THE BLOG

Lena Dunham Did Not 'Sexually Abuse' Her Sister, Society Did

04/11/2014 11:43 GMT | Updated 04/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Lena Dunham stands accused of 'sexually abusing' her younger sister, after revealing, in her new book Not That Kind Of Girl, that she once looked at her sister's vagina.

At the time, Dunham was an inquisitive seven-year-old and her sister, Grace, was just a baby. They both defend the act as completely normal, which - as someone who was also a sexually-curious seven-year-old can attest - it is.

lena dunham

Children are not receiving adequate sex education in school and many parents shy away from the subject. So naturally, children look to each other to find out about differences in their bodies. I certainly did and a quick poll reveals that my friends and colleagues did, too.

Unlike Dunham, I don't have a sister. So my friends and I - two girls, two boys - would flash each other at primary school. We were in year two, which makes us about seven or eight years old. And there was nothing perverse about what we chose to do, we were simply curious. We didn't link penises or vaginas with sex, we just wanted to see what each other looked like naked.

Fast-forward to adulthood and the gender gap widens. No longer are male and female united in their curiosity. Instead, men are exposed to sex (albeit not 'normal' sex) through pornography while women - for the most part - are left unknowing.

When women eventually decide to have sex, we don't really have a clue what we're doing. I lost my virginity to my then-boyfriend, who was a few years older and had had sex with other women. "Phew," I thought. "I'll just follow his lead." This seemed perfectly normal to me and to my friend's experience at the time, but when you think about it - it's really not OK.

When my daughter gets to the point where she's having sex I'll make sure - through walking around the house naked, talking openly about sex, leaving the right reading material strategically placed for her and her friends/sisters/brothers to find - that she doesn't lose her virginity blind, like most young women do.

But this blindness doesn't end with virginity. Hidden sexuality follows most women throughout their lives.

From trying to get changed in the gym without flashing your boobs to feeling shy about being naked in front of your children or having sex with the light off, many women are shamed into hiding their bodies both in public and private.

Earlier this year a video of adult women looking at their vaginas for the first time in their lives went viral. The subjects were overwhelmed with emotion (some cried, others laughed hysterically) and the video struck a chord with women all over the world.

Other initiatives to emancipate the female body - Project Bush, The Great Wall Of Vagina - have had similar reaction. But while the intentions are sound, the impact is short lived.

What do these videos and the reaction to Dunham's book show us? That while men have free reign and access to women's bodies, they are kept out of reach from women themselves.

Dunham's mission is to normalise the female experience - to have our bodies, sexual experiences, anxieties and passions told by women, to be read by women (and men).

The current backlash, headed by National Review columnist Kevin D. Williamson,

is only an attempt to further suppress women's sexuality - and it's not an attack any woman (or man), whether a fan of Dunham or not, should take lightly.

It's an age old message from society that it's OK to sexualise young women, but God forbid we ever become sexual ourselves. If anyone has been sexually abusing young women, it's society. And it's got to stop.