Lena Dunham, Sex Offenders and Thyroid Cancer

Lena, sex and cancer — clickbait? No. A real, Free-Range point:

This week, two writers I love — Frank Furedi, the author of Paranoid rifhseykzz
(the 2002 book that decried helicopter parenting before anyone else) and Josh Gravens, a Soros Fellow dedicated to reforming the sex offender laws — both wrote about the Lena Dunham autobiography, in which the “Girls” creators admits to having been fascinated by her  1-year-old sister’s vagina when she was 7, and doing some stuff that is uncomfortable to read about. For this, some observers have branded her nothing short of a child abuser. But as Furedi writes in SpikedOnline:

...sexual inquisitiveness, which is a central part of child development, is increasingly cast in a sinister light. It was the banning of the game of kiss chase by a primary school in Lincoln in England in February 2007 that first alerted me to the growing trend for viewing children’s physical behaviour as the equivalent of adult misdeeds. My subsequent research showed that schools and other institutions were increasingly confusing children’s sexual exploration with acts of abuse.

That’s his main point: There’s normal behavior that is not exactly pleasant to talk or think about that happens among kids. But calling it abuse ignores the fact that:

1. Kids are sexually curious. And,

2. Even enduring some disturbing incidents in childhood does not necessarily cripple children. Kids are far more resilient than our culture gives them credit for.

What’s more, there are consequences to “overdiagnosing” child abuse, especially when it’s another child we label an abuser. Josh Gravens knows this because he got labeled a sex offender for touching his 8-year-old sister’s vagina twice when he was 12. His mom called a counseling center to ask for advice, the center was mandated to report any “abuse” to the authorities.  And so, as Josh relates in “An Open Letter to Lena Dunham from a Person Placed on the Registry as a Child“:

While my behavior was inappropriate, I believe that three and a half years in prison, four years of parole, intensive and intrusive sex offender treatment, and spending most of my life on the registry were punishments that went far overboard.

That’s right. He’s almost 30 now and still a registered sex offender for that “crime” he committed before he was a teenager. (Two years ago he got off the public registry, but he is still on the private one that cops see.) In Josh’s state alone — Texas — there are almost 5,000 people on the registry who were under the age of 18 at the time of their offense.

Are so many kids raping other kids? Or are we punishing the normal along with the egregious?

That is the question that brings me to an oped in Wednesday’s New York Times, “An Epidemic of Thyroid Cancer?” subtitled, “No. It’s an epidemic of overdiagnosis,” by H. Gilbert Welch (a professor of medicine at Dartmouth). He writes:

The setting is South Korea, where, over the last two decades, the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased fifteenfold. Nowhere in the world is the rate of any cancer growing faster.

Is it because South Koreans have been exposed to something toxic? In a way, yes. They have been exposed to the toxic belief that early detection of any and all threats, no matter how tiny or slow-growing, is beneficial.

In 1999 the government initiated a national health-screening program focused on reducing cancer and other common diseases… Hospitals have ultrasound machines and so do many doctors’ offices. Both promoted thyroid cancer screening as an inexpensive add-on to the government program….In doing so they inadvertently highlighted the major harm of early detection: What was a rare cancer is now the most common cancer in South Korea.

Why is it bad to catch thyroid cancer early?

Studies have since shown that over a third of adults have thyroid cancer. Virtually all of these cancers are small “papillary thyroid cancers,” many of which will never become evident during a person’s life.

A third of all adults have this cancer! And yet it is one of the rarest things people die from! So we are detecting a threat that really isn’t that threatening.

But of course, once diagnosed,the “patients” get treated. And not only is this costly in terms of dollars, it’s costly health-wise. The thyroid gland is removed. Welch details all the grim side effects.

Now for “thyroid cancer” substitute “child sexual abuse by other children” and you’ll see the parallel. When we look for this rare and horrific problem, we are in danger of finding a normal, non-threatening condition (“Your sister played doctor with you?”) and diagnosing it as a cancerous problem (“You will never recover!”) to be dealt with instantly (“Throw the kid in jail!”), without considering the consequences.

The virtue of early detection is so ingrained and so appealing that many assume that screening can only be good for you. But that’s not true. The Korean experience illustrates the downside of trying to find cancer early: overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

The experience of Josh Gravens illustrates the downside of overdiagnosing and overtreating the sexual abuse of kids by kids. Some of these interactions are horrifying. But much of it is normal and will not hurt the kids involved at the time, or even later in life.

