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Opinion: Lena Dunham incites healthy debate with taboo confession

Actress and writer Lena Dunham launches her new book 'Not that kind of Girl' at Waterstones Piccadilly in London on Oct. 29. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Actress and writer Lena Dunham launches her new book ‘Not that kind of Girl’ at Waterstones Piccadilly in London on Oct. 29.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Two-time Golden Globe recipient/uber-feminist Lena Dunham recently admitted to sexually molesting her younger sister — at least, that’s what people are saying.

The claims surfaced after several right-wing writers began picking apart excerpts from the star’s newly published memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl.”

In her memoir, Dunham relates several peculiar tales from her youth — those tales include an examination of her sister’s genitalia after discussing female anatomy with her mother and instances of bribing her sister for kisses and affection.

Upon first glance, the stories are admittedly shocking. But after I’d read the stories a second time, I found it necessary to question why I had felt so shocked. I didn’t find the actions themselves particularly heinous — Dunham was only 7 years old at the time. She was young enough to claim youthful innocence, and she was understandably curious. And haven’t we all been there?

Rather than the content of the stories, what I found particularly scandalous was the way Dunham so unabashedly related the tales.

I’ll admit that even after pardoning the offense, I find Dunham’s confessions strange. But that was her desired reaction — her goal was to push the envelope. To get people talking about a subject that has been previously undiscussed. She’s opening readers’ eyes to the fact that everybody does weird things, and children are not immune to that. Dunham’s intention was not to shock the world with a declaration of “I molested my sister,” but rather, Dunham was attempting to claim something along the lines of “kids are f—— weird.”

Was she successful? On one hand, not really. The comment sections of many online articles relating the story appear as battlefields, with a majority of the combatants fighting against Dunham. And to be fair, it’s an incredibly hot topic. But on the other hand, Dunham did accomplish an admirable goal: She got people talking about the sexual nature of children, a topic that has, until now, remained relatively hushed.

In Dunham’s defense, she reports that her sister — the purported victim herself — has been taking the accusations in stride. Dunham hinted at this claim through a series of tweets that retaliated against her critics.

“I told a story about being a weird 7 year old … And yes, this is a rage spiral,” she tweeted from her account, @lenadunham.

“Sometimes I get so mad I burn right up. Also I wish my sister wasn’t laughing so hard,” she continued.

If what Dunham claims is true — if her sister is laughing at the incident — then I see reason to nullify any negative feedback. There is no victim here. Both sides attribute the events to humorous childhood curiosity. To the sisters, it’s water under the bridge. And I agree.

Was it intrusive for 7 year-old Dunham to spread open her sister’s vagina? Uhh, yeah. But did she know that she was being intrusive? I don’t think so. There is a definite line between sexual immorality and innate, youthful curiosity. It is a fine line, but perhaps it is a line that is worth bolding. Perhaps this isn’t so big (or so uncommon) of an issue.

Was Dunham right to publish these stories? Sure, I don’t see anything alarmingly wrong with the confessions, and she has every right to share them. But she unearthed a topic that remains incredibly taboo in today’s culture, and unsurprisingly, the world was nowhere near ready for it. Let’s write it off as Dunham doing what she does best: scandalizing the masses.


  1. Wow…. A whole page of “who cares???”

  2. Yes, molestation of a small child is quite taboo. Lena is such a hero for coming out and telling us that brave story. There’s no victim, so it must be okay, right?

    We absolutely need more people in today’s society to bring up heroic tales like this one about spreading apart your baby sister’s vagina and masturbating as your teenage sister lays on you. It really brings a great discussion to the table. Really good stuff.

    Hard to believe this made it by the editors. This opinion piece is vile.

  3. This isn’t a “vile” opinion piece and the fact you are reacting so strongly Chip basically just reinforces the author’s opinion.

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