Lena Dunham Threatens to Sue Conservative Media Outlet Over Sexual Abuse Allegations
Last week, Conservative media outlet “Truth Revolt” took aim at Lena Duham in an article claiming that the Girls superstar sexually abused her little sister. Their source? Look no further then Duham’s new book, Not That Kind of Girl. The basis of their accusations is a short passage from the book that describes an admittedly strange encounter between Duham and her sister:
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…. 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.
The articles cites other passages in which Dunham alludes to masturbating while her sister was in the same bed, and bribing kisses from her sister with candy. From these passages, Revolt’s article concludes that Duham sexually abused her sister, and used her as a “sexual outlet.”
After a heated rant on Twitter, Dunham and her lawyers took the bait, and fired back with a cease and desist letter claiming defamation, false light invasion of privacy and violation of Dunham’s publicity rights. (Read the letter here via THR). The stern letter cites the following quotes as false and defamatory:
“experiment[ed] sexually with her younger sister Grace;”
“experimented with her six-year younger sister’s vagina”; and
“use[d] her little sister at times essentially as a sexual outlet”.
Truth Revolt seized on the opportunity and ran another article refusing to succumb to “Bullies like Ms. Duham.” In their riveting follow up, Revolt proceeds to further illuminate its conservative agenda. The article refers to Dunham as a “left-wing activist,” questions her accusations of rape at the hands of a young republican, and claims her “book demonstrates the totalitarianism of those on the left.” Fair and balanced journalism at its finest. Journalistic integrity aside, Revolt’s article is still deserving of First Amendment protection.
Part of Dunham’s success has been her ability to push boundaries. Girls contains a fair amount of uncomfortable sexual innuendo, and the show has been praised and chastised for it. From the passages quoted in this article, it would seem that Dunham’s strange and offbeat sense of humor is a product of a strange and offbeat childhood. Dunham’s power as a writer has always been her ability to open up and connect with her audience in a meaningful way. However, writing about such personal and intimate moments have consequences.
While I can’t speak to how many women go through similar experiences during childhood (I am certainly no expert on the matter), any progressive reader will interpret these passages as merely harmless sexual exploration. However, a large chunk of the country does not share this mindset. It’s not far-fetched that conservative journalists would be taken aback by Dunham’s work, as many who share such conservative views are often opposed to such open dialogue about sexual exploration, especially in regards to children. That’s America, and an uninhibited open dialogue is exactly the type of thing that the First Amendment aims to protect.
Are the aforementioned quotes defamatory? It’s unlikely. Although any rational reader would not come to similar conclusions, it’s not technically “false” to claim that Dunham “experimented sexually with her sister” and “experimented with her sisters vagina.” Illogical; but not outright defamatory.
Regardless of the legal outcome, Truth Revolt is the clear victor in this scenario. The article itself was a targeted political attack on a “left-wing activist,” and published solely to gain media attention. Dunham played right into Revolt’s hands when she took to Twitter and filed the cease and desist letter. Instantly, Revolt gained the national attention they set out to garner in the first place.
One look at Truth Revolt’s “About” page provides all the warning you need. The following are actual quotes from the company’s mission statement:
“The goal of TruthRevolt is simple: unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases.”
“TruthRevolt understands that all politics is local, and therefore looks to fight leftist propaganda at the local level.”
“TruthRevolt works to make advertisers and funders aware of the leftist propaganda they sponsor.”
Dunham should be commended for standing up for her legal rights in the face of such a blatant partisan attack. However, she should rethink a strategy that does not involve handing Truth Revolt the media attention they so desire.