Unless, that is, one of them is labeled a sex offender for a Lena Dunham-type “crime.” – L

Lena Dunham: Sex offender?

Lena Dunham: Sex offender?

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52 Responses to Lena Dunham, Sex Offenders and Thyroid Cancer

  1. Cynthia812 November 7, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    I am really, really glad you are willing to come out and say this. Another thing that people don’t seem to consider is that the potential for overreaction in this area makes it dangerous to even ask for advice, for both kids and parents. Is that really what we want? Also, personally, I think all the push for “modesty” that I see every day, even for very young children who have no clue why it’s important to the parents, probably does more harm than good.

  2. Donna November 7, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    “I think all the push for “modesty” that I see every day, even for very young children who have no clue why it’s important to the parents, probably does more harm than good.”

    I agree. Yesterday I was in the bathroom in the courthouse. A mother with her 3 young children – 2 girls and a boy – walked in right behind me. The girls were definitely under school-age and the boy MAY have been as old as kindergarten age, but no older (and there is a good possibility that he wasn’t even school-age as he was in a courthouse on Thursday morning and not in school). Mom took them all into the handicapped stall together. I heard her tell the two girls to face the wall so that they didn’t watch their brother go to the bathroom. She then repeatedly yelled at them for turning around. I left before everyone peed, but I imagine that the ones not peeing had to face the wall the entire time.

    It all seemed way over the top for kids who were approximately 2-5 years old. All I could think was that those kids were going to be trying everything that they could to see what is in each others pants due to nothing other than curiosity after such a production is made of it being forbidden viewing.

  3. Coccinelle November 7, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    Poor Josh! He just needed help. Not a 3 years sentence to prison! He needed to see a counsellor who hopefully would have been able to learn about his abuse and help him. But what parent will send their kids in that situation to see one if they fear he will be put in prison?? I’m completely appalled.

    Children are put on a registry for sharing pornographic material??? I’m sad beyond words!

  4. marie November 7, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    He needed to see a counsellor who hopefully would have been able to learn about his abuse and help him.

    Maybe, maybe not. First, I’m not sure that what he did should be considered ‘abuse’. Second, a counselor DID ‘learn about his abuse’ and look what came of that.

    Counselors can be wonderful. They can also do damage.

  5. Coccinelle November 7, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    @ Marie

    Sorry if I was not clear, in the article it was stated that we was raped repeatedly between the age of 6 and 8.

  6. Coccinelle November 7, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    *he* was raped

    I’m sorry.

  7. MNmama November 7, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    When my son was 5, we had a period of “curiosity” that caused a fair amount of trouble in our neighborhood. It was triggered by a neighbor kid with an “I’ll show you mine…” incident and went on for several weeks before I was able to get it under control. At that time I was a frequent poster on a parenting message board that was public but had a very small readership. I asked for help in controlling this problem, and EVERY RESPONSE was a proclamation that my son had been abused by someone and I *had* to follow through on getting him help. Good grief! I KNEW there was no opportunity for such. ONE parent finally e-mailed me privately with reassurance and advice. She didn’t dare post a conflicting response publicly. She had been in my shoes at one point and had gotten publicly excoriated for treating it as childhood misbehavior rather than going on a witch hunt. I’ve always wondered how many of those moms had “played doctor” when they were kids, and how many of their own kids had and they just didn’t know about it.

  8. Melissa November 7, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I’m not ok with any of this for a couple reasons. First of all, sometimes 2 kids have mutual curiosity and do the whole “show me yours…” bit and you know what, it happens, no biggie. But prying open your sisters vagina is molestation. It’s the definition of molestation for crying out loud! And Lena talks about it like everyone does it. Well everyone doesn’t do it. She admits to behaving like a predator would, to lure her victim, encourage her to feel helpless so Lena could feel power over her… How can this be defended?? I am (was) a fan of hers, and like the show Girls, but this is over the edge, and she cannot and should not be defended for this.
    The part that really gets me however is that she was leading the movement to call the iCloud nudie pic controvery a SEX CRIME, which it was NOT, it was an Internet crime, and now she admits to molestation and this is supposedly no big deal. The double standard and hipocrasy makes my eyes bleed. I cannot stand by her any longer, and I’m disappointed in everyone and anyone who is defending this woman.
    Do I think she should be a registered sex offender and spend 20 years in jail? No I do not. But I do think she she be called out and put on notice and publicly shunned and shamed, not treated like some strong powerful role model. I’m so over this crap.

