According to Huffingtonpost.com, Cosmopolitan.co.uk, and Time.com, Lena Dunham has become the latest megaphone to promote the feminist assertion that when it comes to sex, women are simply not capable of being equal to men.
Of course, that’s not how the articles are framed. They present her as a courageous but confused victim who is finally ready to admit that years ago in college she was raped. To achieve this, the articles use a mix of feminism’s application of female hypoagency and male hyperagency to heterosexual encounters, a gynocentric approach to bodily autonomy, and demonization of men by association.
The self-described ideology of strong, independent women treats heterosexual interaction as though women are so weak and inept and men are so powerful and capable that the man must be accountable for the decisions and actions of both himself and his partner while the woman has no responsibility at all, not even that of open communication. Dunham supports this repeatedly in her description by framing her own choices as irrelevant and inflating the relevance of her partner’s actions and even those of an uninvolved man—all except for her sex partner’s consent.
The articles frame their reporting on Dunham’s encounter inside feminism’s treatment of consent as the exclusive privilege of women. Nowhere is it addressed that Dunham had sex with a man under false pretenses, feigning interest because she did not want to admit to social ineptitude while drinking. Did her partner consent to sex with a woman who did not want him? Was he sober enough to consent to sex? It’s hard to tell from the articles quoting Dunham’s book, as those articles may or may not contain all of what she wrote, and what she wrote is only the “she said” side of the story.
Various quotes describe Dunham’s choice, knowing that she was intoxicated, to take a man back to her room and have sex with him, followed by a description of her morning-after regret crafted to elicit sympathy and a sense of sisterhood in female readers.
First, a quote describes Dunham disrobing in front of a man to urinate outside (an action that, were he to do it, would get a man arrested and put on a sex offenders list.) She treats his sexual response to her public nudity as if it is somehow less appropriate than her choice to disrobe in front of him without warning. Apparently, though we’re supposed to see women as completely reasonable in responding to male nudity as always sexual and always inflicted no matter his perspective, when a woman drops trou in public, that’s different.
So different, in fact, that doing so communicates nothing to a member of the sex raised to believe their own nudity constitutes sexual imposition, except “I have to pee.”
Dunham does not indicate in her narrative that she offered any refusal to the guy’s advance. Instead, she offers the following: “I’m not sure whether I can’t stop it or I don’t want to.”
This is not no. This is not I was forced. This is I made a decision to go along with something and now I don’t want to admit that, so I’m going to frame my description to portray myself as an object that is acted upon, instead of a person making a choice.
This is what feminist hypoagency looks like.
Apparently, she was not decisively averse because she describes continuing on. At this point, it is undeniable that she knew that the man she was talking about was sexually aroused and interested in her. It would take a special kind of stupid to misinterpret fingering as an unclear signal.
According to her own narrative, after deciding to continue walking with a man she knew had fingered her in response to her choice to expose her genitals to him, Dunham refused assistance in extracting herself from the encounter.
Leaving the parking lot, I see my friend Fred. He spies Barry leading me by the arm toward my apartment (apparently I’ve told him where I live), and he calls out my name. I ignore him. When that doesn’t work, he grabs me. Barry disappears for a minute, so it’s just Fred and me.
“Don’t do this,” he says.
“You don’t want to walk me home, so just leave me alone,” I slur, expressing some deep hurt I didn’t even know I had. “Just leave me alone.”
He shakes his head. What can he do?
Yet again we see Dunham’s choices treated as irrelevant, and here there are layers she is not addressing. Why do her feelings toward Fred have anything to do with her choice to take Barry home with her? Is she going home with Barry to spite Fred? If she is, does she really think that’s anyone’s choice and anyone’s fault but her own? And why is it that big bad Barry has been granted the agency and power to steer her by the arm, but good guy Fred is helpless in the face of that thing women don’t do in a sexual encounter … her refusal? Why can she refuse Fred if she’s powerless to refuse Barry?
Dunham’s story is full of such contradictions. She can remember walking with Barry, knew when she was talking to Fred that Barry was walking her home, but at her apartment she didn’t know that they had got there together because Barry had walked her home. She could refuse Fred but was too indecisive to refuse Barry until she found out that he wasn’t using a condom—at which point the guy she claims was forcing himself on her obeyed her order to leave. There are a lot of details in that story, but it’s lacking the one vital factor that would define the encounter as it is presented: unless the writers of the various articles on the narrative have left out a Dunham quote describing Barry deliberately, knowingly contravening her ability to refuse, her story does not describe a rape. She’s described lousy drunken sex from the perspective of someone who, over the years, has been convinced by feminists that because afterwards she regretted doing it, it was rape. It’s hard to tell if that absence is due to omission, but the fact that writers had room to fit in a mention of the accused’s political affiliation casts doubt on the existence of any reason to not include such an important detail.
