Kids need parents.
Kids need parents all the time, in every way, every day, for the entire duration of their childhood. Guiding, disciplining, loving, helping, instructing, teaching, example-setting parents. This is what makes parenting hard. I mean, this is what makes attentive, involved parenting hard. The neglectful lazy variety remains the easiest option, but there are consequences if you take that route.
Horrible consequences. Unspeakable.
They could end up in jail, or on drugs, or even worse, they could be Lena Dunham.
That's my takeaway from the recent Dunham saga -- a saga which I initially resolved not to write about, partly because I find her tedious and wholly unworthy of national attention, and partly because everything that needs to be said has been said and then said a thousand more times. But here we are anyway, because this is the internet and everyone has to have an opinion about everything, which is especially true in my case.
If you're already lost, let me offer a quick recap: Lena Dunham is a twenty-something feminist celebrity who stars in an ambling, pointless HBO sex comedy called Girls. In order to preserve my journalistic integrity (although I'm not a journalist) I did attempt to verify that characterization by watching one episode. I made it about 15 minutes and found myself fighting the unmistakable urge to stick my head in a food processor.
The show apparently follows several obnoxious, spoiled, mid-upper class, liberal, elitist, self-absorbed brats as they traipse about New York City having sex and saying a bunch of obnoxious, spoiled, mid-upper class, liberal, elitist, self-absorbed things. I'm not sure how well this show does in the ratings but I was left feeling deeply concerned for the mental health of anyone who voluntarily watches the program on a regular basis. Have they all chopped their faces off with kitchen appliances by now, or am I the only one who felt moved in that direction?
In any case, that's why she's famous, I think. She's also outspoken about 'reproductive rights' and other euphemistic progressive causes. Dunham even shot an Obama campaign ad a few years ago where she compared voting for Obama to losing your virginity. A rather unfortunate strategy, in hindsight. Actually, it was probably unfortunate in foresight too, and likely the first instance of a sitting president trying to get votes by promising to sexually satisfy his female voters. Bill Clinton did a version of that, I suppose, but I don't think he ever put it in a commercial.
Despite being young and noticeably lacking in experience and useful insight, she decided to publish her memoirs last month. The book, Not That Kind Of Girl, sat unread in Barnes and Nobles across the country, until a few conservative sleuths finally picked it up and committed the slanderous act of reading it and quoting some passages. The hubbub went into Full Hubbub Mode after the people who hadn't read the book (approximately everyone) caught wind of several choice excerpts.
I'm sure you've seen them by now. If not, I'll begrudgingly summarize (graphic and disturbing content ahead):
Dunham describes three instances of, um, inappropriate contact with her little sister. In one, she recalls the time when she was seven and she pried her one-year-old sister's vagina open. Her mother didn't mind, she said, because this was 'within the spectrum' of the things she typically did.
In another, Dunham tells us of reoccurring incidents where she, as she grew older, would 'bribe' her sister into kissing her on the mouth for five seconds. She would go to great lengths to cajole the young girl into these kissing sessions, 'trying anything a sex offender might do to woo a small suburban girl.'
Finally, we're regaled with tales of Dunham's 17-year-old self masturbating in bed with her sister's 'sticky, muscly body thrashing beside [her].'
And it doesn't end there.
Today, Breitbart uncovered an old photo Dunham posted to her Instagram account of her five-year-old sister done up in lipstick and fake breasts, wearing a 'motorcycle chic' t-shirt. The HBO star nostalgically mused that the picture shows us the 'time [she] dressed [her] 5-year-old sister up as a Hell's Angels sex property.'
I won't link to the photo here because it feels like something dangerously close to child pornography, but it's out there if you really want to see it for yourself (you don't, trust me).
Of course, Dunham was shocked and offended by all of these conservative outlets libelously quoting her word-for-word and entirely in context. She stomped her feet and yelled about "old men" attacking her (which is strange because most of the critics I've seen have been young females who, apparently, never poked around in their sibling's genitalia or paid their sisters to make out with them) and threatened to sue for 'defamation.' If she wins, it would be the first time anyone has ever essentially won a defamation lawsuit against themselves. This seems improbable, but who knows? Maybe the Justice Department will step in and see this thing through.
Now, obviously these stories are gross and outrageous. Are they tantamount to sexual assault? I'd say the kissing and the masturbating episodes come the closest. Certainly, a seven-year-old can't be guilty of child molestation. By definition, such a crime can only be committed by an adult. That said, a child can be guilty of sexual assault, and if this kind of thing went on regularly then I think a case can be made for that term to be applied.
Much is made of Dunham inspecting her sister's genitals, but the other scenarios are far more damning. For one thing, Dunham was older when they happened. For another, they go beyond anything that can be called 'curiosity' and become, in Dunham's own words, something similar to what a 'sex offender' might do.
