracity as a whole, if you cast certain doubt on a part.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:08 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Considering that the "allegations" (if one can even call them that) come from a media outlet and not her sister, I don't think talking about "BUT LOOK WHAT IT DID TO HER SISTER" is really germane.

I'm much more concerned about Lena Dunham's sister when it comes to her coming out, which it sounds like Lena was a total shit about. At least that's a situation between two adults where actual morals/social rules were transgressed and someone was hurt.
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on November 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


Do we have any way of knowing how her sister feels about it? I could be totally wrong, but my hunch is that being at the center of this media shitstorm would be more traumatic than the original incident.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm of two minds. First and foremost, this happened when Dunham was a child and didn't know any better. I'm trying to think of a reason why child Dunham doesn't get a free pass on that behavior, but can't.

Secondly, the now Dunham decided it was a really good idea to write about these incidents and put them out there, to publicize and even in a teeny tiny way benefit from the incidents. Even if I can see through the absurdity of folks crying "rape," Dunham could be using this to explain herself and create a dialogue about acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior. I know Dunham is all about being open and airing things out...but maybe not everything is for airing out? I feel Puritanical saying that, but there it is. At the very least Dunham shouldn't feel surprised that people are freaking out--over the top freaking out, but still.
posted by zardoz at 4:18 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I get that this can be a normal part of childhood but something about the whole thing is really creepy and off-putting and makes me want to give up on Lena. And I'm someone who likes Lena and likes Girls and is not looking for any excuse to tear her down. I'm actually looking for any excuse to build her up and have more chubby girls with weird hair cuts running around doing whatever the fuck they want. ... consensually with other adults.. But the whole thing around this just grosses me out. Part of what grosses me out is that every article defending her starts out with "Right-wing allegations of child-abuse.." which put me in the position of even slightly sharing an opinion with right-wingers. UGGH.
posted by bleep at 4:23 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


About Lena Dunham’s Memoir, Overshare and Lack of Boundaries:
But really? Being socially awkward does not excuse us from having to DO better. Also, rich white girls aren’t above reproach, y’all. PLUS, we need to start having conversations with children about their bodies, healthy exploration and boundaries. 7-year old Lena might not have known what she did but 28 year old Lena should have picked up some supply of “know better” at a swap meet or something because NO MA’AM!
posted by metaquarry at 4:24 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


Also, of note, it was her sister who had put pebbles in her vulva, not Dunham.

Also is it just me or is this not a thing that any 1-year-old baby would ever think to do? Isn't the concept of "things can go inside other things" still not even really there until pre-school?
posted by bleep at 4:25 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I guess those #gamergate creeps needed somewhere new to go....
posted by LarryC at 4:30 PM on November 5, 2014


Do we have any way of knowing how her sister feels about it?

Her tweets from Nov. 3 respond to the media reports.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:30 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


What would the reason be for publishing something were you admit that you could be making it up? Serious question as I do not know her work.

Even if this has had no impact on her sister I think she should have been aware that this type of "unreliable narrator" thing gets used against children who have been abused by siblings and/or female abusers.

I should probably step out of the thread because it is too personal but was just wondering if this is the type of thing she is known for?
posted by kanata at 4:34 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also is it just me or is this not a thing that any 1-year-old baby would ever think to do? Isn't the concept of "things can go inside other things" still not even really there until pre-school?

Nope, it sounds exactly on target for a one year old
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:34 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


What I find really interesting about this discussion is that there are people (on both ends of the ideological spectrum) who want to discuss the issues raised, and a number who really want to make the discussion go away as no big deal. It makes me wonder which of the protests are grounded in a desire to normalize childhood experiences that might otherwise require some more difficult soul searching, for whatever reason.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:34 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, like Popehat said, if this had been Sarah Palin's kid there would have been amazing amounts of pile on, not this "She was seven!" defense.

Dunham also loses huge points in my book for the way she handled this. She has no case. She wrote some shit in a book. Some people are interpreting it in a light that makes her look bad, but that's their right. There's absolutely no libel here and she just shined a big fucking spotlight on this event. Streisand effect in full force. She can complain if she likes, but she has no legal case and this is why I support Anti-SLAPP laws.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:35 PM on November 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


The inspecting of her sister's vagina, OK, I can pass that off as normal child exploration. The pebbles in her sister's vagina . . . well, I don't know of any one-year-old with the dexterity to shove pebbles up there, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. The rest of the stuff, with the planned coercion and encouraging of dependency and whatnot, that is pretty fucking disturbing. Nearly every kid does weird sexual shit but what she talks about is not what was discussed in my psychology of development class.
posted by schroedinger at 4:36 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


Note, I think kids exploring their bodies is perfectly normal. The masturbating in bed while your sister sleeps next to you and bribing her "like a sex predator" is also creepy.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:37 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Silence and shame about childhood explorations and expressions of sexuality are powerful tools that abusers exploit, in their millions, every day. It saddens me to see so many reactions seeming to amount to "Well, we know this is in a normal range of behaviours, but it's disgusting that she couldn't keep properly quiet about it". Is more furtiveness and secrecy really how we're going to stop children from being abused?
posted by howfar at 4:40 PM on November 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


Also is it just me or is this not a thing that any 1-year-old baby would ever think to do? Isn't the concept of "things can go inside other things" still not even really there until pre-school?

Nope, it sounds exactly on target for a one year old
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:34 PM on November 5 [+] [!]


There's a big difference between Tupperware containers and a tiny infant vagina. As any female who's tried an applicator-less tampon or menstrual cup will tell you, shoving things up there and getting them to stay isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world.
posted by schroedinger at 4:40 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


grounded in a desire to normalize childhood experiences that might otherwise require some more difficult soul searching

Kids are a mess of semi-realized instinct and unbaked experience. Everything you do as a kid is embarrassing and a disgrace to your grownup self. Holding a 7 year old accountable for this beyond a talk about respecting other people's private parts is problematic. Holding a grown woman accountable for what she did as a 7 year old is the most lunatic axe-grinding antisocial character assasination hack-job I can think of.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:41 PM on November 5, 2014 [54 favorites]


That Lena Dunham and the words "icon of feminism" can even be put together in a sentence today just makes my blood boil. I don't care what vaguely weird shit she did as a kid. I care that her current state of being is one of unchecked pretentious bullshit and that old white men think she is what feminism ought to be always. No. No no no. Go away, Lena. You are a horrible, horrible bigot and I do not want to be associated with you whenever I affirm to someone that yes, I am a feminist.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2014 [39 favorites]




"Well, we know this is in a normal range of behaviours, but it's disgusting that she couldn't keep properly quiet about it". Is more furtiveness and secrecy really how we're going to stop children from being abused?

It's less "Gosh Lena shut up already" and more "yeaaaaah by the time they're teenagers most people figure out by the time they're teenagers you don't masturbate next to your sleeping sister". Not to mention her entire description of all of this has this very Humbert Humbert-ish tone that is pretty gross.
posted by schroedinger at 4:44 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


Feelings will be hurt in this thread.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:45 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


Holding a grown woman accountable for what she did as a 7 year old is the most lunatic axe-grinding antisocial character assasination hack-job I can think of.

She's a successful female woman and a feminist to boot. Have you people learnt nothing from #gamergate over the past three months now?
posted by Talez at 4:46 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


while it is definitely weird for her to publish her account in a memoir, i really hope Dunham can sue the shit out of Kevin Williamson, The National Review and Truth Revolt. maybe she could donate any money she wins to a rape crisis center or something to benefit the victims of real child sexual abuse.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 4:46 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


That I've seen, it's not Gamergate types who are driving this. In fact, most of the people I've seen pursuing it are much more likely to be targets of Gamergate than allies. At least, that's been my experience reading about it online.

(Uh, obviously this is a clarification and not defense of Gamergaters!)
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:46 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


grounded in a desire to normalize childhood experiences that might otherwise require some more difficult soul searching

To me, this seems about as useful a point as suggesting that all homophobes are secretly gay.

To be clear, it doesn't seem very useful. It seems like it's just going to piss people off for no reason.
posted by howfar at 4:46 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am glad to see the internet is now telling me that my brother shoving toys into me at five even he was 7 was normal and not a big deal.
posted by kanata at 4:48 PM on November 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Holding a 7 year old accountable for this beyond a talk about respecting other people's private parts is problematic. Holding a grown woman accountable for what she did as a 7 year old is the most lunatic axe-grinding antisocial character assasination hack-job I can think of.

That's not what is happening here. Seven seems to be the magic number to camp out on, but the age range and the activities are more significant than that isolated year.

Regardless, though, I don't think it's what happened as much as an endorsement of the normalizing of the behavior. You can raise kids that don't probe other people's private parts; and if for some reason you can't attain this ideal, you can certainly encourage them to not grow up and write books about how normal it all is.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:48 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


i really hope Dunham can sue the shit out of Kevin Williamson, The National Review and Truth Revolt.

Because they quoted passages of her book in a manner she's not happy with? She has no case.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2014 [18 favorites]


That I've seen, it's not Gamergate types who are driving this. In fact, most of the people I've seen pursuing it are much more likely to be targets of Gamergate than allies. At least, that's been my experience reading about it online.

It's not Gamergate per se. It's how the last gasps of the (for lack of a not cliche) straight white male patriarchy are trying to hold down the power the still have. Which is exactly what 95% of Gamergate is.
posted by Talez at 4:55 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Daily Beast looks at Dunham as an icon of feminism and whether that role means she receives less criticism.

I am for the most part pretty agnostic on What Dunham Means to America, but the idea that she's somehow gone through the past few years relatively uncriticized is hillllllllllarious.
posted by psoas at 4:56 PM on November 5, 2014 [40 favorites]


I am for the most part pretty agnostic on What Dunham Means to America, but the idea that she's somehow gone through the past few years relatively uncriticized is hillllllllllarious.

Yeah, I mean I felt like it calmed down a little this last year, but those first two seasons of Girls it was nearly impossible to discuss online without someone barging in and criticizing Dunham's character, body, or more likely both.
posted by john-a-dreams at 5:01 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


As to the FPP:
In the Truth Revolt article linked, at the bottom, is the following:
"Correction note: This article has been modified to correct a typo in the book excerpt incorrectly listing Dunham’s age as seventeen."

So, the original article listed Dunham as 17, not 7. Thus, Dunham issued a cease and desist order.

Seriously people. Context.
posted by daq at 5:01 PM on November 5, 2014 [21 favorites]


There's a big difference between Tupperware containers and a tiny infant vagina.

Right, I was mostly addressing "do one year olds even understand containers?"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:03 PM on November 5, 2014


I am so glad this post happened because I now know that Lana Del Ray and Demi Lovato are not Lena Dunham and that I can continue liking Summertime Sadness.

So, what I'm saying is I have no idea who Lena Dunham is even though I thought I did from the previous post about her exploiting local artists.
posted by sio42 at 5:05 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll never understand the Dunham hate.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:08 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


So, the original article listed Dunham as 17, not 7. Thus, Dunham issued a cease and desist order.

Seriously people. Context.


Except that's not what the C&D was for. Read it yourself.

So maybe not context? Maybe accuracy?

Even in your scenario you deal with that by asking for a correction (the correction was made) or a retraction. A C&D is just going to do exactly what it did.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:08 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not Gamergate per se. It's how the last gasps of the (for lack of a not cliche) straight white male patriarchy trying to hold down the power the still have. Which is exactly what 95% of Gamergate is.

I can believe that there are a lot of anti-feminists who smell blood in the water and are playing up the allegations accordingly. However, I have a very hard time believing that the Black feminists and womanists I follow on Twitter who are viewing the passages in question as an account of, at the very least, serious boundary issues — and who are expressing dismay at uncritical defenses of Dunham — are all stooges of the patriarchy.

As SpacemanStix said, the conversation is now broader than the original hit piece.
posted by metaquarry at 5:11 PM on November 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


The Daily Beast looks at Dunham as an icon of feminism and whether that role means she receives less criticism.

That's interesting, because the main thing I know about Dunham is how much people hate her and hate her show and hate the way she presents herself. I have not noticed any reticence from people when it comes to criticizing her.
posted by rtha at 5:11 PM on November 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


Also is it just me or is this not a thing that any 1-year-old baby would ever think to do? Isn't the concept of "things can go inside other things" still not even really there until pre-school?

Nope, it sounds exactly on target for a one year old
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:34 PM on November 5 [+] [!]

There's a big difference between Tupperware containers and a tiny infant vagina. As any female who's tried an applicator-less tampon or menstrual cup will tell you, shoving things up there and getting them to stay isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world.


Yeah, having dealt with this age range, there may be some pawing about in the general crotch vicinity, but a one-year-old baby both finding her vagina and inserting things into it seems entirely implausible. The first thing I thought when reading that was, "If this incident really happened, no way in hell her sister did it to herself."
posted by Bardolph at 5:11 PM on November 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't think any of the book stuff I've seen quoted supports the conclusion people want it to support, and I really wish that the hysterical conservative "child molester" reaction hadn't happened, because it would in fact be really nice to have a conversation about, like, sibling relationships and the way that they can in fact be borderline or actually abusive and emotionally harmful. And whether or not that's okay, and what we could possibly do about it, especially in terms of the culture created by adults, rather than just expecting better behavior of even teenagers who lack adult judgment. I don't think some of the stuff she did was okay, but I think it was not-okay in a much less outrageous way than a lot of right-wing websites would like to talk about. And that is indeed who picked this up and ran with it, which says a lot, and now makes the more useful conversation difficult to have.
posted by Sequence at 5:11 PM on November 5, 2014 [23 favorites]


The fact that right-wing websites are pushing this, and that the target is Dunham tells us all we need to know: the right-wing like many others hates Dunham because she is an outspoken woman.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


The first thing I thought when reading that was, "If this incident really happened, no way in hell her sister did it to herself.

Yeah I phrased my comment badly but this is what I meant.
posted by bleep at 5:21 PM on November 5, 2014


The fact that right-wing websites are pushing this, and that the target is Dunham tells us all we need to know: the right-wing like many others hates Dunham because she is an outspoken woman.

Right-wing websites push all kinds of stupid shit. Most of it gains no traction outside their own echo-chambers. As others have already pointed out this is resonating way beyond the nutters and the anti-feminists.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:24 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


resonating is one thing, but demonizing dunham and calling her a child molester is another.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:27 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


So recently there was this this post which had a neat quote, which was "The Master's tools will never dismantle the Master's house"

The Master's house is the privilege which is granted for upholding the status quo. The Master's tool's are things like "divide and conquer," collaboration, character assassination, disenfranchisement, media manipulation, oppression, and ultimately, murder.

Lena Dunham is controversial because people disagree about what she represents. Is she in the Master's house, or outside it? She gets attacked by the establishment for being anti-establishment, and she gets attacked from the anti-establishment for being pro-establishment.
posted by rustcrumb at 5:27 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'd have to agree with cjorgensen. Her actions appear to transcend the right-left split. And there seems to be no love lost between black feminists and Lena Dunham, for example: "Bribing Grace for kisses at 7. Dressing her as "sex property" at 12. Masturbating next to her at 17. #DropDunham"
posted by foot at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I used to defend Lena, but ... yeah, not here. Even if she's getting extra vitriol for being some kind of "feminist icon", I have to say I don't feel very motivated to defend her.

Maybe as a 7-year-old she didn't know better about prying open her toddler sister's vagina. That doesn't make her behavior cute. Children can be molested by other children. I don't really feel like this falls in the realm of two kids of the same age consensually experimenting with each other.

Anyway, leave that aside. A 17-year-old masturbating in bed with her 10-year-old sister is super problematic. She definitely should have known better.

Leave that aside! She definitely should have known better to share these problematic stories as if they were cute examples of her ~quirky~ sex-positiveness. And then be so shocked when people read them differently. She jokes herself that she acted just like a sexual predator, and then doesn't understand when people get uncomfortable?

The whole thing betrays a serious lack of judgment and self-awareness. Yeah, she's not my icon, thanks.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:31 PM on November 5, 2014 [68 favorites]


I haven't read the book (yet?), but I don't think anything Lena Dunham has ever done has been about quirky anything. I wonder how many people jumping to that conclusion have any familiarity with her work at all. Lena Dunham is not adorkable.
posted by Sara C. at 5:33 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Is there any grounds for federal or state prosecution? IIRC, there is no statute of limitations on such crimes and no consent defence. Could Dunham plausibly end up as a registered sex offender if a DA decides it'd look good on their CV?
posted by acb at 5:38 PM on November 5, 2014


I'm mostly familiar with Lena Dunham from Girls, which I've watched most of, and I definitely feel like she depicts herself as quirky there. She's unconventional and a little awkward! She's not a normal girl! But see how charming and real she is! She has that line in the Crack-ccident episode where she's like "Look guys my shoes match my dress for once!!" Quirky.