The Time article, which contains most of the quotes, is especially difficult to trust, as it presents as evidence of a pervasive campus rape culture a link to a study that found the majority of rape to be committed by a mere 6% of the population. The article omits that fact, instead emphasizing that 90% of admitted rapists are repeat offenders. It’s a method of obfuscation that feminists regularly use: ignore part of the available information to focus on that which, when isolated, can be framed to suit the intended narrative. This is reason to question the omission of anything that would indicate actual force or coercion in the described scenario, under suspicion that if it existed, it would have been reported, or at least descriptively referenced—unless the writers were deliberately trying to portray awkward drunken sex as rape.
These are all common factors within the feminist narrative on sexual violence. The story being sold is that men are perpetrators and women are victims.
Men act. Women are acted upon. Her experience and her emotional responses matter. His are irrelevant, and so is his perception.
Why else would a major news source take seriously such a grave accusation based on no evidence other than the accuser’s word? As the way Dunham framed her side of the story demonstrates, the opposite is true of choices; while her experience and her emotional responses are of utmost importance, her choices are totally, completely, unquestionably meaningless. And while his experiences, emotional responses, and, most of all, his perceptions are of no consequence, his choices are the only choices acknowledged in the situation.
Why? Because the self-described ideology of strong, independent women believes that heterosexual sex makes us inept, helpless, hapless twits.
In the past, I’ve explored how nonsexual behaviors might look if people approached them the way feminists want women to approach sex, leading to an article in Breaking the Glasses titled “The brutal rape of poor, innocent Mr. Creosote.” Monty Python fans will recall the sketch at the beginning of The Meaning of Life in which Mr. Creosote overeats and explodes. It’s obvious in the sketch that Mr. Creosote is the main cause of his own problem, but viewing his experience through a feminist filter (and treating him as female) would call for a different conclusion. Ms. Creosote was obnoxious, but the waiter obviously knew what would happen when he gave his customer that mint. The viewer can tell because upon handing it over, the waiter runs and ducks for cover. It’s clear, when viewed through that filter of hypoagency, that Ms. Creosote has been dietarily assaulted. She is a victim of intimate server violence.
Another example is the cake culture video, made in response to the feminist-made flash “game” that was nothing but a narrative designed to train the player to dismiss a woman’s sexual choices and treat male sexuality as predatory and domineering. The game designer had backed a pick-your-path story with not only an unavoidable, predetermined outcome but also an unavoidable, predetermined outlook, with a quiet version of Chopin’s funeral march to set the mood. It couldn’t have been more melodramatic if the word RAPE had flashed across the screen in big letters every few seconds during the game. The story concluded with a weepy monologue designed to evoke viewer pity for the story’s character. The designer described the game as an exercise in understanding rape culture.
Discussion about that game, and an offer of assistance from Alien Gearbox on YouTube, led to the creation of the following public service ad to alert you all to the nefarious, pervasive cake culture in which we unknowingly live.
Nobody would accept such a ridiculous lack of self-determination in a healthy adult outside of the context of a heterosexual encounter. It’s something we accept from children, and a reason why adults are given the legal authority to make decisions for children and the onus to use that authority to protect and nurture children. A parent has legal decision-making authority over every aspect of his or her child’s life, and is accountable to society should such decisions lead to harm rather than benefit for the child. This authority limits children’s freedom for their own protection. If a child skips school, associates with criminals, uses drugs, refuses treatment for serious illness, or is injured doing something incredibly stupid, the parent can face criminal charges for neglect, so parents have the legal authority to force children to attend school, to restrict their movement to prevent them from dangerous associations or behaviors, to make medical decisions for them, and to monitor their activities in a way that we would never tolerate an adult doing to another healthy adult. The justification for this is the fact that they are not mentally and emotionally developed enough to make certain decisions for themselves. Parenting is the act of stewarding the life of a developing human being until he or she is competent to be accountable and responsible for himself or herself.
Feminism’s habit of inferring hypoagency upon women likens us to children, and their hyperagency narrative likens men to parents. In denying the validity, relevance, and impact of women’s decisions, feminists deny that women are mentally and emotionally developed enough to make those decisions for ourselves. In emphasizing men’s capability and placing the onus of accountability for both parties in heterosexual encounters on them, feminists infer that women are not competent to be accountable and responsible for ourselves so men must be. The inference is a demand that men take on stewardship of women’s lives, responsibility for our welfare, on the same level that parents are expected to do for children. It is an indirect statement that women, at least women who buy into feminist ideology, are not only not strong or independent, but also not even adults.
An adult does not need to be coddled like that. He knows his goals and his boundaries, and considers the potential impact of his choices on himself and on anyone else involved. In his decisions he is mindful of those factors. Changing “he” to “she” does not exempt an individual wanting to be considered an adult from meeting those standards. While it is childish to engage in adult behavior with an ambiguous, blundering partner, it is also childish to ambiguously blunder your way through an encounter you could easily end with clear, decisive communication and then blame it on anyone but yourself. Lena Dunham, the worst thing Barry did to you, according to the description offered in various news sources, was engage in sexual activity with an apparent adult who had yet to mature enough to be called one.
Note: Title image by David Shankbone, cropped to fit our publication standards. –Eds.