Ethics Dunce: “Girls” Creator/Actress Lena Dunham


Lena Dunham, creator and star of the inexplicably critically acclaimed HBO series “Girls,” has written a memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl.” Here are ten inquiries regarding its most controversial passages, like the one above,  and the reaction to them:

1. What does one say about a Hollywood figure who puts a passage like this in her memoirs, writing about her relationship with her sister, who was six years younger…

“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 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.”

2. Or this…

“I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. 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.”

3. Or, most famously, this...

“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.


I say that that the Hollywood darling apparently used her little sister as a sex toy for at least a decade, was never stopped or admonished for doing so by remarkably negligent parents, and has grown to adulthood without recognizing that there is anything wrong with her conduct.

The first passage not only treads on the borders of incest, but also leaves the uncomfortable question of what else she did to her sister that emulated a sexual predator. The second is profoundly creepy, and the third describes what, if true, is abuse of an infant in terms designed to sound erotic. As blogger Ann Althouse points out, does anyone believe that an infant would stuff pebbles in herself “as a prank,”or that a compos mentis parent wouldn’t immediately assume that the older girl had done it to the younger girl? At best, Dunham is lying, and doesn’r realize that her lie puts her and her family in a terrible light.

4. What can we conclude about the character of a celebrity who proposes such conduct as harmless fun, apparently unaware that it violates standards of fairness, respect and caring, to be emulated and embraced by her readers and anyone whom they have influence over, including their own children, as a legitimate cultural norm? I conclude that her values are seriously and perhaps clinically warped. and that the more critics point this out, the safer everyone is, present and future. Lena Dunham is an ethics corrupter.

5. What can we discern about Dunham’s character that she wrote and published these details of embarrassing incidents involving her younger sister without having obtained the consent or permission of her sister? I discern that Dunham is a self-centered user of people, including relatives and loved ones, who does not consider the consequences of her action on others, and has no respect for the privacy, sensitivity, dignity or well-being of anyone else. She does not believe in the Golden Rule, and violates the core of Kant’s categorical imperative: Don’t use others for personal ends.

6. What should we glean from Dunham’s angry defense—via multiple Twitter rants-— of her book, which amounts to “everybody does it,” since this is  a) a rationalization and b) ridiculous, as everybody most certainly doesn’t treat their younger siblings this way? I glean that this is a Hollywood bubble resident so immersed in a narcissistic and corrupt culture that she can’t comprehend what normal, ethical  people properly regard as wrong.

7. What can we assume from the fact that Dunham is threatening to sue the websites that quoted her book directly and characterized what she describes in it as sexual abuse? As Ken at Popehat deliciously explains, we can assume that she is an idiot, a would-be bully,  a censorious one, and an imminent victim of the Streisand Effect.
8. What can we extract from the fact that ABC talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has taken to Twitter to defend Dunham? Since Kimmel gets his jollies and attracts his tasteless fans by encouraging child abuse for laughs, I extract nothing new. Jimmy Kimmel enjoys child abuse, so it stands to reason that he would see nothing wrong with the way Dunham treated her little sister.9. What can we derive from the weird post-modern, relativistic, leftist-gibberish defense of her molesting big sister posted by Dunham’s now-grown involuntary sex-assesory Grace, which reads…”heteronormativity deems certain behaviours harmful, and others “normal”; the state and media are always invested in maintaining that…As a queer person: i’m committed to people narrating their own experiences, determining for themselves what has and has not been harmful” ?
I derive that misused younger siblings of budding narcissists, power-abusers and sociopaths like Lena Dunham, in families where parents laugh off their older daughter stuffing their infant daughter’s vulva dull of pebbles, might be scarred by the experince, and may grow up having no understanding of the need for clarifying cultural standards of right and wrong.10. What is the take-away from the reaction of much of the mainstream media rushing to defend a cult darling by attributing the criticism of her revelations to conservative bias?This is the take-away, nicely articulated by Mediaite’s Joe Concha:

“Go visit a parallel universe where 24-year-old Bristol Palin — who is of Dunham’s generation — writes about touching her younger sister’s vagina, or pleasuring herself in front of her, or using bribery to kiss her…. the Alaska National Guard would have to be called in for the next six months just to protect the family from a positively-giddy media alone”


In summary, what is a fair but somehow understated description of  Lena Dunham in light of all the above?

Ethics Dunce.

Of course.

Update: Then there is the feminist hypicrisy. From Feminspire (Pointer: Instapundit):

“Fellow white feminists, we cannot do this shit anymore. It should never have been happening. We have to hold white feminists within the movement accountable for the things we say and do. We cannot continue to overlook truly horrific or damaging things that some of us do at the expense of other women because we really like somebody’s book or movie or tv show or whatever it is that we want to hold onto so so tightly that we would cast other women, their pain, suffering, and abuse aside, demean it and diminish it by placing our escapism above it. . . . Lena Dunham has handled this messed up shit by trying to classify this as a ‘right wing news story’ rather than just ‘news story’, which is what it is. She has tried to say that direct quotes of passages from her book are misconstrued words, which they are not. She has taken to twitter and effectively adopted the language of abusers in saying ‘my victim isn’t mad, why should you be?’. Call this what it is as it is: Lena Dunham wrote a memoir. In the memoir she detailed grooming her sister for increasing sexual abuse. She compared herself to a predator. Truth Revolt documented that Lena Dunham had written this and she is now threatening to sue them and trying to paint the telling as a ‘right wing news story’.”


Sources: Mediaite 1,2,3; Huffington Post, USA Today, Truth Revolt

34 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: “Girls” Creator/Actress Lena Dunham

  1. “heteronormativity deems certain behaviours harmful, and others “normal”; the state and media are always invested in maintaining that…As a queer person: i’m committed to people narrating their own experiences,

    First off. heteronormativity gets the red squiggle for yet another bullshit word the made up for no reason other than to complicate gender related issues. Add that to the list beside “cis” and “microagression”

    Second, is she really suggesting that the only reason this is catching air time is because the ‘relationship’ she had with her sister was homosexual in nature? I mean…. For fucks sake. Really? If Lena had been male, could you imagine the absolute shitstorm this would cause? They’re treating you with kid gloves because you are 1. a woman and 2. a lesbian.

    • This is how I have watched Left-wing radicals try to win arguments for decades, beginning with incomprehensible dialogues with SDS crazies in Harvard Yard. How do people learn to talk like this? The last major dose I got was when I was on a web debate over the stupid “Let’s offend all Muslims as if that will somehow stop Comedy Central From caving in to Radical Islamic threats over South Park” day, or whatever they called it. I was just covered in coded logorrhea–it was like swimming in molasses. You can’t argue with this stuff. all you can do is laugh, leave, or answer, “WHAT???” It’s fake erudition, form over content, like quoting maxims in French that sound impressive, but using a version of English that is equally impenetrable. Is this what comes of being diddled by your big sister for ten years? Apparently. Poor Grace.

  2. Coming from a big family, I’ve watched a lot of infants and small children in my lifetime, and to be quite honest, if they can fit an object in somewhere, it will happen. I’ve fished some objects out of some strange places. The only practical thing that disturbs me about that particular pebble story is how did the kid get the pebbles in there, and how was Dunham able to peer at her so easily? Was her little sister crawling around naked? If so, I guess it makes sense, otherwise, I think putting pebbles there would be difficult for a toddler her age to pull off (not to say it couldn’t be done, but it does increase my skepticism that the sister did it herself).

    That particular story, I don’t see the child molester accusation. She didn’t seem to be doing it out of some sexual gratification, or a power trip, but genuine curiosity about biological functions and anatomy. It is difficult for a girl to see how it all fits together without seeing it on another person, or some serious mirror contortions.

    • I agree that by itself, the 7-year-old story is a likely fabrication, but not per se alarming. Combined with the rest, however, and it has to be, it sure seems like the beginning of a pattern that should have been nipped in the bud.

  3. I don’t think 1 & 2 are correct. They are treating her with kid gloves because she’s on the right team.

    If she wasn’t, her homosexuality and her gender would not be a shield.

  4. It’s not unheard of for toddlers to conceal objects in their vaginas. Pennies, small toys etc. So I don’t think she’s lying about that. Whatever she did at seven years old shouldn’t be held against her. She didn’t know what she was doing. But her mother failed miserably in her duty of care to both of her daughters. She never taught them that you don’t explore other people’s bodies for your own amusement and as a result two women in their twenties are shocked that the public aren’t responding favourably to their little family story of an older child touching up a baby. I’ve heard her father paints erotic pictures for a living. children who are exposed to sexual material are more likely to act out in that way. So you have an unfortunate combination of a pornographer father and a mother who doesn’t teach about boundaries even when a clear opportunity arises.

  5. I have no idea how Grace can determine that no harm was done to her when she was clearly groomed for years by a disturbed older sister who was enabled by unobservant parents.

    We can also toss in the fact that Lena Dunham is a celebrity as to why she’s being defended. For some reason, though there’s sufficient evidence that Hollywood attracts damaged people and encourages their delusions, there are those who will defend the most outrageous behavior by an unrepentant celebrity that they would never tolerate of the neighbor down the street.

  6. The way to tell if this is unacceptable behavior is to imagine how you would feel if these were your children or your sisters or you. If it’s ick then, it’s ick. I agree there is normal curiosity, but this goes way beyond that all the way to ick.

    • Even if you’re willing to say that because Lena was a child, she should not have been held accountable for her actions (and I admit, there might be merit to that point of view, I just have a hard time reconciling what I know about sexual abusers and the idea that there wasn’t more to the story, this is what Lena CHOSE to share, after all.) there is such a thing as oversharing. Lena’s bread and butter is shocking people, I get it. But this borders insanity.

  7. What if the liberal media is right. What if this really is a ‘right-wing’ news story? What if the left really thinks this is OK for someone who is liberal or liberal and homosexual? Why is it that whenever this happens, people assume that the defenders of such actions don’t really mean it? I think they do mean what they say. I think Lena Dunham thinks her actions were cute. I think her sister is convinced that it was fine because she wants to prove that she is beyond conservative morality and being edgy and shocking is what she is after. I think that the mainstream media and most feminists really aren’t shocked and don’t see anything wrong with this. I think they are so politically polarized that they don’t really care about child abuse or sexual abuse at all. They really only care about their war against conservatives.

    From a leftist standpoint, these are two liberal women who claim to have a loving, mutually agreed-upon relationship. Who are conservatives to say that is wrong? If this is wrong, then it may make it harder to explain why homosexuality isn’t wrong. There is no chance to condemn conservatives for this, and condemning this would require condemning the values of a prominent liberal as warped, which would make it more legitimate to question the values of other liberals (like Bill Maher). So, it is best just to call this fine as well. It is for the greater good.

    • Let’s open some worm cans.

      I think a considerable amount of this is sweeping under the rug because for a long time homosexuality was seen as a mental disorder often as a product of an abused childhood or a childhood lacking any good parenting. Yet, without asserting that all homosexuality is a product of mental disorder or grossly inappropriate upbringing, I don’t see it irresponsible to posit that sometimes disorders or atrocious rearing does manifest itself in unhealthy homosexual conduct. Just as equally as it may manifest itself in unhealthy heterosexual conduct.

      Adults can become very very broken individuals, whose wounds manifest in a wide variety of unhealthy and anti-social conduct. If it were to manifest itself in one individual as homosexuality, can we be mature enough to consider that without having our heads chopped off as asserting all homosexuals to be mere manifestations of brokenness?


    This is not to say that abuse between siblings doesn’t happen; it certainly does. But in no way does what Dunham describe come close to the criminal-justice definition of sibling sexual abuse, which is “forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and forcible fondling.” When child abuse specialists, teachers, lawyers, and child care and school administrators convened at a symposium in 1995 to collectively decide what distinguishes “developmentally expected” sexual behaviors from those that “suggest dysfunctional development” and could be harmful, they decided that masturbation, inspecting the bodies of other children, and kissing—the three things Dunham writes about doing—all belonged in the first category. Behaviors in the second category included oral/genital contact with other kids, penetrating girls’ vaginas with objects or fingers, and forced penetration of other orifices. What Dunham did doesn’t even come close to this.

    Just to throw in some experts’ perspectives in there.

    • I find quoting a blog that quotes studies unhelpful. The blogger almost always without question cherry picks. Slate, for instance, used
      as a reference, which I think is unethical. (Using studies the reader has to pay 32.00 to read as evidence. This survey seemed to focus on ‘cross gender’ childhood abuse, but you can’t read any more than the abstract.)

      Slate also used
      which actually does cover everything that slate mentioned, although they “paraphrased” certain parts, I believe to lead the reader to conclusions. For instance, “Solitary masturbation” is considered a Class I behavior (acceptable), but Slate said that “masturbation {…} belonged in the first category” what a difference a word makes. Slate makes no mention of Class II behaviors, which are probably most applicable, as Lena’s situations match several almost as if they were tailored for her. Class II behaviors are behaviors for which there isn’t enough information with which to determine if behaviors are harmful. And Slate causally glosses over Class III behaviors, which by their single occurrence should cause concern, which include “Penetration of a girl’s vagina with an object or finger” She may not have done that with the pebbles, but I think Slate saying “What Dunham did doesn’t even come close to this.” in the same sentence is intellectually dishonest.

      tl|dr: Deery, read shit for yourself. Piggybacking on people piggybacking on people that actually know what they’re talking about reminds me of playing Chinese Whispers.

      • I read it. You basically are agreeing with the Slate article, yes. You agree that Lena did not engage in any of the behaviors considered harmful, that she indeed, did not penetrate her sister, etc? Please correct me if I am wrong.

        I don’t like Dunham, I find her smug and faux-deep. I don’t like discussing the sexual behavior of children. It is something that as an adult I would prefer very much not to think about. Thus the ick factor to her revelations. But they aren’t criminal. Children comparing body parts is very common. Snuggling with each other in bed is common. Surreptitiously masturbating while everyone is asleep is also common. “Kissing games” are also common. Icky to think about, but common. Strung together, I would say she shows a poor sense of judgment in relating things that people would prefer not to recall and/or think about at all, especially if someone themselves is a parent with children. I hope that she had permission from her sister to relate these anecdotes. I also hope that somewhere in the book, she at least has a purpose, other than being provocative, for putting them in there. But probably not. Because it’s Lena Dunham.

        • No, I think that Slate misquoted the study in order to give Lena more of a pass than it warranted, and gave the study more weight than it even gave itself, seeing as the study qualified almost everything in it by pointing out that it was a very small study in a field that isn’t looked at often, and there is very little consensus among experts. I think that you are in turn cherry picking it to try to give yourself a leg up, which either translates to a severe reading comprehension problem that borders retardation, or dishonest intent.

  9. I don’t know if these accounts rise to illegal sexual abuse or not, but I do know that they made me throw up in my mouth a little.


    • I don’t think that anyone has actually suggested charges be laid. I think that’s a straw man people are using to distract. I agree, there’s more than a little ick here.

      • No, but I am very sure that a lot of the people, including celebrities, who say now that they were sexually abused a s a child are talking about conduct no worse than what Grace endured. And again, who knows what Lena didn’t describe, if she saw nothing wrong with what she did make public.

  10. (holds head in hand, shaking it) “Agnus Dei!” And I’m not even a Catholic. 🙂

    How do you defend THAT, Jimmy Kimmel?

    Is this one of those sexual assaults in the CDC numbers you don’t recognize or agree with, Jack? I would certainly count it, myself.

    Who knows that Lena didn’t describe? I won’t go there if you won’t.

    I have no opinion with respect to the show. Frankly, I’d never even heard of her before.

  11. You’d think that as a self-proclaimed queer person, Grace Dunham would cringe at the thought of condemnation of child abuse being somehow ‘heteronormative.’ Way to make the people who associate sexual diversity with perversion look not wrong, even though they are.

    As for the idea of letting people decide for themselves whether their experiences have been harmful or damaging, sure, that sounds good, except for the fact that some of us are actually more interested in sparing children experiences that may damage them than validating their feelings after the fact.

    I think this whole family qualifies for the title of Ethics Dunce, with the possible exception of Grace, who may never have had a reasonable chance to develop a self-aware conscience.

  12. There’s a bit of hypocrisy in certain elements of the left about this I think, although I can’t name specific examples.

    In their mind, it’s OK for the 1 in 5 college rape number to be used, and the fact that the supposed victims didn’t think they were raped is irrelevant. (I actually have some sympathy for the desire for an objective measure, but disagree with the overly broad definition she used). Conversely, the fact that Grace doesn’t think she was abused means she wasn’t. I don’t think the two can be reconciled. You can could conceivably allow adults to make the call for themselves and remove that option from children, but there is no ethical way to give child victims the right to decide while taking it from adults.

    • I agree that just because Grace doesn’t think she was abused doesn’t mean that she wasn’t. Though I do believe the putative victim’s feelings should carry some weight. But in this case, I think even by an objective measure, Grace probably wasn’t abused.

  13. Lena Dunham is a sick, twisted piece of vermin, exposed by her own words. If the stories are true, she should be confined to a mental hospital, as she is obviously unfit to be in the company of decent human beings… children in particular. If untrue, she still exposes a deviant mentality in even being able to imagine such circumstances. Either way, she needs to be locked up. Perhaps all her Hollywood supporters with her. Where else but in the decadent domains of today’s culture could such as her rise to prominence and be defended in her perversions?

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