I've also read the passages in question, though not the rest of the book, and I see the tone as quirky there, too.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:39 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


depends on the state.

but someone has to press charges.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:40 PM on November 5, 2014


Wow, i'm amazed at how some people here are so willing to accept that any criticism of her is legitimate, in good faith, and not some kind of thinly veiled misogyny that they try and link to gamergators somehow.

Seriously guys? the "men holding on to power" thing? That's one of the most uncharitable responses to something i've ever seen on here.

I found out about this whole thing through women on my social media feeds, who had recently been posting about dealing with harassment online and off getting really angry about this for basically the same reasons as that tweet above. Are they misogynists? Gators? what?

I mean, if we're going to play the uncharitable game, i think that this post was posted right now and at all not because of some heartfelt sharing about her personal life that's brave and powerful or something, but because her book just came out and she knew this would blow up online. It's the same logic behind upworthy and buzzfeed headlines. Self promotion. No publicity is bad publicity, bla bla bla.

I'll probably get pilloried for calling her an attention whore or something, but i don't care. What person in their right mind would just throw this out there unless they had literally no self awareness about what they had done? I don't think she should be punished in some way or something like some of the really angry people seem to, i just don't get how someone could write all this out and read it, realizing it contained what was called out in that tweet, and think it was still a good idea.

Just, what? Either she gets it's bad, and is doing it because it's polarizing and will create tons of retweets and shit... or she completely doesn't get it, and it ties in to the long history of her not getting it and saying/doing stupid disrespectful facepalm things. I don't really see another option here.
posted by emptythought at 5:41 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


Are you seriously suggesting that someone should spend the rest of their life on a sex offender registry because of something that they did when they were seven?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:42 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


I just completely don't get how so many otherwise smart, reasonable people have completely bought hook line and sinker that she's some embattled perpetually harassed poor woman who is constantly under attack for no good reason.

It really seems like some people on here think she's received some Zoe Quinn level of damning harassment and shit talking when it basically amounts to some people going "wow, she publicly said a fucked up thing" several times in a row.
posted by emptythought at 5:44 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


If she were actually charged with a crime, it seems like you'd need more evidence than the book. She can just disavow the book as fiction. Is there physical evidence of the crime? Prosecutor would be pretty much forced to compel her family to testify against her... which seems to be pretty much exactly the level that prosecutors operate at, morally.
posted by rustcrumb at 5:45 PM on November 5, 2014


Good thing she didn't also confess to repeatedly yelling at her sister to shut up on a streetcorner. What is it with condemning children on Metafilter today?

(Yes, I know that this is actually about ethics in memoirism.)
posted by chortly at 5:46 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'll probably get pilloried for calling her an attention whore or something, but i don't care.

I hate hate hate the phrase "attention whore" but otherwise I agree with your post. I also feel like some of the controversy was manufactured for book sales.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:47 PM on November 5, 2014


MisanthropicPainforrest: The fact that right-wing websites are pushing this, and that the target is Dunham tells us all we need to know: the right-wing like many others hates Dunham because she is an outspoken woman.

Paiting the entire objecting side with one brush is a pretty shitty move. Is it really that hard to realize that there could be both legitimate and illegitimate reasons to have a problem with this? Just because the right wing press is shitting on her doesn't mean that a bunch of thoughtful feminists i've seen posting about this are just unwitting tools in some awful oppression or right wing witch hunt.
posted by emptythought at 5:47 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


the worst part of this for me is how people i respect keep saying shit like "a seven year old can't be a child molester! this is normal! kids just do this! what's the big deal!?"

my brother started molesting me when he was 9 or 10 and i was 6 or 7. he continued for years. his methods were some of the most fucked up manipulations i have ever seen. he wasn't exploring. he wasn't curious. he abused my foster sisters after me. i'm sure he's abused many more once he moved out. children are capable of child molestation. children can be abusers. i will never be healed from what he broke over and over again. my family will never recover.

lena being 7 isn't a defense. her continued fucked up behaviors towards her sister certainly can't be brushed away with her age. if you think this makes me some sort of right wing anti-feminist shill, so be it.

it is super interesting to contrast this thread with this one though.
posted by nadawi at 5:48 PM on November 5, 2014 [52 favorites]


I don't think she should be punished in some way or something like some of the really angry people seem to, i just don't get how someone could write all this out and read it, realizing it contained what was called out in that tweet, and think it was still a good idea.

I had the same reaction and I think part of it is that most peoples' moms would have let them know that what they did wasn't nice and tell them not to do that again, but her mom didn't seem to care one way or the other. That's probably why she's so shocked at peoples' reactions.

I just completely don't get how so many otherwise smart, reasonable people have completely bought hook line and sinker that she's some embattled perpetually harassed poor woman who is constantly under attack for no good reason.

I just think of that time on her show her character did it with a handsome doctor and there was a lot of cries of "UNREALISTIC!" and "WE DON'T WANT TO SEE YOUR BOOBS".
posted by bleep at 5:50 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think part of it is that most peoples' moms would have let them know that what they did wasn't nice and not to that again, but her mom didn't seem to care one way or the other.

If you google her father's art, it's potentially telling about the kind of environment she grew up in.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:52 PM on November 5, 2014 [16 favorites]


this twitter stream described my feelings about all this better than i could (scroll up). you think that's coming from a right wing space? you think it's just someone trying to tear lena dunham down because she's an outspoken woman? you think she's being disingenuous? some people who are usually more aware about this sort of thing are just stomping all over the place about how ridiculous this all is without considering that there are some of us down here just trying to live.
posted by nadawi at 5:52 PM on November 5, 2014 [20 favorites]


Things that make me uncomfortable:

-Reading about little girl vaginas
-Reading about Lena Dunham's sister's little girl vagina
-Someone exploiting questionable situations from their childhood
-Someone exploiting questionable situations from their younger sibling's childhood, especially when they perpetrated those situations
-Shouting someone down for being candid
-Accusations of sexual abuse from people who are not qualified to make those accusations
-Blithely dismissing Dunham's actions or her writing about them
-People freely proclaiming Dunham's guilt or innocence
-Feeling compelled to better understand the issue and make a decision about it
-Feeling like it isn't important to my life whatsoever, and like I should ignore it and move on
-Proclamations about what is and is not feminism
-The term "feminist icon"
-The fact that so many people seem so eager to criticize Dunham
-The fact that I don't love a lot of Dunham's work (Tiny Furniture was aight), and the crowd that throws me in with
-The fact that some people probably look at Dunham's work and think that it represents me
-All the heated arguing

So, yeah. Don't mind me. I'll just be over here squirming a bunch.

For the record: I am really, really not trying to call out anyone in particular! Just to express that the whole thing makes me want to cringe until I implode.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:56 PM on November 5, 2014 [53 favorites]


you think that's coming from a right wing space? you think it's just someone trying to tear lena dunham down because she's an outspoken woman?

I think that people who couch the conversations in these terms at this point simply haven't read broadly enough to know that this isn't (only or even primarily) an ideologically driven issue at this point. It's about people in a lot of locations trying coming to terms with something that is sexually explicitly and needs more social discussion, and not a free pass for whatever reasons. If anything is happening ideologically, it's the crowd that is straw-manning this as primarily a right wing mudslinging issue.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:58 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I also feel like some of the controversy was manufactured for book sales.

I was wondering about that. Was she aware that this was going to be - problematic? Did her editor/publisher sit her down and point out where this could lead? Are her lawyers only in it for the billable hours?

I imagine she's plenty self-aware. I think she just doesn't understand the country she's living in, not outside the highly unusual circle she grew up in and inhabits.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:01 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Things that make me uncomfortable:

Well you came to the right thread!
posted by Flashman at 6:02 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Is there any grounds for federal or state prosecution? IIRC, there is no statute of limitations on such crimes and no consent defence. Could Dunham plausibly end up as a registered sex offender if a DA decides it'd look good on their CV?

I'm going to say no. Not a lawyer, but you have no complaining witness, you have too long of a time (even if the statute allowed, which I doubt it would, you have degrading information so a prosecution would be difficult), you have no evidence, no one stepping forward as a victim, you're dealing with a celebrity, both individuals were minors, etc. your only evidence is the confession of a self-proclaimed unreliable narrator. It would be like going after David Sedaris for a crime he wrote in the "Santaland Diaries."

Even if you could get an indictment good luck finding 12 people that would agree a crime occurred.

Can you point me to where you're seeing this? Are we reading the same thread?

If you google her father's art, it's potentially telling about the kind of environment she grew up in.

posted by cjorgensen at 6:02 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems as though there are some things that are in the realm of (more or less) normal childhood behavior, and some things that are not and should be considered molestation and abuse. Perhaps it's a spectrum. Personally I have *ideas* of where I place actions on that spectrum, but those ideas aren't grounded in anything other than my sense of right and wrong and consent and volition and human sexuality and childhood curiosity and learning. There are a whole set of variables there I don't have any expertise in whatsoever. So I take back my earlier comment, FWIW; I know nothing and I can't begin to know anything about this situation.
posted by naju at 6:03 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


As multiple people in this thread have stated, you don't have to be a right-wing nutcase to be disturbed by this. What about the users relating their own childhood experiences of abuse at the hands of other children, who see the parallels between the traumatic experiences they went through and Dunham's account? Are they right-wing nutcases, slaves to the patriarchy?
posted by schroedinger at 6:04 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think that people who couch the conversations in these terms at this point simply haven't read broadly enough

You're right. My mistake.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:05 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, wow, we're going to "well you know all artists are degenerates" ALREADY?

Sorry, was that aimed at me? I don't mean to imply that her father's art caused blahblahblah. But if you read Lena's passage about looking in her sister's vagina you'll find that her mom was there and apparently didn't say anything about it.

“Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked. My mother came running. ‘Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!’ My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.”

Knowing that in combination with her father's sexually explicit depiction's of women's vulvas, I dunno, it just makes me raise my eyebrows. I just thought it was interesting.

But yeah, maybe this is implying too many unfounded conclusions. Sorry for stepping over the line if so.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


you think that's coming from a right wing space? you think it's just someone trying to tear lena dunham down because she's an outspoken woman?

I think most of the women who are responding like this are responding like that because of exerpts that originally were publicized by conservatives, for the purposes of tearing down an outspoken woman, and not because they themselves read the entire book and came to those conclusions on their own, and that troubles me a lot. If her sister comes forward and says she found the behavior sexually abusive, I won't question that for a second.

But the framing and how this came to be publicized matters. A lot. I'm putting the fault here with the people who were hyping this for political gain, not the people who responded like this because of their feelings about child abuse. I don't think the latter's conclusions are right, but I think the response is a natural one when you've been delivered material packaged just to create that response. Just like I don't really blame people on Tumblr for being outraged about something that turns out not to have happened in exactly the terms people are outraged about--I blame whoever started it.
posted by Sequence at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


This whole thing is so gross. The Lena Dunham Celebrity Product seems to be a girl who has no sense of boundaries whatsoever, but she's cute and quirky which makes it okay. Ew.

There is a valid discussion to be had, societally, over what is and isn't normal exploratory play for children to engage in, but I doubt that conversation is going to happen in the context of Dunham.
posted by cmyk at 6:08 PM on November 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


If you google her father's art, it's potentially telling about the kind of environment she grew up in.

This isn't "all artists are degenerates", that's typical threadcrapping. To me, it reads like "she may have grown up in an environment where at least one parent seems to have had weird ideas about womens bodies and sexuality".

Because yea, i could um, get that vibe from those paintings. and that isn't "all artists are degenerates". Sheesh. I realize that's subjective, but yea, those paintings weirded me out anywhere near the context of this.
posted by emptythought at 6:09 PM on November 5, 2014 [20 favorites]


I don't like Lena Dunham. I think she's racist, I find her writing annoying, I think she benefits hugely from race and class privilege. That said, I'm not entirely comfortable with several things about this most recent business:

1. The implicit assumption that her sister is either lying or suffering from false consciousness. While obviously, there are plenty of situations where survivors are abused in such a way that they stand by their abusers, I think there needs to be a pretty high bar before we say "oh, Lena Dunham's sister vetted the book, is managing the book tour and came out in support of Lena on Twitter, but she is still obviously a victim of sexual abuse and therefore Lena Dunham was not a kind of messed up seven year old who did something inappropriate but is a child molester". I don't think many people have taken the sister's statements and actions very seriously, and that really bugs me - it feels like everyone wants to make a moral stand with no regard for the one person most intimately involved, and that does not feel very feminist to me.

2. The assumption that we can know enough about this whole incident to make a clear-cut evaluation when all we have access to is a memoir that is obviously a bit free with facts (at least, all her other person writing seems to be reshaped in the service of a good anecdote) and even if it weren't, still leans on the memories of a seven year old and assumes that they are entirely accurate. I don't know about you, but I've many times been forced to realize that my memories from childhood are a little confused due to time passing and due to my child's eye view when they were formed. It's a bit gross to me that Dunham has turned this into a funny anecdote, but I'm far from ready to assume that it's a sworn statement about something that actually happened as it's laid out.

3. General cultural creepiness and unsophistication about childhood sexuality. It's perfectly possible for one child to abuse another in the course of what might be dismissed as "normal experimentation" by neglectful adults, and it would be awful if Dunham's writing were used to minimize or justify abuse. That does not mean that all unusual childhood sexual behavior is harmful and dangerous. It's disappointing to me that there's no space to say "yeah, that was weird and not that great and should have been handled differently but sometimes less than ideal things happen and we move on".

4. Honestly, the whole sleeping sister/masturbation thing seems like the most explicable part...Have you ever been at summer camp or some other shared sleeping arrangement and you have realized that someone bunking nearby is getting off, and they think it's discreet and it's not? I have had to hear this kind of thing, and I didn't think it was about perversion, just about teenage hormones and really poor judgment. It's bleah, and really poor manners, but teenagers sometimes get into that "I want to do this, and [the other person or people nearby] are asleep and will never know, so I will just go ahead". Again, it strikes me as bad behavior and immature, but not particularly perverse.

I just would really rather have Lena Dunham criticized for racism than have this same kind of moral panic that we've seen about a million times.
posted by Frowner at 6:11 PM on November 5, 2014 [58 favorites]


Lena Dunham is like the NP-complete problem of social issues.
posted by mullacc at 6:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


i do think this thread would be far different if it had been, say, james franco discussing his explorations and manipulations of his 6 years younger sister starting when she was 1 year old and extending at least until she was 11. if anything, heteronormativity is protecting lena from a bigger backlash.
posted by nadawi at 6:18 PM on November 5, 2014 [29 favorites]


i do think this thread would be far different if it had been, say, james franco discussing his explorations and manipulations of his 6 years younger sister starting when she was 1 year old and extending at least until she was 11.

This seems like a particularly terrible example, since this is a celebrity who we know behaved inappropriately towards a much younger girl when he was actually an adult and totally should have known better. Of course people would have a different reaction to a known creeper talking about childhood behavior with sexual connotations.
posted by Sequence at 6:23 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of Americans would have never heard of Truth Revolt before Lena Dunham turned them into her personal book publicist. These are the non-stories we busy ourselves with while the Republicans are stealing the Senate.
posted by any major dude at 6:25 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


but wouldn't imaginary franco just be a 7 year old too? he wouldn't be the man who hit on a 16 year old yet. just a kid. unable to do these things, right? or no? does the fact that lena continued her manipulations and bribed for physical affections well into her teen years weigh on what she did at 7 or no?

or hell, sub in shia labeouf if you like that comparison better.
posted by nadawi at 6:28 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


Of course people would have a different reaction to a known creeper talking about childhood behavior with sexual connotations.

Seems a bit pedantic of a response. It shouldn't really be necessary, but just substitute a squeaky-clean male celebrity - say Chris Pratt - into the analogy, and the point should become clear.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 6:28 PM on November 5, 2014


I'm amazed this is getting traction when the critics of her and her exclusion of people of color in her narratives isn't, and probably won't.

It's less about her being Teflon, and more about "your flying snowman moment is THAT?"
posted by Deoridhe at 6:30 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was around 6 and the boy who abused me was 7 when the sexual molestation began. I don't remember how long it lasted because I was living in a cloud of misery and depression the entire time.

I remember thinking then and for years afterwards in my childhood that my single most important goal when I grew up is to get a gun, hunt him down, and kill him for what he did to me and how he humiliated and ruined me.

My mother told me to tell her if any adults ever touched me inappropriately, but he was a kid... The abuse and threats continued until I felt suicidal and didn't care what he would do to me if I told anymore. It took some time to come to the conclusion that kids can be molesters, too.

In my teenage years one day it suddenly hit me that the boy most likely had been abused by someone, too. Otherwise there's no way he would have thought up all the fucked up things he did. I was finally able to forgive him and move on.

