Lena Dunham has recently been dragged into some hot water over passages from her memoir, which describe experiments with her younger sister. Some have gone so far as to accuse the actress of sexually abusing her sister.
There’s just something so twisted about this whole situation. A columnist for conservative news magazine National Review, Kevin D. Williamson, and a writer for conservative political website Truth Revolt, Bradford Thomas, are accusing Lena Dunham of sexually abusing her younger sister, Grace. These accusations have sprouted from several passages in Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl, describing her curiosity as a child.
In one passage, Dunham writes: “‘Do we all have uteruses?’ I asked my mother when I was seven. ‘Yes,’ she told me. ‘We’re born with them, and with all our eggs, but they start out very small. And they aren’t ready to make babies until we’re older.'”
“I look at my sister, now a slim, tough one-year-old, and at her tiny belly. I imagined her eggs inside her, like the sack of spider eggs in Charlotte’s Web, and her uterus, the size of a thimble. ‘Does her vagina look like mine?’ ‘I guess so,’ my mother said. ‘Just smaller.’ One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me,” Lena wrote. “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,” the actress continued. “This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just went 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.”
In a different passage, Dunham describes her experiments as her sister Grace was getting older: “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. 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 wanted, beyond affection, was to feel that she needed me, that she was helpless without her big sister leading her through the world.”
The accusations are gaining quite a bit of momentum on social media, with many users split between defending Dunham and perpetuating the claims. The actress herself has responded to the news, calling them “f***ing upsetting and disgusting” on Twitter on Saturday, but many people are persistently accusing her of molestation. Consequently, Dunham has cancelled several dates of her European book tour.
Now, let’s break this down, shall we? Dunham was only 7 years old at the time, filled with curiosity, not sexual lust. What adults are plastering across these incidents is underlined by our own view of sexuality and sexual organs, not how a little child perceives either. A child has no understanding of sexuality — at least not in the same capacity as an adult — so to accuse Dunham of molesting her sister at an age when she would not even be able to grasp the concept is ludicrous. The actress was clearly describing an innocent act — trying to understand her body.
As to the passage describing the bribery for kisses and comparison to a sexual predator, Dunham was obviously pointing out her own innocence as a child. She was looking for closeness with her sister, and kissing was probably something she observed in adults as a form of intimacy, without realizing it carried sexual connotations. The major difference that needs to be noted is that a child is not aware that certain acts are sexual; they are just trying things out and mimicking the actions of grown-ups. A sexual predator, on the other hand, is fully aware of these inherent qualities and consciously acts out of that knowledge.
Child molestation is described as a form of abuse executed for the sexual gratification of an adult or, at least, an adolescent. This does not apply to any passages Dunham has included in her memoir, since she does not imply any awareness of sexual properties of her acts, nor would she be in possession of such awareness at a young age. Such accusations belittle the suffering of individuals who have actually been victims of child molestation and highlight a very skewed public view of sexuality.
We need to lay off Lena Dunham, please and thank you. This negative energy should be shifted elsewhere. What do you think?