Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Sexual violence; rape jokes.]

My failure to appreciate the HBO series Girls—a feminist show produced by Judd Apatow—is well-documented. And that piece was written before the primary male protagonist (Adam) raped his then-girlfriend in a horrendously gross scene, only for her character to later be represented as a hysterical harpy when confronting him in public about it.

In Sunday night's episode, Adam, who is now dating the primary female protagonist (played by show creator Lena Dunham) Hannah, was disturbed by Hannah's absurd role-playing scenario which cast him as a violent rapist. Not because he has regrets (or even seemingly any self-awareness) about being a rapist, but because he was sanctimoniously shaming her for not understanding he wants to have "normal" sex with her because he loves her. Because Adam, a rapist, is constantly written to be a moral arbiter and life coach for his girlfriend, as well as all her female friends.

The show is just reprehensible on the issue of sexual violence, and, well, maybe it's because its creator is, ahh, insensitive on the subject herself.

Dunham was the host of Saturday Night Live last weekend, the day before this last episode aired, and in a sketch sending up Girls, on which Dunham is naked a lot, she was also naked in the sketch. This prompted some asshole to shame-tweet at her, "you don't always have to get naked!" to which Dunham replied, "Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He's been making me!"

After criticism for her rape joke, Dunham removed it, and then tweeted: "I just made and deleted a not so great molestation joke. Sorry guys. I am really sleepy." Followed by: "SNL has a way bigger audience than our usual cozy girls audience, so I was seeing a rash of very different kinds of twitter rage."

Because, as usual, asking someone to be sensitive to not minimizing rape with shitty jokes is "rage."

When called out on waving away a rape joke with a claim of sleepiness ("I really don't think you'd be cutting anyone else any slack if they made that joke and then blamed it on being 'really sleepy'"), Dunham then replied: "Not if they were a fifty year old man. But by my lights women can have a lot of joke flexibility. Ya gotta get by in this world."


Needless to say, I disagree.

But I do find it interesting that Dunham imagines a joke about being sexually abused by a family member is somehow more justifiable when it's told by a young woman than when it's told by an older man.

The only context that matters here is the rape culture, not the attributes of the person abetting it.

That particular argument, however, provides a good insight into Dunham's view of Girls and why it is that she regards as "feminist" a show that wouldn't look much different at all were it written by a men's rights advocate. That is: If it's a young woman telling stories about how young women are narcissistic, selfish, manipulative, backstabbing, man-obsessed nightmares, it's saying something different about women than if "a fifty year old man" were telling the story.


For the record, it is eminently possible to write a show with complex female characters who are flawed and fail and flailing that doesn't look exactly like a show about women that was written by a misogynist.

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