Seeing many people here say that kids are just playing around is very upsetting. Sometimes they are NOT just playing around. Kids are capable of molestation, too. And the way that Lena (purposely for attention??) frames her experiences in the book seems to paint her in that kind of light.
posted by koakuma at 6:41 PM on November 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


but wouldn't imaginary franco just be a 7 year old too? he wouldn't be the man who hit on a 16 year old yet. just a kid. unable to do these things, right? or no? does the fact that lena continued her manipulations and bribed for physical affections well into her teen years weigh on what she did at 7 or no?

But he'd still be the kid who we already know grew into that man, therefore he might not have been morally responsible at 7, but there would have been clear reasons to read more actual sexual intent into it. If something like this came out about Chris Pratt and allegations of abuse were not actually supported by the sibling, no, I would not be any more supportive of reading more into it than this. Some people might, but the unreasonability of that is not proof that this isn't also unreasonable. Manipulating younger siblings in non-sexual ways is exactly what I was talking about above where there's behavior that I consider Not Okay, but it is not proof that any of these incidents was sexual abuse.

Again: If the sister at some point says that this incident was not representative and that Lena was indeed sexual abusive, I won't question that. But she's not the one who said this. Lena is the one who wrote it, and presumably did not think that it reflected on her that badly at the time, nor did anybody else involved in the production who'd actually read the whole book as they were reflecting on those particular passages. It was others who crafted this into this particular narrative, and I see no reason to believe that particular narrative just because it's theoretically possible.
posted by Sequence at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible to believe that child sexual abuse exists and also that Lena Dunham isn't a child molester, at the same time.
posted by Sara C. at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think it's possible to believe that child sexual abuse exists and also that Lena Dunham isn't a child molester, at the same time.

The point is that people who are responding as if there's nothing problematic here, or like it's "totally normal" to do this kind of thing and they're "just kids", are minimizing the sexual abuse of children by other children in a very damaging and hurtful way.
posted by dialetheia at 6:50 PM on November 5, 2014 [15 favorites]


i think a lot of people aren't being careful with that difference. for instance, the second comment in this very thread.
posted by nadawi at 6:50 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I apologize for posting crudely what happened to me and I had to step away to untrigger myself. I just wanted to thank other people for sharing their personal stories in a much more coherent manner than I and whom were able to make the point that I was also feeling and struggling with.

If anyone can tell me how to screen triggering topics so I don't see the posts please memail me. Someone suggested it to me in an ask about this subject and I haven't been able to figure out out... Again, apologies for being crude
posted by kanata at 6:57 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's weird to me that her book has been out for several weeks, many people have read it, and the issue of the "abuse" was not brought up until the "truth revolt" website raised it. It reads to me as people looking for something to jump on Dunham about.

Sexual abuse is serious, I am not trying to dismiss it, and I know that kids are capable of it. But I just don't think that's what went on here. I think Dunham is boundary-pushing, feels compelled to share everything about herself, and grew up in a bubble-ish environment without feeling the influence of restrictions most of us felt. To me the anecdote is about her compulsion to share all the dark and odd sides of herself. It's definitely understandable not to like it, but I don't think what she did makes her a child molester especially in light of her sister's response.

Of course Dunham is privileged, but so are most people in the entertainment business. Sofia Coppola, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson- all actors/directors with famous parents. Plus so many more. Dunham's parents were artists. She didn't grow up to be conventionally beautiful. Are people saying she is talentless because of her privilege?

Yes, her show is mostly white and yes this should be criticized, esp. because it takes place in NY. But most shows I have seen on TV with white people in them leave out people of color. There were virtually no people of color on Seinfeld of Sex and the City. Yes, this was a problem and it's a problem for Dunham's show too. I guess I don't understand why she seems to bear the brunt of these kinds of criticisms though.
posted by bearette at 7:00 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think this is awful, but also really common. Honestly I don't think kids should be in charge of their younger siblings because they AREN'T old enough to be held accountable for this or understand it- if the older sibling isn't old enough that you could hold them accountable for this kind of behavior, they shouldn't given the responsibility of being alone with someone younger or vulnerable. I completely understand that many families simply can't afford the help or level of attention to ensure their kids aren't spending a lot of time playing a lone together, but in my family if kids are playing alone together they are usually getting up to something naughty. Personally I think kids inherit trauma and increased likelihoods of repeating bullying/sexually domineering behavior that may have happened to or by their parents/grandparents.

It's a frustrating issue because I think we need to solve it, but I don't think telling kids not too is going to do anything but put ideas into their heads which they are not really ready to ensure they don't act on.
It's totally natural and normal that kids what to act out things they hear about, and often some kids will respond to sexually predatory behavior with a submissive and permissive response because it's a very instinctual reaction to domineering sexual advances.So even a kid with some degree of empathy about the idea of not hurting others in tact might not get any feedback they are hurting someone.Regardless of opinions on level of accountability. I think this kind of thing is really good to talk about because it is one of those pretty common things that people just don't talk about, or consider their child could potentially do something like this.
posted by xarnop at 7:12 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


grew up in a bubble-ish environment without feeling the influence of restrictions most of us felt

I honestly wouldn't go that far. I suppose it's possible that I grew up in an oppressively abusive milieu without knowing it, but honestly as Frowner says nothing I've seen of Dunham's account is particularly egregious compared to things that happened during my childhood. And my guess (again without having read the book yet) is that these stories are told in the context of all that weird shit that goes on when you're a kid, that you have no context for, and that we all sort of agree to pretend never happened.

For the most part I think that things like this happen everywhere all the time, and that we don't like acknowledging that they occur. Mostly because, yeah, abuse exists on a spectrum, and there are a lot of grey areas from normal to inappropriate to boundary-breaking to molestation. It's much easier to think that there are "normal" people who would never ever do anything like this, and then there are depraved monsters.

But, yeah. I used to experiment sexually with girlfriends in elementary and middle school. Something I think is relatively normal. Except that I grew up to be queer, and they all grew up to be hetero. So, for me, I have to work pretty hard to figure out where those experiences belong. How old was I when I lost my virginity? Who was my first sexual partner? How long have I been sexually active? It feels especially problematic when I realize that, placed in a certain context, it could easily be alleged that I molested those girls. And, I don't know, did I? Did they molest me? By rendering this stuff visible, does that mark it as a crime with a victim and a perpetrator? Or can it just be something that happened, and that isn't all that abnormal among young girls with brand new bodies?
posted by Sara C. at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


did any of this "normal" experimentation people keep talking about happen within the context of a 6 year age difference?
posted by nadawi at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


Same-aged girlfriends have agency. 1 year old babies do not have agency.
posted by bleep at 7:25 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I remember being pretty fascinated with my seven-years-younger brother's anatomy, but since he was a boy and I was a girl and I was already firmly entrenched in a heteronormative "girls' bodies + boys' bodies = dirty" mindset, I didn't have the kinds of experiences Dunham did. I'm not sure what things would have been like if I'd had a sister.

I remember seeing my much younger toddler aged (female) cousin masturbating once, openly in front of adults, and I felt pretty weird about it.

Again, I think there's a place where one can agree that a seven year old can molest a toddler, and also that this is not what actually happened in the Dunham girls' case. Especially since Grace Dunham maintains that she was not molested.
posted by Sara C. at 7:28 PM on November 5, 2014


I'm amazed this is getting traction when the critics of her and her exclusion of people of color in her narratives isn't, and probably won't.

She didn't get a lawyer and try to suppress the speech of those calling her a bigot and a racist. That's a pretty big bell to ring.

Especially since Grace Dunham maintains that she was not molested.

She was 1.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:39 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


By Lena’s own account, it would appear that she was grooming Grace from a young age:
“As she grew, I took to bribing her for her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a “motorcycle chick.” Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just “relax on me.” Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”
Especially since Grace Dunham maintains that she was not molested.

I want to tread lightly here, but some victims of abuse don't necessarily view it as such for various reasons. And beyond that, Grace’s feelings about those childhood experiences could change in the future.
posted by foot at 7:42 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


nadawi: “i do think this thread would be far different if it had been, say, james franco discussing his explorations and manipulations of his 6 years younger sister starting when she was 1 year old and extending at least until she was 11. if anything, heteronormativity is protecting lena from a bigger backlash.”

Yes, and what's interesting is how that actually ironically also feeds the backlash, even as it prevents it in another dimension. I honestly feel like a huge chunk of the conflict is just a battle between two groups of people: the people who believe that, if 'exploration' isn't hetero male-on-female, it's not actually exploration or worth taking seriously, and the people that hate women and really, really want another chance to scream BUT SHE'S JUST GETTING AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE SHE'S A WOMAN!

This is sort of a variation on the narrative Lena Dunham seems to encounter everywhere she goes. She gets has white and class privilege, and it is a real thing for her. But she also encounters the default backlash that women seem to encounter – maybe extra-much, because she's the stereotype of feminist that most people who despise feminists picture when they picture a feminist. The backlash doesn't mean she isn't benefitting from white and class privilege; but that privilege doesn't mean there isn't a backlash. So, at its worst, the debate over Lena Dunham descends into slavish fans who adore her and hold her up as probably much more the "feminist icon" than maybe she deserves battling the very worst feminism-hating misogynists who spend their time talking about how someone "fat" like Lena shouldn't take their clothes off on television. And this feeds back into itself, because we humans tend to recognize the adversity we encounter much more easily than we recognize the privilege we benefit from.

Personally, I kinda like Lena Dunham, although I try to be aware of the problems she has. I like Girls because it feels like it's about certain people I know, and it depicts things that fiction usually shies away from. It's a narrow show about a narrow group of people; it has problems in scope on that score; it isn't the greatest thing to happen to feminism or television or anything like that, and it isn't iconic and emblematic for an entire generation. I just think it's a fun TV show to watch, and it's usually pretty well-written, despite its very real flaws.

And I don't think Lena Dunham is a child molester. I think C&D letter was totally justified in calling out a news source that called her a child molester; that's a crime, and accusing someone of it when you're really just twisting the words they've said is potentially (yes) libelous.

dialetheia: “The point is that people who are responding as if there's nothing problematic here, or like it's ‘totally normal’ to do this kind of thing and they're ‘just kids", are minimizing the sexual abuse of children by other children in a very damaging and hurtful way.”

That's an important point worth being clear about, yes.

A seven-year-old glancing at her one-year-old sister's vagina and then running to tell mom that it looks weird is not (necessarily) sexual abuse. On it's own, if there are no other issues or complications, it's almost certainly not sexual abuse at all.

But – if people say "but it couldn't be sexual abuse – she was only seven!" then they're very confused about what sexual abuse is and what it means. Children can abuse each other sexually. This doesn't mean they should always be held accountable to the same degree as adults; it also doesn't mean they are utterly without agency. This is part of the complicated fact of children: they are semi-agents of their will, only partially to be held responsible for their actions, to greater or lesser degrees. But all the same: abuse is abuse, and when child does it to another child, regardless of their age, it is abuse, and the abused child will have to deal with it.
posted by koeselitz at 7:46 PM on November 5, 2014 [20 favorites]


I'm not a parent nor was I sexually abused as a child, so for me, the focus isn't on what she did or didn't do or how old they were, it's on how completely fucking creepy it is to write and publish that shit in a book as if it were as normal as starting a food fight on the school bus. I don't know how you have such a spectacular lack of self-awareness.
posted by desjardins at 7:47 PM on November 5, 2014 [30 favorites]


She was 1.

People have been arguing that Dunham deserves more scrutiny since the behavior continued into her teenage years, at which point her sister would certainly be more aware of what was happening to her.

I want to tread lightly here, but some victims of abuse don't necessarily view it as such for various reasons.

But we have to take their own view of their experiences seriously, and Lena's sister seems to strongly feel she was not molested.
posted by edeezy at 7:47 PM on November 5, 2014


how completely fucking creepy it is to write and publish that shit in a book

Lots of art and writing is really creepy. David Sedaris comes to mind (because he's also a memoirist who wrote creepy and weird stuff)
posted by bearette at 7:49 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen: “That's a pretty big bell to ring.”

Man, people send out C&Ds basically every five minutes in this country. It is something citizens are free to do if they believe they have a case, if they believe they have been victims of criminal acts. If it's a silly C&D, then there's nothing whatsoever to worry about, because a judge will toss it toot sweet. If it's a C&D with merit, then it'll probably get challenged and the case will be decided in open court. Either way, it's not a vicious crime to send a C&D. If it is, you've got millions of people to lock up before you get to Lena Dunham, because they really are ridiculously common.
posted by koeselitz at 7:51 PM on November 5, 2014


really want another chance to scream BUT SHE'S JUST GETTING AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE SHE'S A WOMAN!

are you suggesting that's what my objections to the narrative surrounding this are? that i'm eager to tear down women and feminists?
posted by nadawi at 7:51 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't argue with Grace's stance but I can still feel like I've been getting this growing feeling that Lena feels kind of like a creep who I liked at first but don't like the more I read about her.
posted by bleep at 7:51 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't know how you have such a spectacular lack of self-awareness.

This is all right in Lena Dunham's wheelhouse. She has total self-awareness about it. Doesn't make it not creepy, or not problematic, or not inappropriate, or "normal" or mean that people won't feel uncomfortable as hell reading about it. Shit, you can throw the book across a room or throw it in the garbage if you like. Lena Dunham knew exactly what she was doing writing it, and up to the point that she was accused of a crime by a random website with no standing to do such a thing, I'm sure she anticipated the vitriol it would inspire.

It feels very, very weird to me that people who apparently know Dunham's work enough to have a dog in this particular fight don't get that she absolutely knew what she was doing when she included this material in her book.
posted by Sara C. at 7:53 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


bearette: “David Sedaris comes to mind”

Not sure it's the same kind of creepy, though. I have not read Dunham's book, but on that point I have to agree with desjardins absolutely; publishing weird stuff like that about my relationship with my sister – and thereby forcing her to face it and answer for it – is not something that I believe a person should do. But, again, I haven't read the book. (And I guess it's possible David Sedaris has published weird sexual or intimate details about his relationship with his family members. I'm not sure.)
posted by koeselitz at 7:53 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess I don't agree with the argument that if something is weird, creepy, dark, or disgusting it should not be written about. To me, art is about telling the truth. If a rapist or abuser wrote an honest account of what they did, I think that would be worthwhile in trying to understand humanity.

Obviously it's problematic to write about something horrible and pretend it's good or not a problem, but I don't see Dunham as having done that.
posted by bearette at 7:53 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Either way, it's not a vicious crime to send a C&D

No one said it was a crime, but any competent lawyer would have advised her against doing so, especially in an event like this where she can't prove the requirements for libel. If she has a case it's a malpractice case against her lawyers (and no, she doesn't have that case either).
posted by cjorgensen at 7:54 PM on November 5, 2014


me: “really want another chance to scream BUT SHE'S JUST GETTING AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE SHE'S A WOMAN!”

nadawi: “are you suggesting that's what my objections to the narrative surrounding this are? that i'm eager to tear down women and feminists?”

Oh good lord, nadawi – absolutely, incontrovertibly not. You're someone I respect highly, having interacted with you here, and I know that couldn't be further from the way you come at these things.

I've been following this whole thing on Twitter over the past few days. There are a whole lot of people there who seem to take particular delight in tearing into a woman because they believe "equality" means hurting women as much as possible to "drag them down" to the level of men. And that's bothered me, to be honest.

But I really, really do not associate you with such people.
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 PM on November 5, 2014


really, to me, lena dunham and amanda palmer are pretty much the same, and i say this as a general fan as palmer - they love to stir it up and pretend they're the aggrieved party when people react to their fucked up shit.
posted by nadawi at 7:56 PM on November 5, 2014 [21 favorites]


There is definitely boundary-bending potentially inappropriate family stuff in a lot of David Sedaris' books. The essay about someone in their family smearing shit on a set of brown towels, in hopes that other family members would use the towels and get shit all over themselves, comes immediately to mind.
posted by Sara C. at 7:57 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Looks like a lot of you didn't read the article, and didn't really read what Dunham wrote either.
posted by shesbenevolent at 7:57 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I hate David Sedaris and find him insufferable. Yeah I said it.
posted by desjardins at 7:58 PM on November 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


cjorgensen: “No one said it was a crime, but any competent lawyer would have advised her against doing so, especially in an event like this where she can't prove the requirements for libel. If she has a case it's a malpractice case against her lawyers (and no, she doesn't have that case either).”

They said she was a child molester, that she sexually abused her sister – specifically, they said she "use[d] her sister at times essentially as a sexual outlet." That is an accusation of a crime. Making a damaging and false accusation that someone is guilty of a crime is libelous. Maybe you could say that wasn't really an accusation of a crime, or that it isn't really calling her a child molester. That's a question that'd have to be debated in court.
posted by koeselitz at 8:00 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


We can all benefit from a better editor.
posted by ovvl at 8:07 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


It feels very, very weird to me that people who apparently know Dunham's work enough to have a dog in this particular fight don't get that she absolutely knew what she was doing when she included this material in her book.

