Lena Dunham, Meet Barbara Streisand — Have You Met?

Lena Dunham, who apparently is famous for a HBO show I haven't watched, has a memoir out. I don't approve of 28-year-olds having memoirs unless and until they have been shot for advocating for the downtrodden or something, but Ms. Dunham is hardly the first to commit this minor sin.

This weekend Ms. Dunham became very upset because some people — mostly on conservative political websites — described her memoir as a confession to sexually abusing her little sister.

Here's how "Truth Revolt" characterized quotations from the memoir:

In the collection of nonfiction personal accounts, Dunham describes using her little sister at times essentially as a sexual outlet, bribing her to kiss her for prolonged periods and even masturbating while she is in the bed beside her. But perhaps the most disturbing is an account she proudly gives of an episode that occurred when she was seven and her sister was one.

You can read the subsequent quoted passage for yourself.

Now Ms. Dunham has, according to Truth Revolt, threatened them with a lawsuit and demanded that their post be taken down. Ben Shapiro, author of the pieces, has not yet responded to our request that he post the threat letter. So we only have his word that Ms. Dunham made this demand and threat. However, I submit that Mr. Shapiro has a certain amount of credibility on the subject of overheated reactions to things.

If Ms. Dunham is alleging that the original Truth Revolt article about her is defamatory, she is wrong — unless it has deliberately and extensively misquoted her book. Truth Revolt has admitted that the article originally and incorrectly said that she was 17, not 7, when one of the incidents described took place. But absent proof that Truth Revolt made that misstatement intentionally, that's incompetence, not the actual malice required to prove up defamation of a public figure like Ms. Dunham.

Truth Revolt's characterization of Ms. Dunham's memoir is not defamation. It's classic opinion based on specific disclosed facts. You might think that Truth Revolt's interpretation of Dunham's stories of her conduct with her sister is irrational, or unfair, or politically biased, or cruel. That doesn't make it defamatory. If I linked to one of Ben Shapiro's articles and said "this article proves that Ben Shapiro is a secret lizard person sent by Obama to discredit conservatives," that wouldn't be defamation either. It might be crazy, but it's my statement of opinion based on Shapiro's own words. If Truth Revolt had said "people have told me that Lena Dunham molested her sister" or "I have reviewed documents that suggest to me that Lena Dunham molested her sister," that would be different — that would be a statement of fact, or a statement of opinion based on undisclosed facts.

So: Ms. Dunham will fail, sooner or later, if she sues over this article. Her threat, and her reaction to the coverage, are likely to trigger the Streisand Effect, driving orders of magnitude more eyes to the characterizations of her memoir. She's media-savvy enough that I can't help but wonder whether that's her intention in the first place. It will sell books.

I haven't read the memoir and have no plans to do so. I find some of Dunham's descriptions of her conduct (as quoted) creepy and unsettling. But I also think that classifying a seven-year-old's behavior as sexual abuse is, at least, problematical. (Being disturbed by the tone Dunham uses to relate her seven-year-old behavior is a separate issue.) I seriously doubt that the discussion of abuse of or by children will be advanced by a dispute that is deliberately politically charged.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. sinij says

    I have difficulty understanding interpretation aspect.

    Hypothetically, if I say "I read Popehat blog, and it documents Ken's ongoing romantic relationship with Via Angus" then it is not defamation, no matter how factually inaccurate and unreasonable my interpretation is? There is no "reasonable person could conclude" standard?

  2. Castaigne says

    Ben Shapiro, author of the pieces, has not yet responded to our request that he post the threat letter. So we only have his word that Ms. Dunham made this demand and threat.

    Hmmm, let me check my files
    Yeeeeahhhh, I'm totes going to need more than his word on this one. I give at 50/50 at the moment as to whether an actual lawsuit or "cease and desist" was issued or if Dunham just sent 'em a "Fuck Off" letter.

    Judging from Dunham's Twitter statuses on the subject (relevant summary can be seen here), I'm not seeing any sign of an actual lawsuit. Which I think Dunham, who is very public with all she does, would be shouting about from the rooftops. Dunno. We'll see.

  3. says

    Treating Rational Wiki as reliable information – especially an article replete with words like "wingnut" and "clogosphere". Awesome.