  9. SKL November 7, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you. It is unbelievable how over the top some moms’ reactions are to the Lena thing. And they immediately employ all their powers of imagination to construct a life they think Lena and her sister must have led if she could do such things and, worse, admit them years later.

    Not that I feel real sorry for Lena. I mean, it seems clear to me that she was trying for shock value, and she succeeded there. And they say all publicity is good publicity. But still, it is scary to see how sane people will spin what they see. What if one of my daughters sneaks a peek at a diaper change someday? *Shudder!*

    And it’s also scary to see the denial by actual moms of the fact that curiosity is normal for children. What are they going to do when they discover their own children feeling curious? Chop it off? Get them to a counselor? Don’t people realize that the more you focus on something (bad or good), the more you get of it?

  10. Uly November 7, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    SKL, there’s a difference between “curiosity” and abnormal behavior. What she describes goes beyond normal behavior into pathological.

  11. SKL November 7, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    I would caution people to make sure they are reading actual quotes from her book rather than other people’s summations. I have seen several people insist that she admits sticking her fingers and pebbles into her 1yo sister’s vagina, which is nowhere near what she actually wrote. Not even close.

    I also go back to my pet peeve, what did she mean by “vagina” – the majority of people use this word inaccurately to mean “vulva.” In cases like this, that makes a big difference. Did she gently open the baby’s legs to look at the vulva, or did she pry open the parts to look at the vagina? Considering she was asking her mom recently whether her sister’s looked like hers, and she was unlikely to know what her own actual vagina looked like, I’m guessing she meant “vulva.” But who knows….

  12. Elin November 7, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    What she described is not harmless exploration in my view, it goes beyond that. I am not saying she should be labelled a pedophile but I was really quite sickened by the way the stories where told and how little insight she seems to have into this not being what you should do to your sibling when you are 7 and she is 1. I really see no reason to defend her at all. I think this http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2014/11/sexual-exploration-and-teaching-children-boundaries.html is similar to what I feel.

  13. Lizzie Smith November 7, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Normal childhood behaviour? Yes. What I find disturbing about the situation is that those who aren’t acting as if Lena should be thrown into prison are claiming this is ACCEPTABLE childhood behaviour. Children have parents so that when we see stuff like that going on, we can put a stop to it and explain why it’s inappropriate. It’s like hitting, lying, stealing: children might do it to other children, and we ought not to put them on a registry and tear their world apart for it, but we as parents ought not allow it either.

  14. Lizzie Smith November 7, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Also, the fact that she spoke of it publicly, when she ought not to have discussed her sister in such a manner for all the world to see, is quite disturbing as well.

  15. JulieC November 7, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    If the only situation Lena Dunham described was the pebbles incident, I might be inclined to agree. However, she described a number of behaviors that went well beyond simple childhood curiosity.

    Dunham’s public statements have only referenced that incident. She’s not talking about the other stuff that went on, well into her teen years. Wonder why?

  16. J- November 7, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    This puts me at a rather uncomfortable crossroads. I hold a number of beliefs and feeling that seem contradictory but all overlap on this:

    1) I agree, our sex offender laws need reforming. I fully agree that we punish way too many people for sex crimes that do not deserve to be punished – e.g. little boys who kiss little girls on the bus, campers who take a leak against a tree near a hiking path, idiot high school kids who streak a football game, etc. Branding people who are not likely to be recidivists as sex offenders for life is not justice and more often than not, makes things worse.

    2) All of the above being true, I believe that forceable rape (all forms) and aggravated sexual assault of a minor (actual, factual, adult-on-child molestation) should be a capital crime and punishable by death. Yes, I believe that. No, I am not going to walk that back. If you rape a child, I hope the state straps you to a chair and runs an electric current through your body until your central nervous system overloads and shuts down, and I hope it hurts a lot while it is happening.

    3) Child on child sexual experimentation is usually normal. Most kids play some form of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” as part of growing up. And most psychologists agree that, that type of behavior does not do long term damage.

    4) Like with anything, some behaviors can go too far. Rough and tumble play is normal. Torturing animals is a sign of sociopathy. There are forms of “sexual experimentation” that are indicators of bad sexual predilections. I am not going to armchair psychoanalyze Lena Dunham from some passages in her book and decide if her behavior falls into the category of normal or budding sexual psycho.