Sara C., I wish you or someone else who knows LD's work well would maybe articulate what you do consider her jam to be w/r/t True Confessions of sexual effed-up-ed-ness. The line about "doing anything a neighborhood predator would do" seems so clearly to be outrage-baiting, and she's presumably wealthy enough to have a well-paid publicist and careful editor who could have headed this off in the ms. stage if they wanted to. Was she aiming for an edgy envelope-pushing vibe that went too far? Trying to construct some romantic damaged-artist persona, of the sort that gets kinda-wryly, mostly-seriously valorized in Girls? Rallying her base by conspicuously sticking it to the squares? Just a straight-up bid for attention and book sales? Inquiring minds seriously want to know.
posted by Bardolph at 8:17 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think it's really unfortunate that most here saying that maybe Lena Dunham's actions (at age 7, at age 28) are not symptomatic of being an abuser seems to feel the need to preface their comments with "I don't like Lena Dunham but"

That being said, I recognize that there is a spectrum, although I do think one or three isolated incidents is different from a constant stream of childhood sexual abuse. And put me down as someone who thinks that what I can tell from what Dunham described (though perhaps tactless to publicly air 20-odd years later) seems familiar with my experiences as a child with friends and a sibling, and in line with the many narratives and experiences that I have heard from female friends over the years. (Even including age differences approaching 6 years.) I resent any implication that that makes me an abuser and/or victim, and my guess would be that that is where a lot of the "this is normal behavior" sentiment is coming from.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:18 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Could we please mark the searches of her father's art as nsfw?

I don't get why it matters exactly how "guilty" she is more so than any other action. It's been pretty hard to figure out what she wrote from this thread. Of course it's not normal, and of course it may indicate some abusive/coercive tendencies. But We only have her and Grace's words on it.

My personal, uneducated, mansplaining opinion? She obviously lacks self-awareness, as the slate article provides evidence of. I hope she has changed a lot since her upbringing. I dislike using C&D but reading it I can see why it was used. But it's really cool that we can publicly argue about (female) children's morality and sexuality. Also, rage spiral is a wonderful non-gendered term, and I'm visualizing it as someone changing into an (a)sura. Claim it for your novels, people.
posted by halifix at 8:21 PM on November 5, 2014


Has anyone commenting here actually read her book? I have, and in the context of the book this part about her sister, though weird, absolutely did not stand out as abuse. One of the themes of the book is her attachment to her family, and especially her sister. I read it as part of this theme that I have heard a lot from older sisters, that they see their sisters as weird alt copies of themselves and are simultaneously obsessed and repulsed by them.

Also the origins of her work are about her family, she even cast Grace and her mom in Tiny Furniture and they shot it in her apartment. It makes sense she'd write about them, and everything she writes is some sort of overshare. It just makes sense in the context of the book, though I agree her actions weren't great. Then again, a lot of what she writes about in the book is her own imperfection and her own intense, imperfect love for her family. It's a very internal world and not something I think a lot of people experience really.

Also everything bearette said here. Yes, the lack of people of color on her show is weird (though there was the Asian chick with the art gallery, does POC "have" to be black?) and we should talk about it, but to call her a racist is exactly the kind of over the top craziness that is kinda shocking to me. And yeah, her book was out for weeks before some fringe blog started attacking that one part of it? Interesting.
posted by sweetkid at 8:22 PM on November 5, 2014 [22 favorites]


But we have to take their own view of their experiences seriously, and Lena's sister seems to strongly feel she was not molested.

Abuse, especially when it comes to minors who cannot consent, needs to be evaluated independently of how anyone (including the victim) feels about what happened. For example, if Lena's sister decides later that this somehow was harmful, does that suddenly change the moral nature of the act? That doesn't seem to make sense. I'm glad she doesn't feel harmed, but that doesn't change whether we endorse a particular activity which was done when she was a minor and couldn't consent nor foresee long term effects.

The victim's experience is important (very, very important), but not in terms of deciding whether or not one can unilaterally dismiss a particular moral action by someone else. Sometime we need to make decisions about moral good and bad even if victims don't want to press charges (see, for example, Roman Polanski and his victim; they now email each other cordially, but we still make moral judgments).

To suggest that Grace's perspective on this is morally determinative is concerning, actually, as it would suggest that if an action isn't harmful in her case when it was done without being able to consent, perhaps it would be okay in other cases as a long-term gamble, as well, as perhaps all will turn out well. If it was immoral to roll the dice on this possibility based on an objective analysis of the facts, then we evaluate it independently of the long-term effect.

I'm okay saying that we can evaluate what happened without bringing Lena's sister's exoneration into it as if it carries moral weight. I'm certainly glad that she is okay emotionally, but it's dangerous to make it determinative of any moral conclusion.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:28 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


My (younger) brother masturbated while sharing a bed with me a few times when he was a teenager. I'm pretty sure he just thought I didn't notice/was asleep. Not *that* weird. Maybe even more relevant, *I* got caught masturbating in school when I was about nine. I didn't mean to be an exhibitionist, I had discovered completely by accident that there was this intensely pleasurable thing I could do with my body, no one had explained sex to me yet, and I thought no one was watching.

Which is to say it seems totally reasonable and important to acknowledge that a seven-year-old can do something to another child that turns out to be sexually traumatic. It seems entirely unreasonable to assume the implications about the character and intent of the perpetrator are anything like they would be if it were an adult. So maybe the way she wrote about it was not appropriate, or maybe not - I haven't read the book and I don't even know *exactly* what "it" was. I don't think it matters - there's a conversation that could be had about this, a valuable one even, but treating the incidents themselves as this horrible reflection on her now?
posted by atoxyl at 8:31 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Um yes obviously this is "outrage bait". Outrage bait is kind of Lena Dunham's thing. It's what separates her from Zoey Deschanel or girls on youtube playing the ukulele or whatever. She's the chubby girl who knows everyone thinks her tits are saggy but does nude scenes anyway. She's the writer who throws a pap smear scene into like episode 3 of a show clearly pitched as Brooklyn's answer to Sex And The City. "Watch as I say and do things you will find deeply unsettling" is Lena Dunham's whole schtick.
posted by Sara C. at 8:33 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Grace Dunham wouldn't be able to remember any incident that happened when she was one, so how can she say whether it was molestation or not? Is there some principle whereby if someone is subjected to something potentially abusive as a baby, their reaction upon hearing about it as an adult retroactively determines whether it was molestation or not? That seems weird.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:37 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


FWIW per TFA the account of what happened when Grace was a baby is not in any way considered child sexual abuse by specialists.

If Grace maintained that there was a history of abuse by Lena, beginning from her earliest memories, that would be one thing. But at this point the only people who think Lena Dunham molested her sister are the writers of some random website. And it's pretty much none of their business.
posted by Sara C. at 8:48 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


And, to add to that, her sister was 1, and it is fucking creepy as shit that people are sexualizing the natural body discovery process of a child.

--daq


it's amazing the kind of jujitsu you are doing here. Lena Dunham was the one who masturbated in bed with her little sis, pulled apart her sister's vagina to inspect it, and describes her treatment of her sister as being like a pedophile ...

and then she's acting like all this stuff was cute ... "on the spectrum of things I did" ... tee hee hee aren't I cute?

... and Dunham's critics are creepy as shit. got it.
posted by jayder at 8:53 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


jayder: “... and Dunham's critics are creepy as shit. got it.”

Well, let's be fair: some of them really, really are. Kevin "transexual people are not human" Williamson, for one, is plainly creepy as shit.
posted by koeselitz at 9:01 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Just to clarify, I don't think that the narrative necessarily depicts abuse (although it's troubling). Only that our moral conclusions about it need to be drawn from the right places.

FWIW per TFA the account of what happened when Grace was a baby is not in any way considered child sexual abuse by specialists.

I think this is the important place to be having the discussion, by the way, not whether or not Grace's retroactive opinion of her early years helps us come to a moral conclusion about certain depicted behaviors.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:09 PM on November 5, 2014


Kevin Williamson is and always has been a mendacious shitbird. Not at all surprised that he's the one spewing this bullshit out. Let's review his treatment of Gabby Giffords.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


You could have the same incident with two different kids, and one would be sexual abuse and one would be normal sexual exploration. Context, history, the experience at the time and reception afterwards and personal beliefs of the children involved - huge range.

I have a toddler who I would never ever use the word "pocket" to describe her vagina because she would totally think she could use it as a pocket then, and we have had already the Very Calm Parenting to explain why she cannot do similar stunts outside the bathroom. She is the child who has never ever experienced any sexual abuse or overt sexualization in her life so far, and one of her goals is to go to school naked. Some kids are just like that.

But you can have child-on-child abuse. You can also have complicated sibling exploration that becomes abusive, and there's no clear line. There's also the question of intent and empathy - is this a physical game being played without ill intentions between children who don't understand social taboos yet? Is one child getting pleasure without caring or even worse, from another child's pain? You can have kids who have early onset mental illness, neurologically very different, or have themselves been abused, so that they are abusing other kids and there you have moral responsibility and culpability (can a child who has no concept of other people's emotional states understand they are abusive, etc), but there's also playing doctor where one kid goes home to calm parents who are all "yes, here are the social rules, your body is your own blah blah" and another who goes home to parents who freak out and shame them into thinking they were perverted unless they feel bad about fairly ordinary child sexual behaviour.

There really need to be more words for this. This is child sexual behaviour that is adjacent to child sexual abuse, and without clearer distinctions, a lot of the "this is normal stuff" can come across as "children can have sex", which isn't the same as children can be sexual. And not sexual!
posted by viggorlijah at 9:15 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


I haven't read Dunham's book but it's been out for weeks before the FOX guy pointed it out.

David Sedaris once had a story where when he was forced to go to a sleepover with his same aged classmates, he played "strip poker" with them and then had one of the boys sit naked on his lap for 5 minutes despite the other boy not wanting to.

He's never gotten called out for it. Not one reviewer has ever pointed it out.
posted by discopolo at 9:23 PM on November 5, 2014 [18 favorites]


One thing I notice a lot with Lena Dunham is that pretty much everything she does is interpreted as lived experience/"role modeling", rather than art.

So people read Sedaris' memoirs (or really the memoirs of any male writer) and see them as works of literature, and they don't scrutinize between the lines for abuse, or being a bad person, or poor life choices, or not understanding how media works, or any of the stuff Dunham routinely is tarred with.

Meanwhile everything certain female artists put out in the world is viewed through the lens of a courtroom deposition or a guest spot on Doctor Phil, and held up for strict moral judgment.
posted by Sara C. at 9:41 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


I disagree, and think that even on this site there's been male artists where things were looked at through that sort of lens of "oh wow his art is gross now"

Woody Allen during the Dylan thing, for one.

I really wish people would stop trying to make the "this is because she's a woman" thing happen.
posted by emptythought at 9:47 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


sedaris had been torn apart for his no boundaries, sharing family stories type of style. there was a very heated thread here concerning him writing about a family member who made it clear that's not what she wanted.
posted by nadawi at 9:51 PM on November 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


Grace Dunham wouldn't be able to remember any incident that happened when she was one, so how can she say whether it was molestation or not? Is there some principle whereby if someone is subjected to something potentially abusive as a baby, their reaction upon hearing about it as an adult retroactively determines whether it was molestation or not? That seems weird.

Um, what else are we going to do, get together a panel of experts to determine what damage has been done to Grace Dunham's psyche and what percentage is Lena's fault? If someone was subjected to something potentially abusive as a baby and does trace an impact to their lives as an adult we don't usually ask "how do you know if you don't even remember?" And again if we had a case of "that behavior is never okay and as an adult person you're in the wrong for even doing it" that would be one thing, but I really, really don't think that applies at all to anything we actually know about here. So what do we have? Lena Dunham is guilty of making a poorly considered pedophile joke. And as a parent you should make sure to teach your kids to respect each other's bodies. That's all good to know! But the Truth Revolt response is absolutely nuts!
posted by atoxyl at 10:00 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


He's never gotten called out for it. Not one reviewer has ever pointed it out.

It's definitely an interesting contrast and worth pointing out. He has been writing for many years and has never gotten nearly as much scrutiny for the less savory parts of what he's written, while having been fairly open about himself in a manner somewhat similar to Dunham.

To what degree does the Internet's outrage-at-any-cost culture play a part in this, since Sedaris did not start out publishing to an Internet audience. He started out on NPR, where ad revenue was never a priority. He's long past the age demographic where his audience can be hustled to for ad dollars, making a relatively quiet living from writings and book readings. Marketing companies target people in Dunham's age group and generally ignore unprofitable people older than 29. All of that means he mostly gets to bypass fake scandals invented and driven hard by web-based media.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:04 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


sedaris had been torn apart for his no boundaries, sharing family stories type of style. there was a very heated thread here concerning him writing about a family member who made it clear that's not what she wanted.

obviously that's not the same as pointing out specifically that he made a reluctant and naked same aged boy (who wasn't related to him so not a family thing) sit on his own naked lap for 5-10 minutes despite knowing the other boy didn't want to and describing the sexual satisfaction he got from it. I mean maybe that would be comparable to the situation with Dunham and childhood sexuality. I don't remember but I think Sedaris was 11 or 12 and so was the classmate/boy.
posted by discopolo at 10:05 PM on November 5, 2014


did i say it was the same?
posted by nadawi at 10:07 PM on November 5, 2014


did i say it was the same?

Ok, so what was your point in mentioning it at all? He wasn't torn apart for that specific thing and no one bothered to bring it up.
posted by discopolo at 10:08 PM on November 5, 2014


because Sara C said dunham received push back that writers like sedaris don't get and i was disagreeing. i wasn't actually responding to your comment at all.
posted by nadawi at 10:10 PM on November 5, 2014


because Sara C said dunham received push back that writers like sedaris don't get and i was disagreeing. i wasn't actually responding to your comment at all.

Oh gotcha! I'm a dummy dum dum. Sorry, nadawi:(
posted by discopolo at 10:12 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The other thing about the Woody Allen situation is that people didn't start dissecting his art for "evidence" of his guilt until he was formally accused of a crime by a specific victim, and the whole thing was laid bare by the justice system.

Nobody was digging through "Play It Again, Sam" trying to pin all kinds of scandalous shit on him, back in the beginning of his career before he was ever accused of anything.

Right now, nobody with any real standing is accusing Lena Dunham of molestation. The alleged victim maintains that she was not abused. There is no outside evidence of anything that child psychologists would consider sexual abuse. But we pick apart every word Dunham writes for evidence of wrongdoing, all the same.

Maybe it is a demographic thing, or a celebrity thing. But it's something that happens to female artists constantly*, and something that almost never happens to male artists until there is a specific reason for that sort of scrutiny.

*I'm struck by how similar all this is to the assertions by the mainstream media that Kathleen Hanna was raped by her father (arrived at by dissecting her song lyrics), despite the fact that Hanna herself denies that it happened and stresses that the lyrics in question don't mean what the journalists think they mean.
posted by Sara C. at 10:13 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


It strikes me that there's not much ground to tread here beyond what Frowner said above. That comment pretty much encapsulated the sane approach to this issue, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


So people read Sedaris' memoirs (or really the memoirs of any male writer) and see them as works of literature, and they don't scrutinize between the lines for abuse, or being a bad person, or poor life choices, or not understanding how media works, or any of the stuff Dunham routinely is tarred with.

Meanwhile everything certain female artists put out in the world is viewed through the lens of a courtroom deposition or a guest spot on Doctor Phil, and held up for strict moral judgment.


My gut, which isn't always right, suspects it's because guys like Williamson are secretly jealous that she's famous and talented and liked and successful and he doesn't think she should be because she doesn't give him a boner and it forces him to realize nobody cares about his boner.

That's just a guess. Though he's probably a huge homophobe so he wouldn't read David Sedaris.
posted by discopolo at 10:23 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


Right now, nobody with any real standing is accusing Lena Dunham of molestation. The alleged victim maintains that she was not abused. There is no outside evidence of anything that child psychologists would consider sexual abuse. But we pick apart every word Dunham writes for evidence of wrongdoing, all the same.

She literally wrote about this incident. This isn't some pitchfork mob exhaustive dig through of everything she's ever written. Were discussing this one specific piece of text.

No one is going through episodes of girls looking for evidence. This is a gross exaggeration and misrepresentation.
posted by emptythought at 11:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


koeselitz: I honestly feel like a huge chunk of the conflict is just a battle between two groups of people: the people who believe that, if 'exploration' isn't hetero male-on-female, it's not actually exploration or worth taking seriously, and the people that hate women and really, really want another chance to scream BUT SHE'S JUST GETTING AWAY WITH IT BECAUSE SHE'S A WOMAN!

i'd say there's another really crappy thing going on, which is that anyone who takes any issue with it gets swept in to the bin of group 2 by quite a lot of people who want there to only be those two groups. At least judging by what i've seen here and elsewhere.