  4. Castaigne says

    @Clark:

    Treating Rational Wiki as reliable information – especially an article replete with words like "wingnut" and "clogosphere"

    It's cited and sourced. A "wingnut" is a specific slang term for a particular type of conservative reactionary. The liberal version is a "moonbat", which I'm sure you have no objection to, considering your political stance. The clogosphere is the loose-knit internet community of cranks, quacks and wingnuts who have started blogs advocating pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, woo, and other crazy ideas. Shapiro is very much an advocator of pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and woo. If you see anything in the article that is incorrect, please say so – I'll be happy to correct it for you, if you decline to edit yourself.

    It should be noted that RationalWiki does not have "NPOV" like Wikipedia does. It has SPOV, which stands for two things (I quote):
    Snarky point of view — This is the meaning most people refer to. It means that, to keep our articles from being dry and boring, we spice it up with humor, sarcasm, skepticism, satire, and wit.
    Scientific point of view — Less talked about but arguably more important, the scientific point of view means that our articles take the side of the scientific consensus on an issue. RationalWiki should be and will be highly critical of any unscientific, irrational, or just plain stupid idea, movement, or ideology.

    I understand how this might be very difficult for you, as you have been seen to have no understanding of snark, and less than complete understanding of scientific methodology.

  5. Jack B. says

    It's cited and sourced. A "wingnut" is a specific slang term for a particular type of conservative reactionary. The liberal version is a "moonbat", which I'm sure you have no objection to, considering your political stance.

    I'm not speaking for Clark, but when I see "moonbat", "wingnut", "libtard", "rethuglican", "Reich Wing", or "glibertarian" in an article, it's usually a sign that my time would be better served reading the back of a cereal box.

    And that goes double for the word "sheeple".

  6. Castaigne says

    @Jack B.: Well, the last four of those are just insults, but "moonbat" and "wingnut" have been in use since the 1950s. I'm sorry, I just don't see the problem with that terminology. Shapiro is a wingnut. Michael Moore is a goddamn moonbat. Getting back on topic, Lena Dunham is also a moonbat, as documented by the conservative blog Moonbattery, which is at least as reliable a source as Truth Revolt. (But then, so is WorldNetDaily and Coach Is Right.)

  7. Chris Upchurch says

    I have difficulty understanding interpretation aspect.

    Hypothetically, if I say "I read Popehat blog, and it documents Ken's ongoing romantic relationship with Via Angus" then it is not defamation, no matter how factually inaccurate and unreasonable my interpretation is? There is no "reasonable person could conclude" standard?

    The idea is that if the opinion is based on publicly available facts, readers can go to Popehat and see the extent of Ken's romantic relationship with Via Angus for themselves.

  8. Fasolt says

    @sinij:

    I'll take a shot at that for you.

    Say Ken blogs in much detail about the wonderful time he and Via Angus had at the Milk Bar the other night. He concludes the post with the comments, "one thing led to another" and then "the cow jumped over the moon", but doesn't elaborate, reasonable people might conclude it wasn't a platonic relationship.

    If, on the other hoof, Ken leaves out the comments in quotes above, and you post comments attesting to their forbidden love for each other, you could be defaming Ken, especially if he has never posted any previous comments mentioning special feelings toward Via Angus. This would be particularly true if Ken was the national spokesman for the Dairy Farmers of America, since they do not support man and bovine romantic relationships.

  9. says

    Not quite.

    If sinij wrote "I have read posts in which Ken admitted to an affair with Via Angus," without linking the posts or identifying them, that could be potentially defamatory, because it suggests undisclosed facts.

    If sinij wrote "if you read the posts on Popehat in which Ken discusses Via Angus, the sexual tension is obvious. They are an item, obviously," that's not defamation — it's an opinion based on a defined set of facts.

    The fact that your opinion is irrational does not make it less of an opinion. The question is whether your statement can reasonably be taken as implying undisclosed — and false — facts.

  10. SadPanda says

    Oh come on. Dunham is loving the well-timed publicity boost, and Shapiro doesn't mind the clicks either. It couldn't work better for them if they planned it in advance.

  11. Fasolt says

    @Via Angus. I know, it was a hypothetical example. The bull jumped over the moon didn't work for me. :) I tried to come up with something I liked pertaining to bulls to go in there, but I couldn't right away.

  12. David C says

    But I also think that classifying a seven-year-old's behavior as sexual abuse is, at least, problematical.

