Lena Dunham, star of the HBO series Girls and this generation’s voice for all things weird, is feeling the heat from recent molestation accusations. Yeah, I was shocked, too.
The most brutal of these accusations come from Kevin D. Williamson of National Review magazine and Bradford Thomas of the website Truth Revolt, who claim that Lena admits to sexually abusing her little sister, Grace, in her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl.
I took one look at these headlines and said, “HA, I wonder how these cool old guys twisted her words into making her sound like a total creep-o.” But then I clicked some things here and read some things there, and now I’m a mixture of confused, stunned, and annoyed.
If you’re not familiar with the excerpts that are floating around, here are a few of the selections. Keep in mind that Grace is much younger than Lena, a toddler when Lena is about seven years old in this first passage:
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.
Another passage from Lena’s book, as Grace gets older:
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.
Lena also admits to masturbating next to her sister while they share a bed.
This describes child-on-child sexual abuse, which is defined as sexual activity between children that occurs without consent, without equality, or as a result of coercion. In this case, molestation results without consent and from Lena’s coercive tactics.
I don’t believe all instances of child molestation are perpetrated by pedophiles; sometimes the perpetrator has other motives for his or her actions besides a sexual attraction to children. Curiosity, as in Lena’s case, can lead to molestation. But that does not excuse the act.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a weird seven-year-old. It doesn’t matter if you’re curious. It doesn’t matter if you thought it was OK at the time and didn’t know any better. Sexually experimenting with a younger sibling when they cannot consent (or hardly talk, for that matter) is wrong. To coerce a younger child into kissing and touching and doing things she otherwise would not even think of participating in might not be sexual abuse by a pedophile, but it certainly isn’t OK.
Let’s also remember that Lena directly compares herself to a sexual predator, as quoted above, and is now upset that people are calling her a sexual predator. She backed herself into a corner and now she’s pissed that everyone else putting her on blast.
Do I think these descriptions constitute a serious case of sexual abuse? Not really. But it doesn’t help that Lena denies that there’s any problem here. Since the accusations, Lena has tweeted that she thinks the accusations are ridiculous and uncalled for. She speaks with no remorse of the instances, and I think that’s the biggest error of all.
In general, yes, all children are curious about vaginas and penises and sex, but not all children go messing with their siblings to satisfy that curiosity. It would go a long way to just say, “I did this. In retrospect, it wasn’t the right thing to do.” Instead, she completely excuses herself from any wrongdoing.
Also, what about the parents in this situation? Lena claims that her mother didn’t ask why Lena was looking at her sister’s vagina, because that was just among some of the things she did. Perhaps with a little more parental guidance about personal and sexual boundaries, this whole mess could have been avoided in the first place.
In general, you can’t directly describe acts of molestation without being accused of molestation, especially if you’re not even a little sorry about it. That’s not how life works, Lena. You made your bed, now it’s time to lie in it (this time without your sister).