I absolutely agree that theres a lot of people who want this to just like, go away for whatever reasons and it's kind of disturbing.
posted by emptythought at 11:21 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is no "this" to go away. Lena Dunham wrote about completely normal childhood sexual exploration in her memoir and made a joke about pedophiles. The end.
posted by Sara C. at 11:29 PM on November 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


It being completely normal childhood sexual exploration is her flippant opinion, and agreeing with that opinion is also a subjective point. Whether or not there's no "this" isn't some objective thing.

As far as i can tell, that position kinda coincides with the "people who have a problem with this are disingenuous buttheads who have a problem with her for other reasons" sort of point of view.

It isn't like the be all end all reality is that there's nothing to take issue with here.

Pretty much, stop trying to make fetch this isn't a thing happen.
posted by emptythought at 11:39 PM on November 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


I dunno if Lena Dunham is a child molester or not, but this is pretty bad:

"As she grew, I took to bribing her for her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a 'mortorcycle chick.' Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV is she would just 'relax on me.' Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying. Maybe, I thought, she would be more willing to accept kisses if I wore the face mask my grandmother had for when she did her dialysis. (The answer was no.) What I really needed, beyond affection, was to feel that she needed me, that she was helpless without her big sister leading her through the world. I took a perverse pleasure in delivering bad news to her- the death of our grandfather, a fire across the street- hoping that her fear would drive her into my arms, making her trust me. 'If you don't try so hard, it'll be better,' my father said. So I hung back. But once she was sleeping, I would creep into her room and listen to her breathe: in, out, in, out, in again, until she rolled away"
posted by bookman117 at 11:49 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I dunno if Lena Dunham is a child molester or not

I mean whatever else you may choose to think, and there have been some really really interesting choices made, she pretty clearly is not a child molester. Crivens.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:48 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think it is a bit odd to generously take up Grace Dunham's case when she doesn't seem to believe she was molested. Even more, because its not even her account of what happened, it's Lena's in a book which is written, not documentary evidence of what happened.

I can agree that being this open about the uncomfortable stuff and thoughts she had when she was that age is.. I dunno, odd. I didn't engage in her behaviour, but I know that I engaged in other weird behaviour at that age that I do not look at terribly fondly. Perhaps people are responding to her lack of guilt about her behaviour? I dunno, she (in the passages quoted) describes herself as a creepy sexual predator, which seems to imply she knows it was messed up.

Also, is the whole racism thing really because she doesn't have people of colour on her show? I mean, I agree that she should, and not to do so is to some extent racist, but it seems odd maybe to pick her out in particular.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:25 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


OH. I just realized why she sounded familiar. She's the artist that made artists audition, and planned to make them perform for her shows for free.

So has anyone other than sweetkid read the book? Are we arguing about whether or not Truth Revolt will be prosecuted? I really, really don't see anyone changing anyone's viewpoints here. We don't know enough. Her childhood actions could certainly match that of a young abuser, her actions could easily be because of her strange environment, her brash attitude raises worries she hasn't faced her past, but the large amount of criticism is definitely fueled partially by sexism. I'd be quite interested in the opinions of developmental psychologists, though.

Icons and celebrities may not be anywhere close to perfect. I'm reminded of the Hope Solo FPP, except we know even less in this case. I really, really hope MetaFilter is a place where we can discuss outside, unconnected people without needing to pass judgment and force everyone to agree with it. Just treat them like people. Famous and self-centered people, but people nonetheless.

...anyways, I'll go back and reread yesterday's great FPPs.
posted by halifix at 2:01 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really wish people would stop trying to make the "this is because she's a woman" thing happen.

There's just no way around how much awful and unnecessary criticism Dunham has received that is either straighforwardly because she is a woman (and not a tall, blonde, and skinny woman), or carries a strong tinge of that even though it is cast in neutral terms. For the most part, male writers and directors don't get this kind of scrutiny and policing of their language and especially of their bodies and sexualities. It just doesn't happen. There are a few cases like Woody Allen but that only comes after the big, bad allegations and even then it is comparatively muted.

There is no "this" to go away. Lena Dunham wrote about completely normal childhood sexual exploration in her memoir and made a joke about pedophiles. The end.

This, a million times over. Me, my friends, and our siblings all engaged in plenty of sexual or body explorations, from when we were very young until at some point it was more complex adult sexual explorations. I'm sure if I thought back through it all some of it would seem to have been a poor idea, but like Viggorlijah said, we need more words for this because the language that is getting used in comments here (and even more so in that weird article that started all this) just don't map well on to reality.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:37 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I don't think Lena Dunham is a child molester. I think C&D letter was totally justified in calling out a news source that called her a child molester; that's a crime, and accusing someone of it when you're really just twisting the words they've said is potentially (yes) libelous.

Problem is you can think it is libelous all you like, but it doesn't meet the legal standard. So a C&D letter is only an exercise in masturbation or a publicity ploy. It served absolutely no purpose. It's only efficacy was to shine a spotlight on the right-wing blogs.

You would have to prove the article deliberately set out to misrepresent her and did so with the intent to cause her harm. Even people in this thread can't agree if what she'd admitted to doing amounts to molestation, so the idea that you are going to go after a writer for speaking what he believes is the truth isn't going to win you any friends. There's also a higher standard for public figures.

How did I find out about this? Wasn't from the right-wing blogs. It was from the legal blogs. There's no way to know, but there's a good chance that this would have gone no where if she hadn't engaged lawyers.

The answer to bad speech isn't a C&D letter. It's more speech.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:45 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Post-Gloria Steinem feminism is certainly circling the drain now, isn't it.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 5:52 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Post-Gloria Steinem feminism is certainly circling the drain now, isn't it.

No. Next question.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:55 AM on November 6, 2014 [31 favorites]


They said she was a child molester, that she sexually abused her sister – specifically, they said she "use[d] her sister at times essentially as a sexual outlet." That is an accusation of a crime. Making a damaging and false accusation that someone is guilty of a crime is libelous. Maybe you could say that wasn't really an accusation of a crime, or that it isn't really calling her a child molester. That's a question that'd have to be debated in court.

It's not a question to be debated in court though. Sure, you could try to take it that far but a fuckload of incompetent people would have to be really stupid to allow you to.

First, depending on what state you're in you might have to worry about anti-SLAPP laws biting your ass hard. You also stand zero chance of winning. Seriously, if there was a way for me to place a Vegas bet on her chances of winning I would put everything I own up against her winning and borrow money to place more.

You would have to prove what they wrote was false, and they cited her book as evidence of their interpretation of the events. Many people in this very thread agree with that interpretation. Second, you would have to prove they did so with the intent to harm her. You can't sue over the truth, you also can't sue over language that wasn't intending to be malicious. Hell, in her case she'd have to show actual harm, and unless her book sales go down I don't see that happening.

For the record, my previous knowledge of who this individual even is was when the U of I told her she couldn't film on campus, so I don't have a Dunham ax to grind. Also for the record, I don't think she's a molester based on these anecdotes.

Another link to the Popehat piece. And yes, I realize that's just one lawyer's opinion, but it's a good place to start if you don't know libel laws or are unfamiliar with the Streisand Effect.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:14 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing, to me, is how many people in this thread are insisting what is and is not normal, when there are clearly people who think the exact opposite in this same thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:18 AM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


I really disagree with people who are painting the Lena Dunham-hate with such a broad brush as "sexism." I see absolutely nothing here that is surprising or out of line with the way lots of people react, say, to Dave Eggers or Cory Doctorow. Those two, and Dunham, have a peculiarly grating form of smug sanctimony that irritates people to no end. What I see is contempt for shameless self promoters of mediocre works ... not sexism.
posted by jayder at 6:22 AM on November 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


i continue to be frustrated that people with less traumatic upbringings keep insisting that this couldn't possibly be anything other that normal exploration while suggesting that those if us who see it differently are secret sexists parroting some sort of right wing line. i fully admit this is a giant nest of triggers for me, but i am sincere in my view that she behaved without boundaries with her sister that by her own telling seems at least emotionally abusive. this view isn't any less legitimate than the views of people who think others are making a big deal out of nothing.
posted by nadawi at 6:28 AM on November 6, 2014 [15 favorites]


i also think dunham gets shit she doesn't deserve by being a woman who doesn't play straight into the patriarchy, but Sara C., as you have argued in other threads about amanda palmer, this fact doesn't insulate her from all criticism.
posted by nadawi at 6:32 AM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


Readings:
  • Right-wing bloggers see Dunham as a piece of shit molester and use her book to prop up the patriarchy and tear down a feminist icon.
  • Abuse victimes see her actions as reflective of the abuse they have received and point out her actions are skeevy at best.
  • A lot of people see her book as a candid and an honest depiction of a healthy and normal childhood and sibling relations.
  • Some say it's an over-reaction and a targeted attack on Dunham.
  • Context matters and this is a hatchet job that the book fails to actually support when read in context.
  • A sexist attack on a threatening woman.
  • A criminal act to have done what she did, or a criminal act for writing about what she said she did.
There's probably a shitload of other ways to read this incident, and all are supportable to one degree or another. Problem is that to embrace one seems to disregard the others.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:44 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Dunham is gratingly sanctimonious? That's why she gets criticized? By people who are clearly 100 times more gratingly sanctimonious?

I'm not a fan of Dunham's work -- her over-sharing does absolutely nothing for me, I don't know if I would have felt differently 5 or 10 or 15 years ago -- but she seems to serve as a lightning rod mainly because she's an ordinary-looking young woman who is doing well in show business and that's incredibly rare.

So the attacks from reactionary dipshits are completely expected. The attacks from left-wing feminists are a bit more unexpected, but AFAICT they seem to arise from dissatisfaction with her as the One True Feminist Icon. Not exactly sure how Dunham landed that title, but as far as I can tell it was due to her looks. I don't see any other reason why we should be acting as if she is individually responsible for racism and privilege and a dearth of non-white characters and a bunch of other social ills.
posted by leopard at 6:56 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've cemented my opinion on Lena Dunham until a new link comes up, so really at this moment additional comments just influence my outlook on other MeFites, trite as that may seem.

Like... are we saying that she should be eternally punished for something she did as a kid? Are we saying that we have the right to constantly nitpick a famous, unrelated woman because from our worldview she doesn't deserve to be a feminist icon? Are we saying that because our life experiences have shown us the truth, others are clearly wrong? Are we saying that she should apologize for not respecting society's taboo boundaries by, well, being truthful?

Are we saying that using her trusted position as a 6-year older sister to bargain with Grace is completely healthy? Are we saying that refusing to consider that others have their own interpretation of one's account of events (in the lack of factual analysis) is not often a sign of unhealthy psychopathy? Are we saying these are clearly unlucky isolated incidents, a common cultural psychological defense of others of a group? Are we saying that having a history of making uncouth, biased remarks and not addressing implications/accusations seriously is how we want people to act?

I'm admiring the tweets where critics just call her Teflon. The tweeters have accepted that others do not get the same perception of Dunham as they have, and can continue to talk about it without getting into flamewars (hopefully).
posted by halifix at 6:59 AM on November 6, 2014


this view isn't any less legitimate than the views of people who think others are making a big deal out of nothing.

As has been noted, the Slate and Jezebel articles in the post and the Salon article in the first comment all quote experts in child sexual development and abuse saying that the activities described, while maybe good opportunities for parental guidance on personal boundaries, were well within the realm of normal child development and exploration. How legitimate are those views?
posted by edeezy at 7:02 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is all right in Lena Dunham's wheelhouse. She has total self-awareness about it. ...

It feels very, very weird to me that people who apparently know Dunham's work enough to have a dog in this particular fight don't get that she absolutely knew what she was doing when she included this material in her book.


Yeah. I am not familiar with Dunham's work myself (keep meaning to watch girls), only her public persona; but I watched her Ghomeshi interview (speaking of fucked up people) and was totally impressed by her self-awareness and intelligent analysis of her own work.

You could have the same incident with two different kids, and one would be sexual abuse and one would be normal sexual exploration.

Yes, exactly, viggorjilah. That is exactly what makes this such a moral morass: we all bring to it our own experiences, and our own damage or lack thereof. What bothers me is people stating categorically what these episodes from Dunham's childhood definitely were or definitely weren't.

A seven-year-old is old enough to know that vagina-play is transgressive/private but not that it is sexual in the way adults see it.

As to the one-year-old... the vast majority of babies this age aren't even potty-trained. Was Grace not in a diaper? Was she sitting naked in the gravel (in which case, sure, maybe she stuck some pebbles in)? Or maybe Dunham aged the scenario down a bit? Seems implausible as described.

Kevin Williamson's take on the whole thing is disgusting, and I do wish he could be sued. He goes so far as to suggest that baby Grace knew her family would come looking for the pebbles, so what does THAT say about the family? I mean come on, suggesting on the basis of this anecdote that a baby had been omg! corrupted! by the age of one is so gross.

I do think Dunham's possessiveness of her sister in the years that followed is problematic. It sounds like Dunham herself realizes it. It sounds like an unhealthy sibling dynamic, though not an uncommon one. As to her bribing her sister for experimentation: again, that could go either way. Could be benign, or borderline, or abusive. Regardless, it does seem to be something worth talking about, and I don't think she should be pilloried for the honesty that started the conversation.
posted by torticat at 7:10 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's also perfectly reasonable to say that some things kids normally do are also creepy. Children have not learned the rules of society and push boundaries to find where they are. That means they're going to do a lot of things that are Not OK. And if they learn that they're Not OK, then that's normal and things turn out fine. If they don't, things can get messed up fast.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:11 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wish people would stop using words like "criminal" and "will they be prosecuted?" to describe actions of media outlets who.are calling her a molester.

you are showing an ignorance that is so profound I am cringing for you.

defamation/libel is not a crime. it is a civil tort that she could seek civil relief for.
posted by jayder at 7:17 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


i think many viewpoints on this are legitimate, excluding the ones that say we should all stop talking about it and that the only reason people are upset is because of some deep seated anti feminist dunham hate. previous to this i found her to be interesting in that privileged overly self aware way that writers/artists from her upbringing often are. previous to this i found it eye rollingly predictable that a certain segment of white feminism would latch on to her while simultaneously pillorying people like beyonce, but i don't think she fed that in any way which i always appreciated. i don't think we have enough info to say she molested her sister, but i continue to be creeped out by her own telling of their relationship. i continue to wish people would be more careful that they aren't causing collateral damage as they rush to her defense (and the defense of their own childhood explorations).
posted by nadawi at 7:19 AM on November 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


The National Child Traumatic Stress Network's Sexual Development and Behavior in Children guide is worth a taking a look at if you missed it (it was linked in the Slate piece). It's a little hazy on what size age difference they think is worrisome (understandably so; drawing a definitive line of "6 years ok, 7 years not ok" or whatever isn't how things work). The other thing that stood out to me was the statement that typical childhood sexual play "is easily diverted when parents tell children to stop and explain privacy rules" - what about cases where parents don't intervene, as it appears the Dunhams didn't?
posted by naoko at 7:23 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have no opinion on this and I'm not sure how it's even a thing you need to have a public opinion about, but the "Streisand Effect" comments seem to be missing the mark. This person makes a show nobody watches, appears in tiny movies, and just wrote a book that created a stir. There's no Streisand effect here; this is more of a "any publicity is good publicity" situation, and that applies to most people in today's world who are A: famous for being famous, and B: that random people seem required to have a strong opinion about.
posted by selfnoise at 7:32 AM on November 6, 2014


excluding the ones that say we should all stop talking about it and that the only reason people are upset is because of some deep seated anti feminist dunham hate.

It's weird, because I feel like we could turn the tables and suggest that legitimization of Lena's childhood sexuality can be an issue of people needing to legitimate their own childhood experiences. It's hard to hear that things shouldn't have been the way that they were, or that we did or experienced things as a child that weren't ideal. It's hard to come to terms with that.

However, while we can speculate about those extremes, it sort of makes anyone a jerk to camp out too much on that and paint with a wide brush in dismissive ways. Let's talk about the issue itself without trying to be an armchair psychologist about people's deep motives in entering the conversation.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:37 AM on November 6, 2014


a show nobody watches? famous for being famous? that does not match my knowledge of her or her output at all.
posted by nadawi at 7:39 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


So has anyone other than sweetkid read the book?

Apparently not. There's also a pretty long bit about her own sexual assault in college, and the haziness around which she even understood it to be assault, that felt very similar to accounts friends have told me and was sort of terrifying in the way it unfolded. Definitely traumatizing.

