“I’m the kind of person who should probably date older guys, but I can’t deal with their balls.”
The crowd cheered, whistled and erupted in a loud applause as she wobbled across the theater stage in platform heels. She could barely walk in them and then fidgeted with her dress, mentioning how her “underskirt kept riding up.” Her entrance was exactly how I imagined it. Awkward, but authentic.
I sat in a theater packed with other Bostonians during the official opening night of Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl” book tour. She was almost exactly what you’d expect. True to her Twitter-persona, putting her foot in her mouth at different moments throughout the night, and engaging with the audience. There was no air of “I’m a celebrity! Bask in my glory!” It felt like a friend who was sharing personal stories with you. Part-way through the show she even donned a “Scandal” t-shirt that a fan in the audience handed her. She screeched in excitement at the sight of it, like any regular Olivia Pope fan would.
“Not That Kind of Girl” covers various aspects of Dunham’s life: love and sex; body image; friendship; work; and, big picture “stuff.”
Dunham read aloud from her memoir, inciting laughter as she shared stories from her childhood and “bedtime” stories from her early 20s. Her wealth of stories would make you think she’s in her 50s but she’s 28 years young.
The first story she shared was entitled “Platonic Bed Sharing.” This essay details Dunham’s early apprehension towards sex and how her younger sister, Grace, shared her bed for the better part of her adolescence. While the anecdotes about Dunham’s different “platonic bed sharing” partners were followed by appropriate giggles from the audience, she surprised me with her concluding advice on who it’s okay, and not okay, to share a bed with: It’s okay to share a bed with an empty bag of pita chips, a bellhop you met in the business center of a hotel in Colorado, or the love of your life. It’s not okay to share a bed with anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space. Good advice.
Dunham’s memoir also includes BuzzFeed-esque lists:
•18 Unlikely Things I’ve Said Flirtatiously: Please see the opening quote about old man balls. (Gross, but true).
•15 Things I’ve Learned from My Mother: “Family first. Work second. Revenge third.”
•10 Reasons I <3 NY: “Because the rules are really more like suggestions.”
But for all the laughs that “Not That Kind of Girl” offers, it’s also creating a more open, and serious, dialogue about sex. If you’re tuned into the press coverage surrounding Dunham’s book, you’ve likely heard that the stories aren’t all quirky moments from her love life or funny sexual encounters. Dunham opens up about how she was raped in college. It took her years, and sharing her experience with others, to eventually refer to her experience as rape. Like many victims, Dunham initially blamed herself, but with time she knew that what happened to her was not her fault.
With Dunham’s admission, in a very public forum, we can only hope that this helps lead the way for more transformative conversations about safe, consensual sex. I believe it’s already having an impact. Just this week, the LA Times noted the importance of Dunham’s story and the current state of sex-ed in the US:
There is nothing but positivity to gain from a movement that seeks to create dialogue, rather than continue to shroud sex and rape in shame and silence. Billboards, commercials and movies are more sexually graphic than ever, but real discussions about sex — whether on the meaning of consent or the experiences of pleasure — remain largely taboo in our society. In 23% of public schools, abstinence-only sex education is still the norm despite research that proves that a comprehensive sex-education curriculum is the most effective way to teach young people about what healthy sex looks like.
Dunham is starting a conversation. It’s up to us to continue it in schools, with our loved ones and friends.
Now go grab a copy of “Not That Kind of Girl” and share what you think about Dunham’s memoir with us. We want to hear your opinions too.