    Agreed, but some of the incidents apparently happened later – I doubt she was bribing her little sister with money when she was seven and her sister was one, for example.

  13. Don HoNo says

    I heard of a guy named Vernon who once gave some wonderful advice to a young kid he was attempting to enlighten.

    Were it not so horribly misogynistic to repeat it, I would include it here for Ms. Dunham's benefit.

  14. Jack B. says

    I heard of a guy named Vernon who once gave some wonderful advice to a young kid he was attempting to enlighten.

    When I think of guys named Vernon dispensing wonderful advice, this is what immediately comes to mind:
    http://youtu.be/bK-Dqj4fHmM

  15. jdgalt says

    Haven't seen the National Review piece, but if this isn't grounds for a successful libel suit, it ought to be. It sure appears that McCain has gone out of his way to find the most ridiculous possible "interpretation" of Dunham's writing.

  16. Don HoNo says

    Mr. B, you are both a terrible misogynist and directly responsible for my lack of productivity over the next couple of hours.*

    I curse you and all those responsible for your existence.

    * Not really- I was going to fu## around on the internet anyway.

  17. Mikee says

    @jdgalt

    "Haven't seen the National Review piece, but if this isn't grounds for a successful libel suit, it ought to be. It sure appears that McCain has gone out of his way to find the most ridiculous possible "interpretation" of Dunham's writing."

    One of the first and foremost rules of Popehat, if you can't point to specifics in your claim of libel, you're probably full of bullshit. And you've apparently missed the entire point of the article found at the top of the page. I couldn't give a rats ass less about Stacy McCain, but his opinion on publicly disclosed facts is nothing close to libel.

  18. Kathy says

    All love and respect to you, Ken, but I would much rather read your smack down on those who are "classifying a seven-year-old's behavior as sexual abuse" than what amounts to some sort of pre-cog smack on the author when you don't know if she actually wrote *any* letter to Truth Revolt, much less threatened a lawsuit.

  19. eddie says

    How about "if you read the posts on Popehat in which Ken discusses Via Angus, he admits he had a bovine affair" ?

    How about "if you read the posts on Popehat in which Ken discusses Via Angus, you can see he had a bovine affair" ?

    The first seems like a factual (and false) statement, although possibly based on a mistaken understanding of Ken's posts i.e. reading comprehension fail. I suppose that would lack malice and thus not be defamatory?

    I'm not sure whether the second would be an opinion or a statement of fact.

    —-

    FWIW I agree with Ken's final paragraph and think the conservative critics are losing their minds over this. Lena Dunham Derangement Syndrome. Very unbecoming.

  20. James Hanley says

    Jdgalt,

    What in McCain's commentary isn't opinion based on publicly disclosed facts? The opinion being scurrilous is irrelevant.

  21. ghost says

    Kathy,
    If a 17 year old man masturbated in the same bed as his little brother (who was 11 or so), would that be appropriate? Would that be something that people should just joke about as childhood norms? To classify the years (at least from ages 7 to 17) of ongoing sexually inappropriate behavior at best – and outright molestation at worst – as things a 7 year old did shows that you are either ignorant about what Dunham actually wrote, or you think that 17 year olds exposing and fondling themselves in front of prepubescent children is acceptable.

  22. Seth says

    Yeeeeahhhh, I'm totes going to need more than his word on this one. I give at 50/50 at the moment as to whether an actual lawsuit or "cease and desist" was issued or if Dunham just sent 'em a "Fuck Off" letter.

    Judging from Dunham's Twitter statuses on the subject (relevant summary can be seen here), I'm not seeing any sign of an actual lawsuit. Which I think Dunham, who is very public with all she does, would be shouting about from the rooftops. Dunno. We'll see.

    This is such a weird view to take. Like, you think he just completely made it up? Just…because?

    I don't know, it just seems like a strange way to go about in the world — "I don't like your political opinions, therefore you're lying."

  23. John says

    Ken,

    As captured by the internet wayback machine, the original Truth Revolt article wrote "seven" instead of "seventeen" three times. http://web.archive.org/web/20141030045528/http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/lena-dunham-describes-sexually-abusing-her-toddler-sister

    That's far different from accidentally placing a 1 in front of a 7, and it happened three times in the same article. After the damage had been done in the form of internet outrage and social media mobs, the article was corrected. Would that be considered some sort of illegal malicious misquoting? It was clearly meant (one could argue) to foment disgust at an adolescent Dunham when she was really just an innocent 7-year-old being curious.