I mean you can take any number of things from the book, grab them out of context and call Lena Dunham all kinds of things, and apparently people will argue about it without really knowing much about not just the book but the nature of her output in general.
posted by sweetkid at 7:52 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


This person makes a show nobody watches, appears in tiny movies, and just wrote a book that created a stir.
This is just inaccurate. Dunham and her show are very popular. And she was not famous before she wrote and directed her debut film, Tiny Furniture. ( So shes not 'famous for being famous') She got a huge book deal due to her fame and popularity. Just because you don't know much about someone does not mean they are unknown.
posted by bearette at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


cjorgensen: “There's no way to know, but there's a good chance that this would have gone no where if she hadn't engaged lawyers.”

This is a misperception about the situation, I think. I was reading about this whole kerfuffle for days before the C&D was sent. It has been a huge mess on Twitter. People were screaming about it all last week. People were asking her pointed questions in national interviews. People were demanding that she account for her actions, demanding that she say something about it, etc, and she broke down in multiple interviews about it.

Not sending a C&D would not have prevented that in any sense, clearly, since the letter happened after the whole thing blew up. There is no "Streisand effect" here. You may be right about the C&D having no legal standing – I am not a lawyer – but you're wrong about it only causing more attention to be drawn. If anything it was an afterthought.
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


“I absolutely agree that theres a lot of people who want this to just like, go away for whatever reasons and it's kind of disturbing... Pretty much, stop trying to make this isn't a thing happen.”

Look, you're basically perpetuating that by insisting over and over and over again that people are being unreasonable, while at the same time refusing to elucidate your opinion.

Like I said, Frowner has it right. This is the kind of awkward and probably-not-ideal childhood scenario that we wish had not happened the way it did; but it's also not legally-actionable child molestation. She was very eloquent about how there needs to be a space between "perfectly normal exploration" and "hideous abuse that ruins lives;" that children often do silly or wrong things, that they sometimes can be held somewhat responsible for this, but at a certain point we have to say "well, that's a thing that happened," and move on. That doesn't mean not taking it seriously; it means having a sense of proportion about what it was. And Frowner was absolutely not a knee-jerk defender of Lena Dunham. She said several times that Dunham is racist, for heaven's sake.

So – if you're worried about people trying to "make this isn't a thing happen," then what thing is it? You can pretty easily end the vagueness of the debate by just saying what you mean. Do we agree on what exactly it was? Do we disagree? Because until you say what kind of "thing" it was, you're not going to have much traction in insisting it was not not that thing.
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Right-wing bloggers see Dunham as a piece of shit molester and use her book to prop up the patriarchy and tear down a feminist icon.

No, right-wing bloggers don't care whether she actually is a "molester." They see this as an example of liberal/millennial sexual narcissism and naive self-absorbtion.

Dunham grew up in a home where dad was painting pictures that, upthread here, someone asked be labeled NSFW. And yet, those pictures were apparently, in that family's view, safe for the kids. So - in the right-wing view - of course Dunham's going to be rooting around in her toddler sister's privates. Of course she's going to be masturbating in bed as a 17-year-old next to her 10-year-old sister. Of course that sister, now, is going to insist none of this was wrong or harmful or abnormal, because in that family, there was no abnormal.

And this is the right-wing argument, which you may as well address directly: When there are no boundaries, everything is permissible, everything is "normal"; everything of this nature is "innocent childhood exploration," everyone does it - or at least anyone who grew up in this sort of environment.
posted by kgasmart at 8:35 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


You guys, just because One Side is wrong, that doesn't mean the Other Side has to be right. I am not fond of Dunham and her work; I haven't read the book, but the excerpts I've seen do read as troubling, and on issues of race and privilege she is just absolutely terrible. At the same time, a lot of her critics absolutely 100% are coming at her because she is a woman, because of her unconventional-for-the-media relationship to her body and her presentation, and because of their opinion that she stands as a figurehead for Kids/Women These Days and What's Wrong With Them. They're both awful. The only person I really feel for in the whole mess is Grace.
posted by KathrynT at 8:50 AM on November 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


[…] but you're wrong about it only causing more attention to be drawn.

Time will tell. I also had no idea the story had been gaining traction prior to the C&D, since this is what triggered my interest.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:19 AM on November 6, 2014


"Also is it just me or is this not a thing that any 1-year-old baby would ever think to do? Isn't the concept of "things can go inside other things" still not even really there until pre-school?"

"As to the one-year-old... the vast majority of babies this age aren't even potty-trained. Was Grace not in a diaper? Was she sitting naked in the gravel (in which case, sure, maybe she stuck some pebbles in)? Or maybe Dunham aged the scenario down a bit? Seems implausible as described."
Several posters in this thread have mentioned they are troubled that some want this conversation to go away. But THE WAY this conversation is playing out DOES need to go away because it is unfurling in the most unhealthy manner. Unfortunately child development, and sexual development in particular, is the type of thing that people are very prone to make confident yet inaccurate judgements on. We all went through child development, and most of us witnessed development in our siblings or offspring. But all of us have an extremely limited sample size when it comes to things like sexual development.

For example, lets look at the story about the pebbles. The assumption that a toddler wouldn't insert a foreign body is pretty easy to challenge. First of all, let's remember "one years old" represents a huge swath of developmental stages. While some 12 month olds are still struggling with fine two-finger pincer grasps, some active 23 month olds can awakward place beads on a string.

Second, we actually have pretty good data for what age kids start putting random objects into random body parts. In the US, a sample of emergency departments across the nation submit data to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System tracking injuries involving consumer products (thanks Ralph Nader!). This means we can generate a sample of kids who came to the hospital because of a foreign body insertion and ask what age they are.

The raw data is publically availible online. Now figuring the actual number of occurances of a type of injury takes some advanced statistical analysis but lets assume this sample is roughly represenative for the purposes of age when looking at a small range of ages.

Now look at kids putting things in their ear during the year 2013. Lookingat the raw data one can estimate 4 and 5 years is the peak for this type of behavior. But one year olds (children between 12 and 23 months) still stick a huge number of things in their ear! One year olds with foreign bodies number up close to 25 percent of the high number of 5 year olds who stick things in their ear.

You might argue that vaginas are different from ears, and sure enough as parents might guess, vaginal foreign bodies show up much less often than ear foreign bodies. But looking at the the data for genital area foreign bodies, they track roughly along the same lines. One and two year olds who show up to emergency departments with foreign bodies "down there" at a lower rate than 4 and 5 year olds, but it definitly happens.

I don't care about Lena Dunham and I don't care about your opinion of Lena Dunham. But even when it comes to matters of motor skills development its easy to make an inaccurate assumption. Trying to judge some individual's sexual development when the memories are based upon a school aged child's perception filtered through the veil of 20 years of time past you are probably going to make some assumptions and I'm not sure it's helping.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:45 AM on November 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


I guess I just don't understand what the "thing" we're trying to suppress is.

Nobody is accusing Lena Dunham of child molestation except some blog that has no standing to do such a thing.

So, like, how are we "trying to make LENA DUNHAM: CHILD MOLESTER" not a thing? It's... not a thing. It doesn't need random strangers on the internet to bury it or silence people.

I get that a lot of child abuse is covered up within families, and especially that those forms of covering up have a lot in common with some superficial details about people's support of Dunham here. "It's normal", support of abusers with phrasing like "She was only...", denying that anything bad could have happened because of X or Y attribute of the abuser (they're a nice person, they're too young, they're too old, whatever).

But just because one can form a sentence like "Lena Dunham is not a child abuser because this is normal behavior and she was only a child herself" doesn't mean that it follows that therefore Lena Dunham must be a molester. By literally any standard a rational person could come up with, Lena Dunham is not a child abuser.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering if the whole "can a baby really put things in her vagina?" thing is coming from some confusion (or just use of commonly-accepted-but-inaccurate casual shorthand) on Dunham's part about vaginas versus vulvas? I think even a kid with pretty minimal dexterity could wedge an object between her labia, and I could see that being incorrectly described as "inside her vagina" by anyone who isn't, like, your annoyingly pedantic high school sex ed teacher.
posted by naoko at 9:54 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


But just because one can form a sentence like "Lena Dunham is not a child abuser because this is normal behavior and she was only a child herself" doesn't mean that it follows that therefore Lena Dunham must be a molester. By literally any standard a rational person could come up with, Lena Dunham is not a child abuser.

I think pushback continues because despite what some experts say, many people don't see the activity as being okay, even if it doesn't rise to the level of child molester. There are plenty of qualified, well-educated people who would like to have that conversation. Much of this discussion is conflating common with appropriate, and I don't think that's right. Something can be common, and we can have a conversation about whether it should be.

I guess I just don't understand what the "thing" we're trying to suppress is.

If kids participate in these kinds of activities, there should be boundaries set for future behavior. It's okay to insist that we don't gloss over the fact that there are healthier sexual ways to interact with your siblings, even if we don't have to call a person a child molester. Trying to make that discussion go away by framing the other side in extreme terms or normalizing common albeit correctable behavior does seem to be a thing. The most vocal experts on this who are suggesting it's not something worth discussing further are, I think, no quite right about that.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:08 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Besides there being various degrees of sexual abuse, there are various definitions of what constitutes sexual abuse.

Here in wonderful New Zealand, there must be 'gratification' on the perpetrator's part for it to be sexual abuse against children.

But even if we weren't using such a high standard like that, I don't think there was either: any degree of malice on big sister's part, or any damage left to the younger sister. Its as much sexual abuse, as an older brother shooting his younger unarmed brother with a water pistol, is assault.

That said, I think what she did was fucking weird, and I'm wondering why the next chapter in that book wasn't about this huge parental intervention. She's all being stupid about it and tweeting "congratulations if you never did what i did when i was younger", as if what she did was just a funny quirk or something. "How cute."

But seriously, Lena...what did you expect was going to happen when you publish that shit in a book? Did you think you were going to get a Nobel for your studies in medicine and physiology? They hate you already for being a kinda successful woman. Did you think they would like you for this? Freaking celebrities and their weird expectations.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:17 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think concern about boundaries and the Dunham parents are really apropos, since we're talking about a memoir and not a deposition. We don't know to what extent the parents knew this was going on, condoned it, encouraged it, what kinds of boundaries were enforced, how they were enforced, etc.

Based on the excerpts I've read, it seems very likely that Lena got some kind of pushback about this inappropriate sexual behavior, since the entire story is being told under the rubric of weird inapporpirate shit she did with her sister when they were children. And not, like, "let me tell you about my girlfriend who is also my sister."

It also makes a lot of sense that her account wouldn't specifically address her parents' responses to this behavior in the memoir, since the stories aren't really about that aspect of it. And in fact it detracts from her "I'm so inappropriate" narrative if she takes time out to stress than her parents nipped it in the bud.

And on the off chance that her parents' roles were discussed in this part of the book, it's also likely that people like Williamson would conveniently leave that out, since the "CHILD MOLESTER" crowd relies on the idea that Lena was old enough to reason about all of this stuff and would not have required parental guidance or correction. If you frame this as "weird shit kids do and then their parents shut it down", it's hard to sell CHILD MOLESTER.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I read about half of this thread, and kept marvelling - nihil novi sub sole. I performed a search "command F" for "Anaïs Nin" and the result came back "0". Oh, but now, now, now is all that matters, and we remember nothing, unless it's happened in the past five minutes. I wonder if Lena looked back that far, because, hey, learn from the master.
posted by VikingSword at 10:29 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Adam Kotsko notices similarities between this story and the fallout from the Hollaback catcall video, referring to them both as being part of "the no-win vortex". Freddie deBoer responds, pointing out the folly of viewing such complex situations in these Manichean terms. I think deBoer has the better argument by far, though he does elide some of the complexities of the debate so he can ride his usual hobby horses.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:30 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Based on the excerpts I've read, it seems very likely that Lena got some kind of pushback about this inappropriate sexual behavior

excerpts like this one? My mother didn't bother asking why I had opened Grace's vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. i must say that i came away with the exact opposite impression - that like many in this thread her mom thought it was perfectly normal and not worth even asking about.
posted by nadawi at 10:38 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have started to notice how often politically-charged online memes open out onto a “no-win vortex.” Take the example of the cat-calling video. On the one hand, it calls attention to street harrassment, which is a very real problem. On the other hand, it was edited in a racist way in the service of a gentrification campaign. How does one respond? It seems that no matter which direction you go, someone loses — you either wind up downplaying the destructiveness of racism and gentrification or dismissing the seriousness of the atmosphere of harrassment that women have to navigate.

I just watched an interview with Lena Dunham and Jian Ghomeshi that took place a month or so ago. I suspect that watching that video and having a good conversation about it on its own merits on the internet would be nigh impossible, in light of how explosive unrelated discussions around each of them became shortly after.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:39 AM on November 6, 2014


I just watched an interview with Lena Dunham and Jian Ghomeshi that took place a month or so ago.

Hey, could you post a link to the video?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on November 6, 2014


like many in this thread her mom thought it was perfectly normal and not worth even asking about

I think there's a distinction between "perfectly normal" and "not worth even asking about," and the former doesn't imply the latter. Children's sexual behavior can be normal, but it's still important for parents who see it to say, "hey, people's private parts are private and we need to respect that."
posted by naoko at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did you think they would like you for this?

I don't think she cared very much what "they" would say, but she seemed pretty surprised by the child molester comments. I have to admit I was. I'm not offended, but I can imagine why she would be.

However, not much of her public persona or her characters is really about being likable. Like Sara C. said, she's not being adorkable or a cool girl or girl next door or anything like that.
posted by sweetkid at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Basically the "thing" here is that baby genitals give people icky feeeeelings, but no one here has any standing to call Younger Dunham a child molester, and there's no good reason for her not to write about it if it happened, so people will reiterate how "creepy" it is and how this "conversation" should not be silenced even though there's not much for most people to say other than "ick."
posted by leopard at 11:10 AM on November 6, 2014


I just watched an interview with Lena Dunham and Jian Ghomeshi that took place a month or so ago.

Hey, could you post a link to the video?


Here it is. It feels weird to watch that one knowing that neither has any idea regarding how much their boat is going to get rocked in one month's time.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:13 AM on November 6, 2014


if you think there's not much to say maybe there's something else on the internet that would interest you more than telling us how we really feel.
posted by nadawi at 11:14 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


nadawi: “i must say that i came away with the exact opposite impression - that like many in this thread her mom thought it was perfectly normal and not worth even asking about.”

One thing about Lena Dunham that people might not get – easy to miss, I guess, since we haven't read the book – is that she likely would not have put this in the book unless it were worth talking about, and she probably would not have brought it up if she believed it was "perfectly normal." Unlike sweetkid, I sadly haven't read it yet; but everything that's come out about the book (much of which has caused consternation on the right, incidentally) has indicated that it's very much about the ambiguity and difficult of some awkward situations. Her discussion of a sexual assault that she didn't realize was sexual assault at first prompted this awful sarcastic piece about her on Breitbart and some of the typical noise on the right about how leftists are always trying to redefine rape to include handshakes. She didn't think that was "perfectly normal;" but she did seem to feel that it's important for people to talk about these weird childhood and young adult life events that people experience which don't fit easily into the categories of "happy consensual sexual encounter" or "terrible evil abuse rape thing." Sometimes a sexual assault is something you shrug off for a while before realizing you were violating. Sometimes a thing that you did as a kid that kind of hung over you for years was, it turned out, not a wonderful thing but also not a life-destroyer either, just what it was: a childhood event that shaped people but that you have thankfully grown beyond.

That seems to be an intentional part of the theme of the book. As such, this anecdote isn't just a mindless overshare. It makes sense in the context of what she's talking about.

It's also worth considering that Lena's family dynamic with her sister is not what we think it is. Her sister apparently knew what was in the book before it came out. I don't think Dunham was revealing details out of turn. I felt weird about the revelation, honestly, but it entirely possible that this is stuff that they've talked about before that her sister doesn't mind people hearing about.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Honest question: is it possible that the 'Lena Dunham - CHILD MOLESTER!!' thing is an extension of the 'step up and condemn loudly, immediately, or risk being attacked' trend (sorry, not a good word but I can't think of a better one) with regards to sexual assault and harassment as we've seen recently with gamergate, Jian Gomeshi, the hollaback video?

And is it possible there's some 'This time the woman is the abuser, let's really get our pitchforks out!' thing going on as a sort of reactionary backlash against the encouragement for calling men out?

I don't think anyone's brought this up yet, apologies if I'm wrong.
posted by kitcat at 11:22 AM on November 6, 2014


Slate's parenting podcast had some doctor on to discuss this today. She basically stressed that Dunham's behaviour, particularly the kissing and the looking in her sister's vul/va/gina, was not alarming to her. She also pointed out something I hadn't considered, that Dunham must have seen people interacting with her sister's vulva all the time, when her diaper was changed.