    5) I G-D DAMN HATE LENA DUNHAM WITH A FIRE THAT COULD MELT STEEL!!!. She is a disgusting, vile, human being, and that she is considered by some to be “the voice of her (my) generation” hurts me in ways I cannot describe. Her show embodies and celebrates everything that is wrong about the early millennials who can’t seem to muster up for adulthood.

    While I am pro-choice (from a libertarian perspective) I still have an emotional problem with abortion for convenience. I saw about 3 min of her show, which was more than enough as the dialog that I caught was Dunham’s character telling a friend “I am proud of you for having an abortion.” WTF!?!

    My wife and I tried for a family. She got pregnant. We went in for the ultrasound, and a few days later got the results that something was wrong with our baby. We would have to wait until we could get a level II ultrasound to find out if it was going to be a permanent birth defect or not and if we were going to have some very difficult decisions to make.

    My wife and I worried ourselves sick for weeks over this. We couldn’t sleep, cried every night for about a week, all the joy was sucked out of our lives with worry for the future of a child that was yet to be born. Fortunately, everything turned out ok and our baby was born perfectly healthy. But I can’t forget how much we stressed over our baby. How much we worried. How much we loved him before we even met him.

    During the campaigning for the 2014 midterms, Lena Dunham “campaigned” for “women’s rights” by suggesting that an unborn baby is not a person, just something to be thrown away and forgotten about. That it is just “a fetus” or “bunch of cells” – using the clinical terms to dehumanize it. I remember what my wife and I went through and it makes my skin crawl.

    6) While Dunham’s behavior might have fallen into the category of normal experimentation, I would not mind it if her jocular retelling of her incestual experimentation was her undoing and downfall that ruined her reputation and drove her from the public eye and back under the rock from which she slimed.

  17. SKL November 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Sounds like she’s a pretty controversial figure to begin with and I wonder how much that is coloring people’s reading of her quotes. Personally I knew nothing about her before this current controversy, but the more I hear, the more I tend to dislike her. That said, based on just the quoted self-admissions of her behavior, I think people are overreacting, and I’m just glad I’m not alone.

  18. ESKL November 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Sexual experimentation between similar-aged children is normal. With Lena, there was a SIX year age difference. Not all of the questionable behavior happened when Lena was seven. It continued through her teen years, including masturbating in bed next to her sister. Do I think she should have been sent to jail and labeled a sex offender? No. But, what she did – especially when taking as a whole, as a pattern of behavior that lasted at least a decade – is NOT okay, acceptable, or within the realm of normal childhood experimentation. People need to stop defending her or downplaying her inappropriate actions.

  19. Donna November 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Looking at someone’s vulva – which is what the article describes – is not sexual abuse. If it is, I guess that I am a child molester, as is every parent of a girl who ever changed one of those runny poopy diapers where the poop goes everywhere, including into the vulva, as you need to get in there, look around and clean it out. My daughter no more “consented” to that than Lena’s sister consented Lena’s look about. My daughter had no more knowledge of my purpose than Lena’s sister did.

    The difference between changing poopy diapers and comparing your sisters vulva to yours and sexual abuse is really in intent. Was the person peering into the vulva doing it for their own sexual gratification or to humiliate or control or some other nefarious purpose? If not, and if they are of an age like Lena where they do not have a clear understanding of personal space and right and wrong, then there is no sexual abuse. It is inappropriate behavior that they need to be taught to stop doing, but it is not sexual abuse.

    I have no interest in the book and only know what has been said about it, but if there are all these other horrible allegations that extend into her teens, why exactly are the only things being talked about these minor things occurring when Lena was very young?

  20. Reziac November 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Preteen kids aren’t exactly “sexually curious”. They’re EVERYTHING curious. “Ooh, why is yours different? That feels interesting. What happens if I stick my finger in there?” But think about sex as such? Not hardly.

  21. Donna November 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    Nobody is saying that her behavior was appropriate. Even those saying it is normal childhood experimentation are not saying that it was acceptable behavior. Much of normal childhood behavior is unacceptable. Lying, cheating, stealing, hitting, biting are all things ALL kids do, and yet all are highly inappropriate. Branding a 7 year old who engages in some odd sexual experimentation as a sex offender for life is as ridiculous as branding a 7 year old who steals a candy bar a thief for life. We need to stop this belief that somehow children are born knowing proper sexual boundaries, despite acknowledging that they are born not knowing a single other boundary and have to be taught them.