But the exact label for the behavior doesn't matter. We all (well, the sane ones) recognize that it's completely inappropriate and deeply troubling. And, whatever the child version of Lena Dunham did, the fact remains that the adult version saw fit to share these details like they're amusing little anecdotes.
It's also definitely true that if a young conservative woman, say Bristol Palin, had written a book with these 'humorous' accounts, she would have been metaphorically, or possibly literally, burned alive. And Ms. Dunham would be the first in line with a torch and a can of kerosene.
Can you see liberal sites and media outlets breathlessly defending a rightwing woman who admitted to sexually exploring her siblings?
Hardly. They're too busy laughing hysterically whenever one of them gets violently assaulted.
There is a double standard here, no question. Liberals by and large are willing to overlook anything -- any crime or atrocity at all -- because, in the end, they have no principles. The single progressive commandment is this: "do what you want as long as you enjoy it." That is the only part of their doctrine that always stands, no matter what.
Dunham did what she wanted, and moreover she is a voice for the "do what you want" camp, which means she cannot be condemned.
How does catcalling equal sexual assault, but masturbating in bed with a child and bribing them to kiss you doesn't? There is no logic to this, and I can guarantee that if a man told a story of doing the things Dunham did, he'd be branded a rapist and cast out to sea with a millstone around his neck (justifiably).
Hypocrites. Cowards. All of them.
But we already knew that, and it isn't the most important lesson in all of this. The most important lesson is something that we also already knew: as I said at the outset, kids need parents.
According to Dunham, her mother was aware of the way her daughter regularly crossed (obliterated) personal boundaries, yet she felt no need to step in and correct the behavior. This is no surprise, considering that Dunham's father is a pornographic 'artist' who made millions selling ridiculous paintings of phallic images and zoomed-in depictions of vaginas and rectums. Again, there are examples of his 'art' floating around on the internet, but I won't link to it.
If you want an idea, imagine that a middle school boy high on LSD attempted to paint a close up portrait of a naked woman's private parts using a box of crayons. That's Papa Dunham's entire catalogue in a nutshell.
So a couple of permissive, 'progressive,' secularist parents raise two daughters in today's society, and this is what happens. Boundaries aren't set. Guidance isn't given. A semblance of moral instruction is never imparted. And you end up with Lena Dunham, a grown woman who still, to this day, doesn't understand why her behavior with her sister was revolting and intolerable.
If her book and TV show can be believed, she is likewise incapable of forming healthy relationships with men, while her sister, who she took the liberty of outing as a lesbian, simply lost interest in men altogether. Undoubtedly, the sexual confusion of both women can be partially explained by their constant and unrelenting exposure to their father's pornography. But even if Dad wasn't a highbrow smut peddler, their fates would have been the same without dutiful parents there to shape and mold them into functioning adults.
It's popular these days to say that kids shouldn't be 'put in a box' or 'forced to conform,' especially as it pertains to sexuality. They should instead be allowed to explore and figure things out on their own. This logic, such as it is, extends all the way to 'gender identity,' where increasingly we're told that little boys and girls ought to be given the liberty to even choose whether they're boys or girls.
Sure, I think children should be able to make choices. Some choices. In some contexts. But they must first be given the tools to make those choices, and you aren't giving them those tools if you abandon them out in the cold of night without so much as a flashlight or a warm coat or a vague idea of who they are and how they ought to carry on.
Kids are primitive creatures. Cute little barbarians, but barbarians just the same. We are the ones who teach them how to function, how to be civilized, how to be respectful, how to be people. If they are girls, we teach them how to be women, and both mom and dad have special rolls in that process. If boys, then they must be taught to be men, and again both mom and dad are indispensable here.
That's what strikes me about Lena Dunham's story. Admittedly, I don't know anything about her parents other than her Dad's profession and the fact that, by Dunham's admission, the spectrum of her behavior regularly included the sorts of things she now probably wishes she never told us about. Therefore, it's fair to assume that basic guidelines were never set, both because of her actions as a child and a teenager, and because of her inability to recognize the unseemly nature of those actions today.
Dunham is just one of an entire generation of people -- my generation -- predominately raised in the kind of hands-off, 'liberating,' amoral way that leads to an unfulfilled, unhappy adulthood of aimlessness, confusion, and failure. Failure especially when it comes to romantic relationships, or really any kind of human relationship (maybe that explains why pet ownership is so popular nowadays).
This isn't to let Dunham off the hook. She's responsible for her choices. But if we want to help our kids make different ones, we should probably start by teaching them minor semantics like the universal moral laws of right vs. wrong.
If we don't, they might be in Lena Dunham's shoes one day. Expensive shoes, I'll concede, and shoes worn by someone with her own HBO show and a million Twitter followers, but still not shoes I want my kids wearing.
Lena Dunham is indeed rich and famous, but she's a rich and famous cautionary tale of what happens when you don't parent your children.