About Lena Dunham’s Memoir, Overshare and Lack of Boundaries
Lena Dunham is weird. That is her thing. I admit that her hype has always perplexed me, and the title of being the “voice of a generation” has certainly given me pause. I’ve seen GIRLS and I was bored to tears by it so I realized that maybe the generation they were talking about was not mine (even though me and Lena are about the same age). I just figured that she wasn’t for me.
Lena is Hollywood’s millennial golden girl and the accolades are a-plenty so there’s much buzz around her memoir “Not That Kind of Girl.” But yesterday, a website called Truth Revolt published one troubling excerpt from Lena’s book about exploration of her sister’s vagina when they were both children (Lena was 7, Grace was 1). That led to other people writing about other parts of the book that were equally worthy of epic side-eyes.
“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 didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just 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.”
Also, THIS (from Glamour):
‘As she grew, I took to bribing 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.’
Let the church say: EW.
Somewhere else in the book, Lena talks about masturbating next to her sister in bed (and she was much older than 7 then). So, there are people who are understandably shocked and outraged by these pieces of her memoir and of the admittance in such a cavalier way. There are LAYERS and LEVELS to this dysfunction and none of them justify these excerpts.
Some people are saying Lena sexually molested her little sister, and that she’s a predator. I’m stopping short of saying that but I can’t just brush it off as “normal childhood behavior.” Kids do creepy things but do those children turn around as adults to write about those moments like fond memories? Especially when those moments involve someone else’s private parts that you “spread apart.” Is it normal to compare what you did to something a sexual predator would as a full grown person?
If you’re Lena Dunham the Weird, I guess so.
Even the way it was written makes me terribly uncomfortable .“…And I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist.” If you didn’t know she was talking about her sister, you’d think it was from an erotica. Reading that made me wince because that is about her baby sister! That “she didn’t resist” piece gave it extra gross factor.
How was Lena allowed to print that? Where were the gatekeepers? The friends? The editors? How did no one in the process of book proposal to book writing to book editing to book publishing not say “hey. We should probably leave this part out?” Was discernment busy? In the grand life of Lena Dunham, was finding pebbles in her sister’s Love Pocket so important that it just had to be in her memoir?
I raised this subject on my Facebook page and a few people wondered if a 1-year old is capable of placing small objects (like pebbles) up her own vagina. Do 1-year olds even have the motor skill to grasp pebbles and then place them into an orifice that isn’t their mouth? Remember that babies place EVERYTHING in their mouths, not their nethers. It definitely raised the alarm of “did she place the pebbles in her own sister?” I cannot even so I’ma leave that there.
And the part where she points out that “My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did.“ Was that to assure us that this wasn’t weird on her scale of 1 to Dennis Rodman? Ok, girl. We woulda had a 3-day summit about that shit had I been her mama! What did you do to your sister’s body?? THAT IS NOT YOUR BODY SO YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT. Your body is yours. Explore that. Someone else’s body is THEIRS. It is not for you to touch at will!
Where was THAT conversation?? But nooo this was just another chuckle HAHAHAHA GRACE HAD PEBBLES IN HER VAGINA WHICH I SPREAD APART CUZ I’M SO WEIRD HAHAHAHA. O___O
What I took from that is that Lena’s mother did not instill boundaries on her life and her actions. Her father clearly didn’t either because he is an artist who is famous for his collection of painted back shots of women with fluffy vaginas. Almost all of his art is a faceless woman whose ass is facing us, with her Love Pocket prominent in the middle. Google image search “Carroll Dunham” at your own risk (NSFW, btw).
This is what was in Lena’s home growing up so I could see how she’d be curious about bodies and vaginas, even outside of children’s normal nosiness. However, I am a firm believer in letting kids know that there are lines not to cross. It seems that her parents ENCOURAGED freedom to a fault and that is parenting I do not support.
People without boundaries are the worst and they tend to not respect the personal space of others. Those are the people who walk up to you and talk all close even though their breath is making your eyelashes curl. They’re the people who can’t keep their hands to themselves and those are the people who feel like they can tell all your business. GET SOME BOUNDARIES ABOUT YOU, B!
