'Not that Kind of Girl': Lena Dunham's Book Approaches Sex Honestly

Nicole Wong '17 Arts Editor

Lena Dunham’s new book “Not That Kind of Girl” is hilarious, quirky and raw. Lena Dunham, famed Oberlin graduate and creator, executive producer, writer and director of TV show “Girls,” which Dunham has called “the voice of our generation,” writes a collection of short stories in which she shares personal details about her adolescent pre-“Girls” life.

Dunham jumps right into the intimate details in the first chapter, “Take my Virginity (No, Really, Take It),” in which she accounts her first time, and how this experience didn’t quite fulfill her expectations. Dunham’s account confirms many of the thoughts and confusions that girls have about sex, and dispels misconceptions about virginity: “No floodgate had been opened, no vault of true womanhood unlocked.”

“Not That Kind of Girl” makes leaps in time as Dunham narrates different events in her life. She’s honest and provocative as she recounts in an earlier essay, “Girls and Jerks,” that she realized during sex that the condom she thought her partner was wearing was actually hanging from a nearby plant. “ ‘I think…? The condom’s…? In the tree?’ I muttered feverishly.” After this awkward yet funny sexual encounter the next morning, she sits in a shallow bath for half an hour, contemplating the events of the night before. But in a later essay, she states, “I am an unreliable narrator… [I]n another essay in this book I describe a sexual encounter with a mustachioed campus Republican as the upsetting but educational choice of a girl who was new to sex when, in fact, it didn’t feel like a choice at all.” This dangerous realization shows how girls don’t even realize that they were raped. Unspoken expectations and emotions override rationality, and make the victim unclear of whether she wants sex or not. Dunham’s story shows that rapists can be someone who the victim knows, like a friend or boyfriend. Most importantly, this emphasizes that everyone must know the distinction between “yes” and “no,” and that consent is a must, no exceptions.

“Not That Kind of Girl” shares the universal experience of growing up, along with its joys, awkwardness and pains. Dunham writes “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you… But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”