  24. Edward says

    I've been pretty appalled at the so-called "progressive" reaction to this. There is nothing here that meets any clinical or legal definition of sexual abuse, but some seem to pounce on her with glee. Judging someone for what they did when they were seven is about as logical as the idea of original sin. This isn't sexual abuse. No sexual abuse occurred. I've seen Dunham being compared to R. Kelly (an adult pissing on a juvenile for sexual pleasure) and Cee Lo Green (a 38 year old slipping drugs to another adult woman). This does meet the clinical definition of complete bullshit.

  25. Silver2195 says

    Edward,

    Her creepy behavior didn't stop when she was 7, though. She was still masturbating while lying in bed with her sister when she was 17 and her sister was 11. She also seems completely unrepentant about the whole thing. It's not as bad as the original TruthRevolt article made it sound, but it's still pretty bad.

  26. says

    @ Seth

    I don't know, it just seems like a strange way to go about in the world — "I don't like your political opinions, therefore you're lying."

    It's more that Ben 'Friends of Hamas' Shapiro has a past history of not really caring about the truth one way or t'other.

    I'd link to some of that past history, but I'm not sure the sources would meet with Clark's approval, because typically the people who focus on debunking minor league right wingers like Shapiro are card-carrying moonbats. (And vice versa, of course, but at the moment we're not dealing with a left-winger who has a similar rep.)

  27. foog says

    I don't see how the Streisand effect comes into play here. Dunham gets angry and rages all over the place regarding an article that mischaracterized (whether deliberately or not is immaterial to the fact that it's out there, and no amount of retraction after-the-fact stops the mischaracerization from being spread as originally reported). The more press she gets over her being pissed off, the more the true version of events gets out there and the less likely anyone can gain traction claiming she abused her sister at 17. The Streisand effect would be part of this whole clusterfeck only if the incorrect story gained more eyeballs as a result of her reaction.

    …now as to whether this can help use up some of Ms. Dunham's 15 minutes: God I hope so!

  28. Czernobog says

    At what point does a harmful statement that can conceivably be put down to incompetence rather than malice become actionable? Is it never?

  29. NickM says

    And Lena Dunham is the woman who thinks that the phrase TMI is sexist.

    Now really, is there any person in the world who isn't a paid psychotherapist for Lena Dunham who doesn't think the stuff about her kid sister's vagina was TMI?

  30. Czernobog says

    @NickM

    Presumably, for someone who actually paid money for Lena Dunham's book (or even picked it off the floor) there's no such thing as too much information about Lena Dunham.

  31. HamOnRye says

    @foog

    The book has been out for nearly a month now, with very little commentary until now.

    The recent event I think qualify for the Streisand Effect simply on the buzz it has generated for the book.

  32. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says

    Is this really an example of the Streisand effect, though? Dunham isn't trying to hide information, she's arguing that Truth Revolt's characterization of her book was disingenuous (to put it charitably).

    Leaving the issue of a lawsuit aside, you can't really fault her for taking issue with this characterization and responding to it with some degree of anger, can you?

  33. HamOnRye says

    @Dr. Nobel Dynamite

    Is this really an example of the Streisand effect, though? Dunham isn't trying to hide information, she's arguing that Truth Revolt's characterization of her book was disingenuous (to put it charitably).

    Really? I have read the article and read the responses. Do tell what is disingenuous?

    Leaving the issue of a lawsuit aside, you can't really fault her for taking issue with this characterization and responding to it with some degree of anger, can you?

    Ms. Dunhams arrogance has gotten the better of her. I am not surprised she is angry when confronted about her predatory actions.

    This probably the first time in her life she has received push back. I imagine this was quite the shock for her.

  34. Matt W says

    It seems likely when it was more common for siblings to share beds that teenagers furtively masturbating while lying next to their siblings was not all that unusual.

  35. HamOnRye says

    "Well, it wasn't molestation molestation…."

    I know! What is this world coming too when a highly connected sociopath can't write about a child molestation in peace?

    These people obviously need a hobby!

  36. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says

    @HamOnRye

    Do tell what is disingenuous?