Personally, I feel the need to be careful about interpreting things involving children and genitals as being automatically sexual. They are body parts. They can do other things, they can have other kinds of significance. And children, though they kind of talk like us and kind of dress like us, are in many ways cultural outsiders, still in the process of acquiring our ways. Add to that the fact that we have adults, who are supposed to be teaching and helping, running around full of all these strongly held, poorly examined, culturally specific, highly personal, subtle, complex, frequently fucked up ideas about sexuality that they don't really want to talk about and that they long to believe have no relevance to children's lives. It's guaranteed that lots of children will behave in ways that some people consider inappropriate, and some of them will end up hurting others (even in the absence of callousness and malice, traits some children do of course possess).

To me, what's necessary, when dealing with specific past events, is not to decide once and for all which behaviours are perfectly normal and healthy and which ones are 100% fucked up, but to determine whether or not harm was done to anyone involved. And for the future, to really educate ourselves as adults about typical child development and outcomes, to be vigilant about children's interactions with each other, and to get hands-on or at least outspoken about the need to educate children wrt sexuality, boundaries and consent from a young age, because many of our most valuable ideals don't just come naturally. To be clear, from what I've read, I wouldn't say that Lena Dunham molested her sister. But I think it's good we're all talking about this.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:23 AM on November 6, 2014 [13 favorites]


it's pretty nasty to keep quoting me and then bringing up fucked up right wing anti-feminist bullshit. i'm removing this thread from recent activity so if y'all will just leave me out of it from here on out that'd be great.
posted by nadawi at 11:32 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


sweetkid, I sadly haven't read it yet; but everything that's come out about the book (much of which has caused consternation on the right, incidentally) has indicated that it's very much about the ambiguity and difficult of some awkward situations.

Yes, very much so (hilariously or not, being the only person participating here who read the book makes me think I'm like AH LET ME CONSULT THE ANCIENT SCROLL OF LENA, PUBLISHED LO LAST MONTH).

Her discussion of a sexual assault that she didn't realize was sexual assault at first prompted this awful sarcastic piece about her on Breitbart and some of the typical noise on the right about how leftists are always trying to redefine rape to include handshakes.


ugh, I'm unsurprised. To me, the sexual assault was one of the more shocking things about the book, especially the way that she didn't realize it. Like I said previously, it matches a lot of the experiences women I've known have shared with me about assault, that what happened and "was that what I thought it was?" is a sadly common response.
posted by sweetkid at 11:39 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


to be clear the sad part is that it's so common that assault happens so frequently and that it's a normal reaction to confused, in denial, think you're misremembering, etc, and then people jump on it to say that women are lying/exaggerating.
posted by sweetkid at 11:45 AM on November 6, 2014


Nobody is accusing Lena Dunham of child molestation except some blog that has no standing to do such a thing.

I think for the most part this is true which is why I'm not sure why the rest of your comment still seems to be responding to that argument.

I think a lot of people are taking your "no no no it's totally normal " response as implying her behavior could not possibly be traumatic, which then seems to border on denial of [traumatic thing that happened to them personally]. I don't know if you're conflating "not unusual" with "no potential for harm" or not but it's an easy reading to get.

I will admit that I too wish (as Koeselitz said as well) that some of the "who says it's not a thing" commenters would put forward what kind of thing they think it might be and what it should mean to us. My premises are:

Grace Dunham really kinda does get the final word on whether harm was done. She could change her mind on her own terms or in her own time, but arguments about how her word doesn't count are actually pretty fucked up.

I have no doubt that child-on-child sexual contact *can* do harm. The same thing could be no big deal to one person but really traumatic to another, even. I have no doubt that a seven-year-old cannot be considered morally accountable. A twelve-year-old could a bit depending on what the pattern of behavior was. But if the potential victim - to borrow "potential abuse" from whoever said that - says specifically that she doesn't want the public to decide anything about this relationship on her behalf, we should stay out of it.

It would probably make more sense to talk about the parents' role than the kids' except that we don't have very much info about the Dunham parents at all and don't really think anybody is served by the public prying into that either while Grace Dunham doesn't want us to - unless they still have minor children in the house but I'm pretty sure they don't. It certainly is an opportunity to talk about how sexuality *ought* to be approached by parents.

I'm pretty familiar with Lena Dunham's work and voice in interviews - though I have only read excerpts from this book - and my reading of her is that the radical openness and self-deprecating humor essentially comes from her being extremely introspective and self doubting to the point of questioning herself whether she's a good person. I don't think it's really about "attention-seeking" beyond what any writer and filmmaker wants. So I don't really see that way she addresses her childhood self as *minimizing* the aspects that were odd or troublesome or even outright creepy. I'm guessing that a number of people here don't quite see it that way but that's just a guess.

Anyway if anybody wants to articulate which of these points they don't agree with I would sincerely appreciate it.
posted by atoxyl at 11:53 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


implying her behavior could not possibly be traumatic

Those people would not be demonstrating good reading comprehension skills, and I think it's not particularly interesting to speculate what such illiterate churls must be assuming based on their half-aware gleanings of anything I've written in this thread.

I'm absolutely not one of the people in this thread who is talking about Dunham's account as "totally normal". I'm kind of fascinated by the fact that you were able to type several paragraphs after insinuating that this is my stance.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm absolutely not one of the people in this thread who is talking about Dunham's account as "totally normal".

Well, you called it "completely normal childhood sexual exploration", so technically you're correct?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:38 PM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


That's the best kind of correct.
posted by Justinian at 12:49 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: So, like, how are we "trying to make LENA DUNHAM: CHILD MOLESTER" not a thing? It's... not a thing. It doesn't need random strangers on the internet to bury it or silence people.

First of all, you yourself seemed to be one of the people who was trying to crap on that point and make it not a thing, and do that exact burying. That is exactly what you were doing up thread.

Secondly, i think it's pretty annoying that the position of "I don't think she's a horrible child molester or abuser, but i don't think what she did is normal, acceptable, or OK" is getting COMPLETELY lost in the shuffle. Either it's horrible sexual assault and she's a molester and you're siding with the terrible right wing sites, or it's fine and this is all a kerfuffle that needs to go away.

Is there just no room for any nuance here, or anyone whose uncomfortable with it but doesn't think this is some super awful thing? I don't think charges need to be pressed or anything, i just think she's not that great of a person for capitalizing on this and that it's not something OK or to be proud of or some brave thing to share.

I mean, maybe i should have clarified my position earlier, but there really does seem to be a strong push even in this thread to split it in to two distinct teams with no outliers.
posted by emptythought at 12:57 PM on November 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think that may just be the default way people start trying to work through complicated problems--reduce the problem to a dialectic and go to town arguing for one of the two sides we made up to simplify the problem. Maybe these kinds of conflicts are partly a biproduct of how people reason through difficult problems.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:06 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, maybe i should have clarified my position earlier, but there really does seem to be a strong push even in this thread to split it in to two distinct teams with no outliers.

I actually think this is a pretty unfair assessment of most people in the thread.
posted by atoxyl at 1:08 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alyssa Rosenberg: What Lena Dunham has that the rest of us deserve
posted by tonycpsu at 1:09 PM on November 6, 2014


Atoxyl: Grace Dunham really kinda does get the final word on whether harm was done.

Asking the victim isn't really how things are done, considering the innumerable victims of domestic violence often side with their attacker. (See Ray/Janay Rice, for instance.)

See also: kidnapping, sexual assault, etc.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


To my mind, the reason Grace Dunham gets the final word is precisely because there's just not much available, narrative-wise, except what she and Lena Dunham say. If there were CPS reports or narratives from neighbors or other accusations against Lena Dunham or even a public pattern of behavior on Grace Dunham's part that suggested trauma, then it seems like there would be more of an open question. But the most reliable, most worthy narrative in the present circumstance is that of the potential victim. The question here isn't so much "how can we arrive at the objective truth about this situation" but "given the limits on what can be known and given the limits on what is morally acceptable to pursue, what means do we have to think this through?" That is, I don't think it's morally defensible to, for example, insist that Grace Dunham should be hauled in for questioning or take a polygraph or in some other way "prove" that her narrative of events is "true". We have a limited amount of knowledge.

The difference between this situation and many other criminal or abusive situations are several: first, we don't have anyone coming forward with a clear narrative naming abuse - not the cops, not Grace Dunham, not a neighbor who was uneasy with what she saw about the family, not a teacher, etc, so the whole story depends on a David Sedaris-like, maybe-it's-literally-true-maybe-I'm-just-being-squicky memoir; second, we're talking about something that is poorly understood and around which there is no consensus even among people of similar values - what "normal" child sexual behavior is versus what is abnormal versus what is abusive; third, we don't have someone saying that harm was done and in fact the presumed victim is specifically saying that harm was not done.

There could be many reasons why someone might say "Grace Dunham's narrative about her experience is clearly the product of trauma or coercion and she was obviously harmed" or "based on these other factors, no matter how Grace and Lena Dunham characterize their interactions, they were clearly abnormal and abusive". But it doesn't seem like people have those reasons in this particular instance. That's not to say that no one could ever have those reasons, but I think it takes something stronger than what is currently known to justify trumping Grace Dunham's narrative of her own experience.

Absent some compelling reason to challenge Grace Dunham's narrative, it seems to me that she probably should have the final word.
posted by Frowner at 1:56 PM on November 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


Grace Dunham really kinda does get the final word on whether harm was done. She could change her mind on her own terms or in her own time, but arguments about how her word doesn't count are actually pretty fucked up.

This is absolutely true, and yet has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not actions towards her were appropriate or inappropriate. In the same book, Lena didn't come to terms with her own rape until much later, and her roommate rightly called it what it was, before Lena knew how to think appropriately about it. Ergo, feelings about an event are often very different than the actual moral weight of the event.

So, she gets to say whether or not she was harmed, but as far as I can tell, the discussion is whether or not certain actions towards her were appropriate or inappropriate, not whether or not she perceives harm. We can address those questions based on some of the information that we have been given in the narrative, which is actually pretty direct in places and unambiguous.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


But the thing of this is that there is no way to have a big media debate about all of this while somehow avoiding making Grace Dunham deal with it, which is why I'm uncomfortable with a lot of the strong statements on this. Saying "despite how you feel about your experience, I find what your sister did creepy and inappropriate" is one thing, and pretty much the consequence of having any kind of media presence; saying "despite how you feel about your experience, I think you were sexually abused and your sister is a child molester" - that's a pretty strong norming statement and one that, I think, would be pretty painful and stressful to hear repeated all over the media.

I think there are lots of circumstances where situations are more clear-cut, there's more memory/narrative/etc available, there's less ambiguity in terms of the responsibility of the people involved....The trouble is, it seems to me that when you're dealing with something that happened years ago and involved people whose moral culpability and developmental status at the time are unclear, it is difficult to think about what happened without making how the people involved feel about it a large part of the thinking. If someone is a child and they do something that would be incontrovertibly morally wrong if an adult with full cognizance did it, but then we don't know how the child was feeling or thinking and no one feels that they were harmed by the child's actions...it seems...I don't know, somehow off the trail to get very involved in assessing whether the child was blameworthy and making statements about how the now-adults involved should feel about things and react.
posted by Frowner at 2:20 PM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


And this is the right-wing argument, which you may as well address directly: When there are no boundaries, everything is permissible, everything is "normal"; everything of this nature is "innocent childhood exploration," everyone does it - or at least anyone who grew up in this sort of environment.

Dunham certainly didn't do much to dispel this impression with her response ... "This was on the spectrum of things that I did." Huh? Is she stupid? How is "this is a thing that I did" a defense to "you sexually abused your sister"?
posted by jayder at 2:23 PM on November 6, 2014


(That is, I don't think very many people are disagreeing that the whole situation seems disturbing and inappropriate; I feel that the debate seems to be about who gets to name what happened and whether what happened should result in Lena Dunham herself being in some degree morally culpable for her actions as a child. When it comes down to who gets to name things and who is culpable, I am just at a loss as to how to evaluate that without at least thinking about whether anyone has been harmed.)
posted by Frowner at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


jayder: “Dunham certainly didn't do much to dispel this impression with her response ... ‘This was on the spectrum of things that I did.’”

So what did you think of the rest of the book?
posted by koeselitz at 2:28 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: It strikes me that there's not much ground to tread here beyond what Frowner said above. That comment pretty much encapsulated the sane approach to this issue, I think.

While I'm generally sympathetic to many of the other points you've made in this thread, I don't think it helps a difficult discussion to characterize people who have different reactions than yours as insane, especially when some of them are sharing extremely difficult personal experiences that helped to shape those reactions.
posted by Copronymus at 2:38 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


(That is, I don't think very many people are disagreeing that the whole situation seems disturbing and inappropriate; I feel that the debate seems to be about who gets to name what happened and whether what happened should result in Lena Dunham herself being in some degree morally culpable for her actions as a child. When it comes down to who gets to name things and who is culpable, I am just at a loss as to how to evaluate that without at least thinking about whether anyone has been harmed.)

It really is difficult. At the end of the day, I wonder if some of what drives this isn't necessarily a desire to figure out the moral calculus, but being grated by the somewhat neutral presentation and subsequent defense of the narrative, which was presented and defended as being morally untouchable. That doesn't seem quite right, so in response to that, we work with the few facts that are given.

Frustration comes with trying to figure out how, although we are pretty sure we shouldn't feel nothing about this situation, we also can't quite get enough pieces together to come to a consensus about it. It leaves a burr in my boot, and I think it does for most people, and it's really difficult to not want to try and shake it out a bit better rather than giving it a free pass.

It's like when someone goes missing. You don't just up and go, Oh, they are probably just on vacation, I guess I won't be worrying about it. You have enough information to be concerned, and then you work with what details you have been given to try and discern if there really is a reason to be worried.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:38 PM on November 6, 2014


So what did you think of the rest of the book?

What did you?

Taking this to some weird place where anyone who is going to discuss the quotes at all has an invalid opinion if they haven't read it is incredibly pointless. If that's where we're going here, they should just delete the damn post and make everyone go buy a copy of the book and let someone else make another one in a week.

Has anyone come forward to say these quotes are grossly out of context or misrepresenting the entire story or something? Or is this just some little snark bomb.
posted by emptythought at 2:50 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Asking the victim isn't really how things are done, considering the innumerable victims of domestic violence often side with their attacker. (See Ray/Janay Rice, for instance.)

Well first off I think there are some real problems with the way we (many of us) treat people like Janay Rice. I do think there are situations where we can't let the victim have the final/only say. If they are still in harm's way and simultaneously under coercion or in a position of dependency such that their *only real option* is to take the side of the perpetrator, what can we do but try to remove them from that situation and take it from there? Or if there are more potential but unconfirmed/not yet victims, then their safety is of course a priority. Or if we decide that certain acts are just not acceptable and should always be punished, well okay. You don't get out of a murder because the victim's family forgives you. As you might guess outside of a handful of exigent circumstances I am not fond of the concept of doing things for someone's "own good," though.

So - is there any reason to think Lena Dunham is a threat to children now, let alone her adult sister? Or I guess that the family parenting style will continue to be a problem now that the children are grown up? Yes Grace Dunham might be in a position where it would be hard for her to confront family members but she has her whole life to come to grips with that if it's something she wants to do - making it a thing now has to be the *more* traumatic option. And I don't *think* many here are arguing that anyone needs to be held fully legally responsible given the context, so we're kind of back to asking what is the appropriate way for someone to address such things in their own history.
posted by atoxyl at 3:52 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


is there any reason to think Lena Dunham is a threat to children now

well I don't know, maybe in a "well I did that so it's okay if my kids do it" sort of way at some point but that's preeeeety speculative
posted by atoxyl at 3:57 PM on November 6, 2014


This fiasco really makes me wonder: is the genre of the confessional now dead? Nobody would be interested in my life, but were I worthy of attention, if I published a Confessions like Augustine or Rousseau, I'd have to contend with the onslaught of the internet's puritanical (and yes! If you are really all up in fucking arms about Dunham's actions, you should ask yourself how puritanical you really are! How Victorian!) sexuality police.

If we're really honest with ourselves, none of us are innocent of some sexual peccadillo that might cause such an uproar as this one. I don't mean: none of us are not rapists. I mean: all of us are twisted in one way or another. And if you say: NO! I'm the pure, untwisted one, then that's my cue that you're more fucked up than the rest of us. Nobody is more terrifying than those who call themselves saints.

Let us make our Confessions without lighting up torches and raising pitchforks. Please! Otherwise we'll never learn to see that others are, like us, wretched and gnarly, twisted knots of tortured souls. By which I mean: normal people.
posted by dis_integration at 4:29 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's puritanical to say that I have a problem with the idea of what she did being seen as normal??

What happened to this place? What happened to being anti rape culture?

Notice how the people with direct experience of this type of abuse are not rushing to call her a child molester? They are simply stating that some of her actions are not normal child exploration and that framing it that way silences people further from coming forward.