  22. SKL November 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Of all the stuff I’ve seen quoted from the book, only the bribes for kisses at an older age were borderline victimization in my opinion. And in that case, the age was not given, so I don’t have enough information to really opine.

    If masturbating with a sleeping person next to you is a crime, many people have committed it.

    If having a young child relax on you while watching TV is a crime, Lord help us all.

    See, I’m usually considered pretty uptight. I was definitely not raised in a nudist or liberal family. And I’ve had first-hand experience with multiple kinds of molestation (by both adults and kids). If this stuff doesn’t set off alarm bells for me, it probably isn’t a big deal.

    And then a lot of people are horrified that the mother didn’t keep her kids under constant supervision so none of this could have happened. Especially after the pebble incident. I mean, now you are on notice that your kid is curious about body parts. It’s all on you if she becomes a molester! Really?

  23. Papilio November 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    So, is the sister completely traumatized now, or just (some of) the readers of the book?

    @J: “[…] Dunham’s character telling a friend “I am proud of you for having an abortion.” WTF!?!”

    You do understand that there might be a difference between Lena and the character she plays in that show, even if she’s written that show herself?

  24. Kenny Felder November 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    I seem to remember Anne Frank discussing some curious experimentation in her diary. Goodness knows what a “modern” reader would think.

  25. J- November 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    @ Papilio

    Yes, I reconize that there is a difference between a person and the character that she plays. However, she has stated that her how is quasi-autobiographical and is a mouthpiece for her political opinions/activism.

    If you follow her political schtick, she has sought to normalize/trivialize abortion.

    Again, while I am pro-choice (because I do not like big, intrusive, government) I still believe that abortion is at best a necessary evil. Any attempt to trivialize it or make abortion for convenience socially acceptable, is to me, vile. The fact that she thought to have the protagonist of her show utter those words, to me, shows a contemptible level of callousness and narcissism in her heart.

  26. Roger the Shrubber November 7, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    These attacks on Ms. Dunham are entirely of an ad hominem nature and richly deserved.

  27. Emily Guy Birken November 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Thank you for calling out the overabundance of “early intervention”!

    My 4-year-old was speech delayed. At his 2 year check up, I asked his pediatrician about the fact that he was not yet talking. She acted as if the sky were falling and referred me to First Steps.

    When First Steps came to evaluate him, they acted as if the sky were falling and signed him up for weekly speech therapy.

    When he outgrew their program at age 3, First Steps referred us to the public language intensive preschool. At the evaluation for preschool, they acted as if the sky were falling and enrolled him in twice-a-week class.

    He is now 4 and talks nonstop.

    Here’s the thing. I definitely understand that early intervention can make a difference in the case of severe delays/autism/etc. However, treating every hiccup as if it’s severe does nothing but worry everyone. At NO point did anyone in authority (and we also had an independent evaluation) tell me “You know, a lot of kids don’t talk until they’re three. It’s most likely that he’s just on his own time frame. But just in case, we recommend X, Y, and Z intervention, because it can’t hurt and it could help.”

    Instead every authority acted as if this were the biggest problem I’d ever face, and treated me with suspicion when I pushed back against their evaluations because they did not seem to reflect the child I knew much much better than they did.

    Ultimately, I’m not convinced that any of the interventions made any difference, but I would not have acted in a different way because the interventions didn’t hurt. But the attitude behind the evaluations hurt a lot–although I did protect my son from that hurt as much as I could.

    I wrote about these experiences, if you’re interested:


  28. lollipoplover November 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Egads on labeling a 7 year-old a sex offender.
    I am not a fan of Ms. Dunham and think she overshared in her book. She doesn’t like the backlash against it but why, oh why did you tell such personal stories about close family members then??

    As for curious experimentation, I will never forget the time I found my son playing doctor with the girls in the neighborhood (I think they were around 5). The girls were in their underwear lying on the pool table while my son had the blood pressure cuff and other instruments on them. I remember getting bothered that the girls were the patients and he was the doctor. I told the girls to take turns being the doctor and the patient and no touching areas covered by underwear.