    Characterizing Dunham's actions as sexual abuse (much less "predatory") is laughably disingenuous. This isn't something a serious person who has even a glancing knowledge of children and/or actual sexual abuse would argue, unless they are just trying to manufacture clickbait or just hate Dunham so much that they are willing to throw out rational thought to seize the opportunity to accuse her of something horrible.

    I think Dunham is rather tiresome and she thinks she is far more interesting than she is, but it is ludicrous to argue that what she writes about is sexual abuse, and such allegations are motivated by an ugly form of spite rather than any genuine concern about legitimate sexual abuse.

  37. Dan Weber says

    @HamOnRye: She just needs to direct several really good movies, then she can do whatever she wants. Does Chinatown need a remake?

  38. Robert What? says

    "…but classifying a seven year old's behavior as sexual abuse is at least problematical."

    I totally agree. However the "authorities" would have no hesitation classifying similar behavior by a seven year old boy as sexual abuse

  39. Makewi says

    Characterizing Dunham's actions as sexual abuse (much less "predatory") is laughably disingenuous

    To be fair, this is the way that Dunham herself characterized it (predatory). I haven't read it in print, and won't waste time looking for it, but I did hear her say it in her recent "Fresh Air" interview.

  40. Matt W says

    I totally agree. However the "authorities" would have no hesitation classifying similar behavior by a seven year old boy as sexual abuse

    No. No one would classify such innocuous behavior by any child as sexual abuse. A 7 year old who helps out with diaper changing (I did) has more exposure to their sibling's genitals than Dunham describes. I can't imagine any parents of small children (I am one) would think her story is in any way unusual.

  41. lemmy caution says

    spelling out "seventeen" rather than "seven".
    changing a quote from the book to read "seventeen" rather than "seven".

    those things are odd mistakes.

    Doubt that she will sue, but a letter certainly makes sense. Looks a little malicious to me.

  42. Makewi says

    I tried to find what I was referencing in the "Fresh Air" interview, but failed. OTOH, here is a screencap of the page of the memoir in which she describes her actions as predatory.

  43. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says

    @Makewi

    I think there's quite a bit of difference between someone using comic hyperbole to describe their own actions, and someone else using those terms literally to accuse them of horrible acts. Don't you?

  44. Makewi says

    I don't read that passage as comedy. It reads like a simple description of her acts. Obviously YMMV.

  45. Yon Anony Mouse says

    Comic hyperbole?

    Are you actually reading what you write, or is your knee jerking too violently to concentrate?

  46. Robert What? says

    @Matt W

    I wasn't clear: I'm not saying that it is sexual abuse if a seven year old boy does something like that. I was alluding to the perverse "zero tolerance" policy for boys on many things.

  47. Jacob Schmidt says

    Her creepy behavior didn't stop when she was 7, though. She was still masturbating while lying in bed with her sister when she was 17 and her sister was 11.

    It's worth noting that consensual sexual play between siblings is actually not uncommon. That's not to say it was consensual and that there's nothing wrong here (sexual play between siblings can absolutely be sexual abuse), but I see no reason why it should be here. Far more worrying, to me, was Dunham wanting her sister to be emotionally dependent on her.

  48. Fasolt says

    Just read the demand letter linked above. Harder gave a 24 hour deadline for complying with their demands. Since it is now the 4th and I don't see an apology in place of the article, this looks like it's going to be a fun ride.

  49. David C says

    "This letter constitutes confidential legal communication and may not be published in any manner."

    Why do attorneys insist on making fools of themselves by putting this in their demand letters? They have to know it's not valid.

  50. Ham says

    > Characterizing Dunham's actions as sexual abuse (much less "predatory") is laughably disingenuous.

    I disagree. I know absolutely nothing of this person and I'm quite disgusted. Then again, I see people here who seem to think that sibling sex is common, so I think that explains quite a lot.

  51. Dan Weber says

    Just read the demand letter linked above

    And the demand letter says it's confidential and publication is prohibited. Achievement unlocked: max lulz.

  52. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says

    @Ham

    I don't have any particular expertise in child development, but I can see that these characterizations of "abuse" are coming from people who really don't know anything about the subject, and the folks who do know about it don't agree with their assessment at all.

    For example, see this article.

  53. Owen says

    Why do attorneys insist on making fools of themselves by putting this in their demand letters? They have to know it's not valid.

    Because some people actually believe it. I think the number of people who know that it is laughably invalid is much lower than one would hope…

  54. Dan Weber says

    Because some people actually believe it.