It is the people who think of it as normal that are accusing the rest of us with direct experience of being right wing, anti feminist, puritanical women haters.

I am not perfect. I am twisted to fuck all. But Jesus maybe you could have some sympathy or at least see the viewpoint that some of her actions can be seen as questionable.

It is completely possible to say she shouldn't be hounded by it but also she and people should look at themselves and consider deeply what impression this gives to people who want to come forth about their abuse.

I thought maybe at least this place could be a place where we could as a society start the discussion of child abuse. But apparently I am just a puritanical prude for having problems with masturbating in the same bed as your sister.
posted by kanata at 4:52 PM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


me: “the sane approach to this issue”

Copronymous: “While I'm generally sympathetic to many of the other points you've made in this thread, I don't think it helps a difficult discussion to characterize people who have different reactions than yours as insane, especially when some of them are sharing extremely difficult personal experiences that helped to shape those reactions.”

Sigh. Well, yes. I don't think anyone here is "insane," or whatever – and if they are, it's not something that should be demonized anyhow by any kind of normalization of neurotypicality that values something called "sanity" over something called "insanity." I should probably get out of the bad habit of using the word "sane" to mean "reasonable." I apologize for any offense.

kanata: “I thought maybe at least this place could be a place where we could as a society start the discussion of child abuse. But apparently I am just a puritanical prude for having problems with masturbating in the same bed as your sister.”

Sorry, but Sara C. is right – these things don't follow on each other. One can think that masturbating in the same bed as your sister is a bad thing – I think (hope?) we'd probably all, were we parents, tell our kids to stop that right away if we saw them doing it. (I am frankly surprised and maybe a little insulted that you think we think that's a good thing.) The issue is – does a writer confessing in a book that she did such a thing many years ago when she was a child qualify her for the internet pillory?

emptythought: “Taking this to some weird place where anyone who is going to discuss the quotes at all has an invalid opinion if they haven't read it is incredibly pointless. If that's where we're going here, they should just delete the damn post and make everyone go buy a copy of the book and let someone else make another one in a week. Has anyone come forward to say these quotes are grossly out of context or misrepresenting the entire story or something? Or is this just some little snark bomb.”

Yes. sweetkid has done so. I have done so repeatedly, even just based on the quotes we have. jayder was obviously misreading them, in a blatantly insulting and ridiculous way; "tee hee aren't I cute?" – that was supposed to be a characterization of the tone of the book, and I'm sorry, but that frankly is a weirdly gendered way to attack a book that was actually written serious by a grown adult woman who wasn't attempting to be funny or adorable. In the last comment jayder made, they indicated that Lena Dunham's "defense" of what happened was "it was on the spectrum of things that I did." But that's clearly and flatly a misreading of the passage! That's Dunham's explanation of her mother's reaction. And her mother's reaction isn't some grand justification. If her mother's reaction was an obviously justified reason to believe everything was normal then (as I said above) Dunham would not have included this anecdote in her book.

Look, it's easy to mischaracterize things. The details Lena Dunham has given of the event itself are not in dispute. But a lot of people in this thread, like jayder, have taken those details to incredibly far lengths, basically assuming that these excerpts represent the book as a whole, and that she didn't write a whole bunch of other contextual stuff around them discussing why she was bringing it up or giving context or anything like that.

It's just nonsense to paint this as a girl writing crap from her youth to be cute. It's insulting. It's flatly false. And, yes, it's a mischaracterization of what was written, even solely on the basis of the excerpts we're looking at here.
posted by koeselitz at 5:14 PM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I mean: we can have a discussion about the extracts themselves. But unless someone has actually read the book and has some new context to introduce, maybe can people refrain from mischaracterizing those extracts and making them sound a lot more awful and weird than they actually are?
posted by koeselitz at 5:16 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


kanata is 100% correct, people here and elsewhere are being very careless about some of the things they're saying in their attempts to defend Lena Dunham. Regardless of what happened in the Dunham situation, some of the statements people have made in her defense have really trivialized things that others have experienced as child sexual abuse. I don't care about this brouhaha at all but I am appalled at some of the messages people are sending to survivors of abuse without thinking about the implications of what they're saying. It's entirely possible to argue that Dunham is not by any description a child molester, that people are out to smear her, and that we need to do a better job talking about the way that children experience their bodies and sexual play without saying things that make survivors of abuse feel like their experiences are being minimized and dismissed.
posted by dialetheia at 5:20 PM on November 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yes. sweetkid has done so. I have done so repeatedly, even just based on the quotes we have. jayder was obviously misreading them, in a blatantly insulting and ridiculous way; "tee hee aren't I cute?" – that was supposed to be a characterization of the tone of the book, and I'm sorry, but that frankly is a weirdly gendered way to attack a book that was actually written serious by a grown adult woman who wasn't attempting to be funny or adorable. In the last comment jayder made, they indicated that Lena Dunham's "defense" of what happened was "it was on the spectrum of things that I did." But that's clearly and flatly a misreading of the passage! That's Dunham's explanation of her mother's reaction. And her mother's reaction isn't some grand justification. If her mother's reaction was an obviously justified reason to believe everything was normal then (as I said above) Dunham would not have included this anecdote in her book.

Agreed with all of this, and yes, having read the book she was not trying to be cute. Also yeah i think in context of the book and her other work the passages make sense, and she put them in there not because it's a book about a normal girl's normal life, but because those are things about herself and her personal life she wanted to explore and reveal, because that is really the main theme of her work so far.

Other topics she includes are her really close relationship with her father, her own sexual assault as I've mentioned above, and her mother's series of nude self portraits that she did in the 1970s. I'm sure if I pulled bits of them out of context we could find more family dysfunction/possible crimes.

It's weird to pore over these few quotes from the book and read lots of interpretations of them and create the really heated narrative some have here. You could have read the book in all that time. It took me like half a day.
posted by sweetkid at 5:48 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


kanata: “It's puritanical to say that I have a problem with the idea of what she did being seen as normal??”

Who said that it was? dis_integration didn't. Are you "all up in arms" about Lena Dunham, asking for her to be attacked? I don't think so.

dis_integration actually made a very good point – ironically, it was in many ways the same point you seem to be trying to make. It's good that Lena Dunham brought this up. I think she wanted people to talk about it, to think about what child sexual experiences mean, because there are some important lines to be drawn, and because people who are victims of child sexual abuse deserve to have a chance to get their heads around what that means instead of being smothered in a blanket of weird, Victorian taboo.
posted by koeselitz at 5:49 PM on November 6, 2014


What. Why... why is this still a thing?

ffffffff ok, I've just destroyed a food container reading these newer comments again.

It's saddening that Beyonce is subject to much harsher criticism than Lena. We get that. I don't think anyone in MeFi is denying this. We know there's often a rift between white and black feminists, and how such celebrities are treated by the media.

If kids participate in these kinds of activities, there should be boundaries set for future behavior.
Observational remark: there's been some discussion of her parents here, but it boggles me how much focus is on Lena instead.

But seriously, Lena...what did you expect was going to happen when you publish that shit in a book? [...] Freaking celebrities and their weird expectations.
It's your fault you didn't remember to keep up your guard at all times. You should have expected your nude leaks/massive non-contextual pushback for a small action, and that totally is a valid argument against the body of your work. Being angry is ALL YOUR FAULT.

Dunham certainly didn't do much to dispel this impression with her response ... "This was on the spectrum of things that I did." Huh? Is she stupid? How is "this is a thing that I did" a defense to "you sexually abused your sister"?
You are arguing that Lena is pre-emptively defending herself in a book against allegations people level at her long after the book is published. I wish I was that far-sighted. But perhaps I should learn from koeselitz's comment and try to identify and remember willful misreaders, and not be one of them.

It's like when someone goes missing. You don't just up and go, Oh, they are probably just on vacation, I guess I won't be worrying about it. You have enough information to be concerned, and then you work with what details you have been given to try and discern if there really is a reason to be worried.
Are you saying that Lena Dunham, if we don't take action right now, is going to directly put people in danger? Is she going to abuse Grace Dunham? This just makes me sick.

And one general observation: it is a vast difference in scenarios between having direct experience with unrepentant abusers, and listening to a brief retelling of something decades ago. Abuse really, really sucks, and I'm glad people have felt comfortable discussing it, because I've definitely become more aware of similarities between the potential non-abusive range of what children get up to and malicious abuse.

If I come back into this thread, it's as an angry person who has had to buy a book to support his arguments, or as an angry person who has bought a book and had his opinion destroyed. Otherwise I have nothing factual to bring here other than addressing egregious remarks, and I really, really hate doing that.
posted by halifix at 8:44 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Are you saying that Lena Dunham, if we don't take action right now, is going to directly put people in danger? Is she going to abuse Grace Dunham? This just makes me sick.

No, not at all. Are you willfully stretching the analogy to create outrage? Most people here are being pretty reasonable in their discussion. The analogy had to do with how we sometimes work with what we have to determine if there is a reason to be concerned or not when you start with limited information. That's it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:06 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's any clarity to be had. I know people who've read the book and feel events have been taken out of context, but I also know people who've read the book and been as troubled as those who've only read the excerpts. So I guess if I come across it at the library, perhaps I'd pick it up, but right now my booklist's too long and life's too short.
posted by rewil at 12:59 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's any clarity to be had. I know people who've read the book and feel events have been taken out of context, but I also know people who've read the book and been as troubled as those who've only read the excerpts

The idea that reading primary sources becomes less important when secondary accounts differ seems about as wrong as it's possible to get. It seems like a profound internalisation of the odd modern perception that no opinion or interpretation is more accurate or appropriate than any other. If that were the case, there'd really be no point in talking about anything very much.
posted by howfar at 3:30 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I read part of the book.

I admit to having a love/hate relationship with Lena Dunham -- yes, she is full and smell of privilege; yes, she had opportunities that might not have been extended to others...but once she got those opportunities, she worked her ass off. I respected her work ethic. I could sort of excuse the overwhelming number of white people in Girls because she doesn't seem to travel in a racially diverse crowd, and I kept hoping for some glimmer of self-awareness about the subservient roles in which she cast Blacks and Asians.

On the other hand, her ironic hipster racism bothered me, as did her enabling of racism in her staff. At least Rookie had the good sense to distance themselves from Arfin after the tweet about Precious.

So I came to the book with a bias against her.

When I got to the stuff about her treatment of Grace, I put the book down and returned it to the library. It wasn't triggering per se, but (a) I personally found it upsetting, and (b) I was angry with the blithe tone she used to discuss her lack of boundaries with her sister. I understand many of the arguments Roxane Gay (who I generally like and respect) has used to defend her, but just because her legal team and her sister didn't have a problem with those anecdotes seeing publication doesn't mean that I had to roll over and deal with it.

One of my Twitter friends said that she saw the passages in question as a Hannah Horvath-esque "ain't I a stinker?" comment. If Lena was just talking about her life, that would be one thing, but discussing what could be described as abusive behavior towards her sister without any self-reflection or sense of shame just bothered me.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:19 AM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I also know people who've read the book and been as troubled as those who've only read the excerpts

That was a really good read. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:43 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The idea that reading primary sources becomes less important when secondary accounts differ seems about as wrong as it's possible to get.

Which is why I said if it was at the library and I was still interested, I might pick it up. But I don't feel the need to provide financial support by buying my own copy -- just in the interests of basic self-care if nothing else.
posted by rewil at 10:06 AM on November 7, 2014


dis_integration: If we're really honest with ourselves, none of us are innocent of some sexual peccadillo that might cause such an uproar as this one. I don't mean: none of us are not rapists. I mean: all of us are twisted in one way or another. And if you say: NO! I'm the pure, untwisted one, then that's my cue that you're more fucked up than the rest of us. Nobody is more terrifying than those who call themselves saints.

Jesus, people are REALLY bending over backwards to how-dare-you on this one. Everyone has done some shitty things, so you're a hypocrite if you say anything is well... asshole logic. Rapists and molesters* use this kind of logic to tell themselves "everyone is like me". It's the crappiest, most reaching shield for bad behavior.

No one is saying they're pure, they're just saying they haven't done anything like this and they have an issue with it.

And no, i don't think most people have some sexual peccadillo like this. If we suddenly had access to everything everyone had ever done, it would only be of use if you were just trying to create some fight that could never be won in which you shit on everyone. "Well you can't talk about sexual assault because you had drunk sex with someone in college and that's rape even if you were both fine with it later so THERE!" is where this kind of stupidity goes.

Just, no. Stop. The snake has eaten it's own tail on the absurd levels of over-pushback here if this is where the ball is landing.


*and for fucks sake, i'm not saying she is one necessarily
posted by emptythought at 2:33 PM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


emptythought: “Jesus, people are REALLY bending over backwards to how-dare-you on this one. Everyone has done some shitty things, so you're a hypocrite if you say anything is well... asshole logic. Rapists and molesters* use this kind of logic to tell themselves ‘everyone is like me”. It's the crappiest, most reaching shield for bad behavior.”

Geez. Seriously, I'm sorry, but there is going to be pushback when you say or imply that somebody is guilty of abuse for doing something that was, from every indication we have, not abuse. And I guess you're saying "fine, it wasn't abuse, but it's okay to talk about abuse, right?" Yes, that's fine – as long as we're clear that what happened here, as it was described, was not abuse.

And yes, that is very important, because a lot of us do have things like this that happened to us, in one way or another, when we were young. Yes, I'm aware that this didn't happen to everyone, but many people have sexual experience as a child that aren't rosy or simple or obvious.

We really, really need to get better about not attacking people for talking about things like this. That's all we're saying: Lena Dunham has done nothing wrong here, in this instance.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, not at all. Are you willfully stretching the analogy to create outrage? Most people here are being pretty reasonable in their discussion. The analogy had to do with how we sometimes work with what we have to determine if there is a reason to be concerned or not when you start with limited information. That's it.

So I've calmed down a bit now since last week. You can have all the opinions on Lena you want, and I think we've hashed through all of them. My annoyance then was from the continuing of this discussion when we haven't really gotten many new sources, and yet continuing on the same topic; about halfway through the existing comments, we stopped covering related articles and started comparing it to unrelated situations. On reflection, I was confusing my annoyance at the more inflammatory comments here with my general feeling about the thread. People can discuss as long as they want while respecting existing facts, and have been doing so. I really shouldn't have been so annoyed at the discussion. No one on MeFi is conducting a smear campaign like Truth Revolt is. My own comments have a lot of pointed statements, and they seem so out there that I feel others didn't want to discuss what was obviously ignoring social conduct.

I definitely overreacted back there. Sorry.
posted by halifix at 1:41 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


1. I've been thinking about whether a one off incident in childhood is sexually abusive, and what is normal.

If I was making an analogy about the incident when she was 7, it'd be to compare it to childhood acts of violence, and where that lies on the spectrum of abuse.

Kids often ARE violent. Scientific curiosity says, what happens if I bite or hit someone really hard? lets find out! My sister weaned herself early after getting her first two teeth, and biting my mother so hard the milk stopped.
If we're halfway decent adults, parents and caregivers, we train that out of kids. Repeatedly. Until they get it.
Most kids have been violent, without them being abusers, then or now.

So, for example, if she'd hit her sister with a stick? Or made some other overture of excessive violence, that wouldn't be ok. But it would still be within the normal bounds of childhood. Not ok, but... really normal.
If she did it repeatedly, menaced her sibling, escalated so that someone was hurt, that could take it out of normal childhood activity, and into abusive activity. Children can be both physically and sexually abusive to other children, but they are both on a continuum of normal activity.
We have no idea if her mother DID have a conversation afterwards, or reinforced saying we leave other peoples private parts alone - that is generally the appropriate action in that case. Not making a big fuss, but just - This Is Not What We Do.

(This seems like such a heated topic, that before anyone makes any judgements about me, I was notoriously mild mannered and non-violent as a child, and unfortunately got to be the victim pretty much every time any little psychodramas of childhood violence played out).


2. Technical ability of a 1 year old to 'insert something' etc
Going by the hand-eye coordination I've seen in some 18 month olds I'd say yes, entirely plausible. A few tentative google searches on 'foreign object' insertion confirms it. :P

I carefully peeled and stuck more than 200 bandaids on a bathroom wall, up to standing height, before I could even walk.


3. Masturbating as a Teenager
Finally, I am also utterly unsurprised that a teenager would masturbate if they thought everyone else around them was asleep. It's so far down the list of bad teenage sex-related judgement calls that it's barely even qualifying. Oy.


I mean, have you seen some of the surveys on how many adults have masturbated at work? (Which I'm inclined to believe).


My overall conclusion on all points is extreme sympathy for parents and caregivers. This stuff is haaard, and kind of 'Nope!' inducing.
posted by Elysum at 5:30 AM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


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