That brings me to what is also highly messed up here: Lena’s lack of respect for her sister’s right to privacy. In telling these highly personal stories, she is also talking about these intimate (and disturbing) things that happened to her sister (at her own hands). Grace Dunham has talked about this and said on an interview that “Without getting into specifics, most of our fights have revolved around my feeling like Lena took her approach to her own personal life and made my personal life her property.”
WELP! We see that here in 3 very personal instances: pebble-gate, bribing for kissing and masturbating next to her in bed. When you add to the fact that Lena outed her sister to her mother, you see that she does not recognize her sister’s agency and that she’s a completely different entity who has the right to keep her secrets to herself. And that Lena is a bit of a self-centered twerp.
“Basically, it’s like I can’t keep any of my own secrets and I consider Grace to be an extension of me, and therefore I couldn’t handle the fact that she’s a very private person with her own value system and her own aesthetic and that we do different things.” (from After Ellen)
That is NOT OK! WUT? What person is all “I don’t like to keep my sister’s secrets because I don’t see her as separate from me?” LAWD. I really wonder if she got her sister’s permission before telling those stories in her memoir. Based on those quotes above, I’d lean towards NOPE.
Lena seems incredibly self-absorbed and her tweets from yesterday after the internet went nuts further confirm this fact too. She went on a tirade about how everyone was twisting her words and how her sister is laughing about it all. They were textbook responses from abusers, which didn’t help her case against the people calling her a predator. Lena outchea like “but my sister ain’t mad. WHY ARE YALL?” Ain’t that what Ray Rice said about Janay? I’m sleep, though.
How did people twist her words when she was quoted verbatim from the book? Where did the twisting happen? Invisible bendy straws face. She tried it. She more than tried it. She overtried it. But it’s because she’s really surprised that people are shocked about this. She is a chronic oversharer and she thought it’d be another case of HAHAHA LENA IS SO WEIRD AND BRAVE AND UNFILTERED but nope. The backlash came swift at her and she threw a Twitter tantrum.
And by the way, if you were a little kid and never looked at another little kid's vagina, well, congrats to you.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 1, 2014
NO. MA’AM! Most people did not go exploring their siblings’ vaginas! She missed the point so hard that the point must have filed a restraining order against her.
Yet and still, there are vocal defenders of Lena Dunham, which speaks to the white woman privilege I was talmbout on my Renee Zellweger piece. A Black woman could not have written what Lena did. She would not have the space to argue context. She would not have anyone championing her. She would certainly not be given some benefit of the doubt about childhood exploration because Black people’s innocence is often denied, even when we’re 7. Our kids are tried as adults in the court of public opinion and in the court of law. In fact, NO person of color could have written this. Meanwhile, Lena seems to be above critique for many, and that might even be why she thought these problematic occasions should have been included in her book.
A man could not have written any of those passages and be given some sort of leeway. He would have been stamped an abuser so quick! But Lena? She has people speaking up for her, even though there are levels to the creepiness of this whole situation. White woman privilege is real outchea, bro!
I’m fascinated about how scant the coverage of this whole messiness is too. Many of our fave thinkpiecing liberal publications have been eerily silent on this. The Lena Fan Club in media has been very quiet. Inner-resting. Maybe everyone took the weekend off. Yes, that’s it.
Chile, we could play a game of “count the red flags” here, because nothing about these combined situations that Lena wrote about says “PERFECTLY HEALTHY.” Each of them by themselves might not ring the alarm, but together, they paint a picture that might deserve exploration past “fond memories.” Something about all of this isn’t curling all the way over; Lena Dunham’s story is like a bad twistout.
There’s one thing to remember childhood shenanigans but there’s another to speak about some of the weirdest things with no remorse and no regard to the impact they could have to the ones you inflicted possible harm on. And then to have no one close enough to you to check you on it. And then to stand wrong and strong in it. And to be 30 when all of this is happening and writing about it with such detachment is troubling. There’s overshare and there’s this.
I am not calling for Lena Dunham’s head on a platter nor will I sit here and compare her to Woody Allen like some have. I think that’s a stretch and I think it’s unfair. However, I do think what she did was abusive to her sister, and it reeks of behavior that she learned from an inappropriate or predatory adult. I hope Lena herself is in therapy because there are some DSM-IV diagnoses going off here. Trust me. I have a Psychology degree I never use and I’ve watched 2 episodes of Psych. >__>
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!
Ennehweighs, I wanna hear your thoughts on all this.