    TR seems to have believed it, at least for a few days.

  55. Stevie says

    Ham

    It's been a while since I last broke out my childcare books, but it is perfectly normal for 7 year old children to explore their own and other's bodies in this way; I get the impression that you have never been around small children, and therefore haven't realised that this is a normal activity.

    For example, one of the things one does as a parent is to help one's child recognise that masturbation is a private activity; the belief that children don't develop sexuality before puberty is not founded on fact.

    More generally, my impression is that Shapiro believes that Dunham is a sexual abuser in much the same way that some people believe John Scalzi really is a rapist; pointing him in the direction of the vast body of research on childhood sexual development probably isn't going to help if he doesn't want to know…

  56. Ham says

    @Stevie:

    The reason people are disgusted by sibling sex is because it leads to horrible deformities. There's also a normal, instinctive aversion to sexual behavior towards anyone being raised by your parents. I am aware that this can go awry with siblings raised apart, but this is not the norm and it's the sort of thing that gets selected against rather harshly, both socially and genetically, for good reason. From what I know from growing up, nothing of the sort ever went on in my family or circle of acquaintances. Perhaps you could find a 2-year-old pulling down their pants or something silly, but that would be about the extent of it.

  57. Jenny says

    Well if the social scientists at Slate and Gawker say it'd have been perfectly normal to bribe my little brother for kisses and feel up his bits, I guess I just missed out.

    Criminy, would you listen to yourself?

    I'm not saying giving her Daddy Dearest she had much chance of NOT coming out broken in some way, and I genuinely feel sorry for her and her sister – but do we have to take the tribal BS to the extent we have to pretend that was all normal? It's not. It's broken- and anyone who's seen her work has known for quite a while she's got some serious damage in there.

    Not saying she chose it.
    Not saying she's an evil calculating rapist.
    Not saying she was ever likely to have a better outcome that she has now.
    Not even saying she should be shamed in public until she goes on an apology tour.
    I honestly wish her respite and peace from whatever's haunting her.

    But it's not doing her a favor to call damaged well.

  58. The Wanderer says

    @Ham:

    Sibling sex does not lead to horrible deformities, or at least I'm not aware of any mechanism by which it could cause either participant to become deformed.

    One sibling impregnating another can indeed lead to deformities (and, worse, mental incapacity) in the resulting child, but sex does not always and very certainly does not have to lead to pregnancy.

    I could comment considerably further on the topic of arguments against incest, but I think that would be getting rather a bit afield from the subject at hand.

  59. Colleen O'Connor says

    Context is everything in this book. No one who had initially read the book caused a huge public outcry about this passage because contextually, it was just a small detail that fit right in with the rest of the essays detailing Lena's unusual habits/lifestyle/experiences.

    Only when a conservative blog post (written by a disgusting man that any one with a respect for human rights should at LEAST be skeptical of) pulled a small excerpt, titled it "Lena Dunham describes sexually abusing her little sister", added his own grossly over-assumed sexual commentary, and conveniently "misprinted" Lena's age (at the time of this incident) as 17 rather than 7, did the internet go into an uproar.

    The problem is, as so often happens with digital media, people who have not actually read the book instead read insanely false tweets &headlines saying Lena Dunham raped her little sister, and admitted to child molestation/being a child predator, and run with it- and here we are. What first was interpreted by readers as an uncomfortable, yet fathomable story about a child being curious about sexuality has spiraled into an all-out public crucifixion of an author for telling her truth.

    If we are all of a sudden going to condemn children for being curious about the human body, we may as well just move elementary education into juvy.

  60. HamOnRye says

    If we are all of a sudden going to condemn children for being curious about the human body, we may as well just move elementary education into juvy.

    I love the smell of burnt straw in the morning. Smells like victory.

  61. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says

    @HamOnRye

    Do you honestly think that what Dunham describes in her book, taken in context, is sexual abuse?