  29. Jill November 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    At least half of the kids I used to babysit for would be on the sex offender registry today for some of the stuff I caught them doing, stuff that we used to think of as playing doctor.
    I’m very concerned that the current hysterical emphasis on children being in constant danger of being raped is planting a dangerous subliminal message in the public’s mind that associates children with sex. Little kids playing naked at the beach used to be no big deal. Now fully-clad kids playing alone in the park makes people think, “uh-oh somebody might molest them. I better call the cops.”
    That’s just screwed up.
    The Victorians, with their reputation for prudery, had no problem with little kids running around naked. They saw beauty and innocence, where we see rape bait.

  30. C. S. P. Schofield November 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    OK, I’m a Crank. I think we should view the hysteria about her “confessions” as the just punishment for oversharing.

  31. Andrea November 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    I haven’t read Lena Dunham’s book because I watched her movie and the first two seasons of her show. It’s pretty clear to me that her book is more of the same — she’s a self-absorbed one-trick pony and a shock jock, and I’ve got better things to read.

    I agree that seven-year old Lena and others like should not be labeled pedophiles and put on a sex offender list. The excerpts that are making the rounds are still disturbing, though. Parading around her lack of boundaries with her sister and other people is ugly behavior. Including the real first name of a Republican at her college who she claims raped her while she was drunk, high, and acting sexually provocative (but now she won’t follow through on her accusations) shows a profound lack of writerly integrity. The subtitle of the book, “A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned'”, suggests that this will be a book for a generation of young women to rally around and glean wisdom from. Maybe it’s satire, but I certainly don’t want my daughter following a role model like Lena Dunham.

    I think she threw a lot of shocking stuff out there in her book because shock value has been the key to her success — her show features her self-like character poking her ear too hard with a q-tip and requiring medical attention, sitting on the toilet groaning about a urinary tract infection, having unpleasant fetish-y sex with her boyfriend, partying on cocaine like it’s a cool fun thing to try, etc., etc., all the while looking as gross, unattractive, ungroomed, and unfit as she can present herself, just to be that way. (There are plenty of photos to demonstrate that she can look presentable and even pretty, but she thinks she’s making a statement be appearing gross on TV.)

    Basically, this is a memoir written by a naive woman in her twenties who is still a mess about who she is and the role she plays in the world, and she was paid over three million dollars in advance to do it. Imagine how many wonderful books by talented authors could have been written with that money! Mary Karr (a seasoned memoir writer) said this about the genre: “I always tell my students that if the reader knows something about your psychology that you do not admit, you’re in trouble.” Lena clearly suffers from this problem, and was not yet mature enough to write a memoir.

    This whole thing about Lena being a sexual predator is missing the point — she is a deeply troubled young woman so addicted to fame and attention that she acted more and more unpleasant until she crossed a line, and now she’s hiding from the world as it reacts in a predictable way to her attention-seeking behavior. I’m not impressed. I wouldn’t let her anywhere near my kids, and my reasons have nothing to do with anything sexual or predatory.

  32. lollipoplover November 7, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    Speaking of modesty, anyone see this?


  33. no rest for the weary November 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Yes, it’s uncomfortable for us adults, when kids engage in explorative sex play stuff, because we see it through our adult filters. How can we not do that?

    Well, we can start by watching the kids after the play stops. Are they eating, sleeping, acting the way they usually do, or are they disturbed, frightened, having nightmares, acting out in new ways, etc?

    Basically, if they ain’t broke, don’t fix ’em.

    Same goes for kids left alone in cars. Are they responsive? Communicative? Healthy? Breathing easily? Or are they gasping, eyes rolled back in their heads, non-responsive?

    If they’re fine, great. MOVE ALONG. No need to break the windows, call the ambulance, charge folks with child endangerment.

    Over-reacting to what COULD HAVE HAPPENED or what MIGHT HAVE BEEN HAPPENING is actually more destructive to these kids than if they are simply watched for signs of frank distress. No distress, no intervention.

  34. Madeline November 7, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Thank you! A friend of mine recently came to me sobbing that her three year old daughter had been molested at daycare. . . . by another three year old.

    I must have given her a look, because she went on to admit that kids were just curious and her daughter wouldn’t remember this . . . . But that little boy MUST have been molested himself! Otherwise where would he have picked it up from?!

    I can remember engaging in some’ sexual exploration’ at a very young age that probably would have gotten me locked up today but I’m perfectly normal to the point of being boring.

