Lena Dunham is not that kind of girl

Lena Dunham at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Photo under  Creative Commons by David Shankbone
Lena Dunham at the Tribeca Film Festival. Photo under Creative Commons by David Shankbone

In case you have not heard what everyone is raving about, news is that writer-actress Lena Dunham may be a sexual predator. The Girls actress is being criticized for an excerpt she made in her new memoir, Not That Kind of Girl.

Here are the recounts from her memoir, “As [Grace] 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 to do woo a small suburban girl I was trying.” “One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. 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.”

Now an array of publications like the National Review, Daily Caller, and Truth Revolt are lashing out on Dunham with headlines like “Lena Dunham Describes Sexually Abusing Her Little Sister” and “Pathetic Privilege.”

So the question remains, is Lena Dunham a sexual predator? Or, more accurately fitting to some of these right-wing publications’ accusations, a child predator to her sister?

The answer is no, she is no sexual predator or child molester. While Dunham’s story clearly proposes a question of “normal” child behavior, especially when it comes to sexual curiosity, whether or not this is abusive behavior drives me to take a look at all the facts.

First being, Lena Dunham’s age. As a seven-year-old female, being sexually curious is actually not uncommon, despite what many of the conservatives who wrote about Dunham would like to think about children.

Amy Lang, a parenting and sexual health expert, responded to the backlashes on Lena in an article on Salon.com, “First of all, it’s totally normal for kids to be curious about each other’s private parts and the fact that she checked out her sister’s vulva — not vagina, that’s inside and hard to see — is completely typical behavior,” says Lang. She then goes on to say that in response to Dunham bribing her sister for her attention, no – bribing is never okay, especially for sexual behavior. She adds, “Any kind of kid sexual behavior can move from mere curiosity and play to becoming more concerning and more adult-like and sexualized. It seems from her story, it didn’t move much beyond practicing kissing — a totally typical seven-year-old girl behavior — and bribing. Siblings bribe each other to do all kinds of things, good, bad or ugly.”

It does not seem like a fair argument to accuse a seven year old child of being a sexual abuser, nor is a single episode of sexual curiosity enough to claim someone a “predator.”

But that does not stop the right-wing circles from writing a headline as bold as they did.

“The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn’t just LOL—it’s really f–king upsetting and disgusting,” Dunham wrote on her Twitter page Saturday.

Samantha Rodman responded on SheKnows.com from a psychologist point of view. “As a clinical psychologist and a mom of three, I feel it is so important to understand what constitutes sexual abuse and what is normal childhood behavior.” Rodman then reiterates that, although her choice of words was unfortunate, “it does not indicate that her behavior was abusive.”

While Dunham’s child molester analogy was not a fortunate one, she did release an apology to Time for the insensitivity of her word choice.

“I am dismayed over the recent interpretation of events described in my book Not That Kind of Girl. First and foremost, I want to be very clear that I do not condone any kind of abuse under any circumstances. Childhood sexual abuse is a life-shattering event for so many, and I have been vocal about the rights of survivors. If the situations described in my book have been painful or triggering for people to read, I am sorry, as that was never my intention. I am also aware that the comic use of the term ‘sexual predator’ was insensitive, and I’m sorry for that as well. As for my sibling, Grace, she is my best friend, and anything I have written about her has been published with her approval.”

That brings light to the so-called “victim” of these sexual abuse accusations, Grace Dunham. What exactly does she have to say?

On Monday, Grace wrote on her Twitter page, “Heteronormativity deems certain behaviours harmful, and others ‘normal’; the state and media are always invested in maintaining that. As a queer person: i’m committed to people narrating their own experiences, determining for themselves what has and has not been harmful. And, 2day, like every other day, is a good day to think about how we police the sexualities of young women, queer, and trans people.”

These are the facts. A woman is recalling her own experiences through personal narrative. She is describing a curiosity that is not uncommon in the range of sexual exploration, and the overreaction to Dunham’s experiences only shows the sexual shame our culture holds in regards to early sexual development, or any sexual conversation at all really.

“I told a story about being a weird seven year old. I bet you have some too, old men, that I’d rather not hear. And yes, this is a rage spiral,” says Dunham on her Twitter page.

Instead of accusing Lena Dunham of being a sexual predator, maybe a more relevant message is to be gained. As a society, we should stop categorizing sex as taboo conversation for children, and thinking that a child is not going to have sexual urgencies is just ignorant. Giving a child the proper resources and conversation can help avoid this behavior that may bite them in the ass twenty-one years later.

So, while there is a certain wrong behavior found in Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, it does not mean that her behavior makes her a sexual abuser.

*The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication.