When it comes to being the poster child for Generation Overshare, Lena Dunham may have reached the precipice of regret.
In her new memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl,” Dunham, to some, treads a line between discomfiting and inappropriate. Others think she crosses it entirely. She describes masturbating while in bed next to her younger sister Grace — and she detailed this interaction with her when Dunham was 7 and her sister was 1:
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.
In another passage, Dunham described the negotiations she would enter with her sister:
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. Maybe, I thought, she would be more willing to accept kisses if I wore the face mask my grandmother had for when she did her dialysis. (The answer was no.) 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. I took a perverse pleasure in delivering bad news to her — the death of our grandfather, a fire across the street — hoping that her fear would drive her her into my arms, would make her trust me.
This weekend, Dunham responded to accusations from National Review and Truth Revolt that what she had actually done in her memoir was reveal that she had sexually abused her younger sister. On Twitter, she went on a self-described rage spiral: “The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn’t just LOL- it’s really f—ing upsetting and disgusting,” she tweeted. “And by the way, if you were a little kid and never looked at another little kid’s vagina, well, congrats to you. Usually this is stuff I can ignore but don’t demean sufferers, don’t twist my words, back the f— up bros. I told a story about being a weird 7 year old. I bet you have some too, old men, that I’d rather not hear. And yes, this is a rage spiral.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, normal sexual behavior for children ages 2 to 6 include touching or masturbating genitals in public or private, trying to look at or touch peer or new sibling genitals, showing genitals to peers and trying to see peer or adult nudity. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offered another useful fact sheet about childhood sexual development. According to theirs, common behaviors for school-aged children (7 to 12) include:
- Purposefully touching private parts (masturbation), usually in private
- Playing games with children their own age that involve sexual behavior (such as “truth or dare”, “playing family,” or “boyfriend/girlfriend”)
- Attempting to see other people naked or undressing
- Looking at pictures of naked or partially naked people
- Viewing/listening to sexual content in media (television, movies, games, the Internet, music, etc.)
- Wanting more privacy (for example, not wanting to undress in front of other people) and being reluctant to talk to adults about sexual issues
- Beginnings of sexual attraction to/interest in peers