  35. Jill November 8, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    @Madeline I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the three-year-old boy had a body, and he was curious about how it, and other bodies, are put together.
    If he’d been touching the little girl’s ears, no sane person would suggest that somebody must have done something terrible to his ears, but move the touching to below the waist and you’ve got a whole new ballgame.
    Jeez, doesn’t anybody remember what it was like to be a little kid? They’re like miniature stand-up comics. They talk about poop, and penises and heinies ALL THE TIME.

  36. SOA November 8, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I don’t like Lena Dunham. She is just too full of herself. I don’t think what she was describing in that book was sexual abuse from the things I heard (I did not read the whole book) but it was odd at least. She probably fucking made it up. That girl will do anything for attention.

  37. ks November 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I don’t have particularly strong opinions on Lena Dunham either way. I’ve never watched her show or read anything that she’s written, and I’ve only heard about some of her stuff second-hand. She does seem like a very polarizing figure, though–a lot of people who I really respect seem to like her, and a lot of others don’t. But, assuming the things described here actually happened as described, I don’t think it is in any way, shape, or form molestation or anything else out of the realm of normal childhood behavior. It’s inappropriate and maybe uncomfortable, and that some of the stuff continued into the teenage years shows a lack of boundaries on her part, but it certainly isn’t abnormal or anything like that and it doesn’t make her a child molester or sex offender or anything else.

    And as for the rest, I find that I mostly agree with what I’ve heard about her politics and especially her stance on abortion. In my experience, it has been an unqualified good for many, many women. Sure, some people have different reactions to different things, but over a third of women have abortions during their lifetimes and there should be absolutely no stigma or shame attached to it. It is certainly better for a woman to have an abortion than to give birth to an unwanted child that derails her life and I don’t see any reason why taking responsibility in that way shouldn’t be celebrated.

  38. Flurry November 8, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Geez Dolly, is it really necessary to use an obscenity in a civil discussion?

  39. Papilio November 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    @J: Yes, well, I think it will take a whole lot more Lenas before abortion will ever be trivial, certainly in a country where it is as controversial as it is in the USA, certainly for the vast majority of women who actually face that choice. Now I don’t know Lena Dunham and neither am I curious, so for all I know she could be just one of those people who advocate an extreme position just to get the discussion going and end up (dis)agreeing somewhere more toward the middle. (The discussion part seems to be working…)

    @Kenny: She did, I remember reading much was edited out though because her father wanted to keep certain things private.

  40. CrazyCatLady November 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Playing “doctor”, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” “I dare you to pull down your pants,” and more things like that are just stupid kid stuff. See what you can get away with. As a parent you tell them to quit it. They can examine their own parts in their own rooms when alone.

    Now, the boy at school who was telling my friend’s son that “I want to make my penis dance in your ass-hole,” but never acts on it….maybe someone should ask where he heard that. Could be molestation, but more likely to be some video, music or some x rated game that his parents have. Which…is probably the most likely. Someone needs to share with the kid that this is not acceptable language, at school or otherwise.

  41. I don't even November 9, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Not to mention the ‘crying wolf’ problem.

  42. Tiny Tim November 9, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Do people just have zero memories of their own childhood?

  43. Greg Allan November 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Had Dunham ONLY engaged in the seven year old activity I’d be willing to view it as childhood exploration. However she continued a pattern of sexually abusive behaviour for at least a decade.

    As a survivor of a female child sexual abuser and an advocate for other survivors for over fifteen years I’m sickened by the excuse making both here and elsewhere. THIS is why the victims are mocked and ridiculed. Very bad form. All of you.

  44. marie November 10, 2014 at 11:03 am #


    Thanks for the clarification.

  45. Matt November 10, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    The parents of a woman I dated years ago made the same excuses for her sister, also about 7 years older, for very similar behaviour.

    It wasn’t just about touching, it was about power, and it just about destroyed her life (literally). Having been used essentially as a toy, and powerless to resist, from who knows how early up until almost middle school, she couldn’t get the images and feelings out of her head enough for a normal adult relationship. I got the fun of sitting in on a few sessions with her therapist after finding her right after a suicide attempt.

    We need to make reasonable decisions on risk, not dismiss all risk as unreasonable. The probability of harm from someone using a sibling 6-7 years younger as something to experiment on sexually is not the equivalent of kids close to the same age and responsibility, especially since the odds are the older sibling will be put in a position of responsibility over the younger one.

    Sex offender registry? Crime? Maybe not, and almost certainly not immediately. Parental oversight to put a stop to and prevent future behavior, with escalation to authorities if the older sibling fights prevention measures? Definitely.

