A couple of the ladies over here at MadameNoire have been pretty open about our admiration of Lena Dunham and her show Girls. But our appreciation is not blind. And recent excerpts from Lena Dunham’s newly released book Not That Kind of Girl have us all calling foul.
In her book, Lena Dunham describes what reads like a mild obsession with her younger sister. But it’s the way she expressed this obsession and the way she describes in it retrospect that literally have our mouths twisting and our stomachs churning.
Recently a website called Truth Revolt published this excerpt about a 7-year-old Lena and her 1-year-old sister Grace.
“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. 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. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got 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.
And then Glamour pulled this quote.
‘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 included another story where she masturbated while her sister was in bed beside her.
If you know Lena Dunham’s brand of art, you know that there’s a lot of shock value involved, a lot of pushing of the proverbial envelope. She’s naked all of the time, in an attempt to challenge people’s perceptions of a what a normal body looks like. She’s different and quirky. And I’ve understood most of it. But there’s a difference between sharing a quirk and putting what sounds like family dysfunction on display of the world to read and pretending like it’s normal.
First, I don’t want to label Dunham as a sexual predator or liken her to Woody Allen as others have suggested. Lena recounts her mother explaining the female anatomy to her. So she was curious. I get that. My mother owns and operates a daycare. I’ve heard plenty of stories. Children do those types of things, unsettling things. There’s this whole thing about children “playing doctor” and sons asking their mothers about their sister’s lack of penis. Most of the time it’s innocent. As I believe Lena’s exploration may have been. But there are so many troubling elements in the retelling of this story. First, there’s the fact that she wrote her sister “didn’t resist.”
Ummm…she was a one-year-old.
And then there’s this business about a one year old being cognizant of not only the location of her vagina but having the motor skills to insert six or seven pebbles into it.
It sounds virtually impossible.
But what strikes me more than anything is Lena’s mother’s response to all of this. “My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did.”