  62. Colleen O'Connor says

    For anyone interested in reading some more of ​the passages under scrutiny, but is not willing to purchase the book.
    ​​

    On bed sharing: "I shared a bed with my sister Grace until I was 17 years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5 pm every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out. Grace had the comforting, sleep-inducing properties of a hot- water bottle or a cat. I always pretended to hate it. I complained to my parents:
    ​' no other teenagers have to share a bed unless they're really poor! Someone please get her to sleep alone! She's ruining my life!'
    ​After all, she had her own bed that she chose not to sleep in. The truth is I had no right to complain, having been affected by childhood "sleep issues: so severe that my father says he didn't experience an uninterrupted nights sleep between 1986 and 1998"​
    ​​​
    ​​
    ​​On Grace: "From the beginning, there was something unknowable about Grace. Self-possessed, opaque, she didn't cry like a typical baby or make her needs clear. She wasn't particularly cuddly, and when you hugged her, she would wriggle to get free like a skittish cat.

    Occasionally, I would kneel on the floor in front of her, stick my face into the mesh of her enclosure and coo​​ "Hiii Graaacie". Once she leaned in and planted her lips on my nose. I could feel them, hard and thin, through the barrier. "Mom, she kissed me! Look, she kissed me!" I leaned in again, and she bit down hard on my nose with her two new teeth and laughed. As she 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 5 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. 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"

  63. HamOnRye says

    @Dr. Nobel Dynamite

    I am glad you mention context, as that really cuts to the heart of the problem. Her predatory actions are not judged by the same standards as what would apply to a male of same age.

    So here is my answer. On the basis of the standard that would be applied to a male of the same age, Ms. Dunhams book is an admission of sexual abuse.

  64. Matt W says

    So here is my answer. On the basis of the standard that would be applied to a male of the same age, Ms. Dunhams book is an admission of sexual abuse.

    No. No boy of similar age would be charged with sexual abuse for similar actions. The idea is ludicrous. Citation needed.

  65. Colleen O'Connor says

    … Wait, did you even read the article and subsequent comments? The tone of both is against the DA who accused the 6 year old of sexual assault, not against the child's actions.

    So why are we publicly lynching Lena? If you don't agree with the system- help change it by speaking out against the allegations that she molested her sister.

  66. HamOnRye says

    @Colleen O'Connor

    Wait, did you even read the article and subsequent comments? The tone of both is against the DA who accused the 6 year old of sexual assault, not against the child's actions.

    Yes, unlike some half-wits I contend with I do read my source material. However toward your point, I am sure the parents of those two boys will be greatly comforted that the "tone" and "comments" are against the DA. Meanwhile those of us not in #magicunicornland have to contend with societies double standard for sexual harassment, which has some very concrete and long lasting effects.

    So why are we publicly lynching Lena? If you don't agree with the system- help change it by speaking out against the allegations that she molested her sister.

    Lynching? I don't see any rope! Besides my anti-social tendencies are more towards the "burn them at the stake" or "firing squad at dawn" crowd.

    On a more serious note I have zero interest in speaking out for Lena Dunham. Looks like to me the system (which you are supporting) is taking care of Lena Dunham just fine, thus the point of the mockery of her.

  67. Colleen O'Connor says

    My mistake for using a metaphor with an audience that clearly can only comprehend a literal definition of anything.

  68. NickM says

    @Czernobog

    So far, that would mean that Kevin Williamson and Ben Shapiro don't think it was TMI. I have yet to hear anyone else admit to wasting their money in this fashion.

    @Colleen O'Connor
    Does it hurt to pat yourself on the back that hard?

  69. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says

    @HamOnRye

    I'm sorry, but that's not what I asked you. I'm not all that interested in whether you think that someone else (who you may or may not believe to be correct) may consider it to be sexual abuse in a situation with different facts, or whether you can find an example of a prosecutor somewhere making a terrible judgment call, I want to know what you think.

    Do you think it is accurate to describe what Dunham writes about in her book as "sexual abuse?"

  70. Yon Anony Mouse says

    " No one who had initially read the book caused a huge public outcry about this passage"

    I thought there was no outcry because nobody actually read the damn thing.

  71. Obvious Alias says

    I was lucky enough to have my own bedroom by the time I reached puberty, but my brothers and I shared rooms on the rare occasions we'd travel to visit family. One year, I was maybe 13, I was up and tumescent while trying to get to sleep and my younger brother lay in the other bed only 3 feet away and yes, I admit it, I masturbated. Quietly. I don't think he noticed, but you don't speak up if you do. It was really embarrassing in the morning because my mom changed the sheets and found the stain, ostensibly mis-identifying it as pus ooze from my elbow scab. TMI, I know, but there it is.

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