    Just because psychological damage isn’t certain, does not mean that it’s not probable and sever enough to warrant fast and decisive intervention.

  46. Matt November 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    And waiting for actual harm to intercede is like waiting til a drunk driver has actually crashed to get them off the road.

  47. Andrea November 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    “Do people just have zero memories of their own childhood?”


    Or they think that their childhood was “normal” so anything that happens differently in other people’s childhood, no matter how common, is “not normal”

  48. ama November 11, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    I am going to leave the legal issues aside and just address child to child sexual “exploration” and molestation.

    A one year old child cannot defend herself from an older sibling (or anyone else) poking her private parts, sometimes parents do need to be there! The Dunham incidentS- show absentee parents, and an older sibling who doesn’t look to her parents for guidance. This is BAD PARENTING.

    Parents do need to teach their children to respect private regions of other people. That they are not suppose to touch or poke or show or look, not at their siblings or the perv driving naked in his car. They need to be taught that they should wait until they are older, that there is a trusting, safe relationship (i.e. they really know the person) and that they can talk with parents. Do some parents push more modesty, even prudery than you might? yes. Is is damaging? Not nearly as damaging as not having parents who don’t instill a sense of respect.

    I think that if any of you imagined your eight year old exploring your one year old like Lena did to her sister, you would be really upset.

  49. Donna November 12, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    “Do people just have zero memories of their own childhood?”

    No. Most adults have zero ability to see the vulva, vagina, penis and scrotum as anything other than sex organs. There is no understanding that to a 1 year old a vulva is just a body part with absolutely no special connotation and a 7 year old has no real sex drive (although he or she can orgasm if stimulated and does enjoy it).

    We are not born with any more expectation of privacy about our “private parts” than we are our hands and feet. That is 100% TAUGHT, not innate. At 1, your sister looking at your vulva is equal to your sister looking at your foot. Believing that your 1 year old is psychologically damaged because someone looked at her foot would be ridiculous and the same can be said for the vulva as at that age, they have not learned that these areas should not be seen.

    Our view of these body parts as sex organs doesn’t evolve until puberty. So, while Lena likely understands at 7 that these are considered private areas of the body, she has absolutely no understanding as to why that is so or why these body parts are treated differently than feet other than her parents say so. In fact, since there is absolutely no reason whatsoever as to why this is so other than social convention driven by our views of sex as shameful, it is impossible for her to understand this.

    Obviously the 7 year old needs to be taught that social convention dictates that vulvas and feet are not the same and we cannot view the vulvas of others unless invited to do so. And, like our ears and nose, things should really not be inserted into the vagina, yours or someone else’s. But there is no reason to be upset about any of this unless the behavior takes on some cruel connotations.

  50. Joan November 13, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    “But much of it is normal and will not hurt the kids involved at the time, or even later in life.”

    And you are claiming authority on this, how? The person being violated is still feeling the violation, regardless of intent or age of the assailant. As someone who was routinely pinned down by boys in class, who reached up girls skirts and into their underwear, and humped us while they laughed, that was not okay and did affect me as a 7 year old. To say it’s no big deal is arrogant and coming from an ignorant understanding of effects of harassment of a sexual nature. Lena sharing her behaviors as “normal” should not be praised as such, but used as an opportunity to shine a light on installing body autonomy and ownership in children from a young age. Yes, kids will be curious. They also need to be taught to accept and respect boundaries.

  51. Donna November 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    “As someone who was routinely pinned down by boys in class, who reached up girls skirts and into their underwear, and humped us while they laughed, that was not okay and did affect me as a 7 year old.”

    Okay this is like me being accused of encouraging rape for saying “I like sex.” Obviously consensual sex and rape are two very different sides of the same act.

    Lena Durham looked in her 1 year old sisters vulva. That is nothing like being forcibly held down and being humped by boys while they laughed. The first is normal childhood curiosity. The second is a sexual assault. In no way is Lenore encouraging acceptance of the latter act, but that is also not the context of most elementary school age sexual play.

  52. Daniel November 18, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    The one thing that is common in these cases is that while the kids involved did something wrong that needed to be stopped the level of punishment far exceeded the “crime” by several orders of magnitude these kids deserve to be treated the same as any other kid who breaks the law by say stealing a bar of chocolate from the local store. We don’t throw them in prison for theft even if we would do if it was an adult. They should be dealt with by the parents or school as appropriate