“Evil gets the upper hand, and folly makes the most noise.”
Imagine if a male celebrity was to write the following about his younger sister:
One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.
My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”
My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.
…As she grew, I took to bribing her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a “motorcycle chick.” Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just “relax on me.” Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying. Maybe, I thought, she would be more willing to accept kisses if I wore the face mask my grandmother had for when she did her dialysis. (The answer was no.) What I really wanted, beyond affection, was to feel that she needed me, that she was helpless without her big sister leading her through the world. I took a perverse pleasure in delivering bad news to her — the death of our grandfather, a fire across the street — hoping that her fear would drive her her into my arms, would make her trust me.
There is no doubt that these paragraphs, coming from a male celebrity, would be a national scandal. With the cheap moral smugness and facile self-righteousness that are as American as baseball and apple pie, the public would condemn the figure for molesting and trying to emotionally manipulate his poor younger sister.
It would be inquired whether such a horrible man is fit to do whatever he does for a living: “Should this monster be a role model for our children?” The answer would be no, but perhaps the tireless sage Dr. Phil could rectify his character as the public looks on, weighing in by Twitter while slurping Coke and munching Doritos. Without his fame and affluence, the man would soon fade into obscurity, perhaps only to be resurrected on some reality TV show or other idiotic entertainment that keeps us informed of what people like Vanilla Ice and Dennis Rodman are up to these days.
The paragraphs I have quoted are from Lena Dunham’s book of essays, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” Elsewhere in the book, Dunham discusses masturbating in bed next to her younger sister. Her frankness about her childhood sexuality has set the American public talking and blogging.
Of course, the American public, as well all know, likes to talk and blog. It does not, however, like to think, and hence it is that most of the “conversation” around Dunham has been predictably stupid. The Right has been particularly vexed by Dunham’s candid revelations. The Feminist left, meanwhile, has been oddly ambivalent. Let those of us who care about the truth therefore have a close look at this issue.
What Lena Dunham Is Not
To begin with, Lena Dunham, though by her own account a “weird child,” was and is not a monster. Her behavior toward her younger sister, however bizarre it may seem, actually is not at all uncommon and indeed quite normal. All over the world, little boys and girls immodestly and naively explore their burgeoning sexuality together. This includes touching in groups, sometimes among siblings.
Children’s bodies, so novel, strange and surprising, are natural objects of curiosity and fascination. Nor is there any reason why this should not occur while siblings also play out their usual familial power struggles, in which emotional manipulation is often present. In other words, that Dunham coaxed her sister into giving her affection, while also playing familial politics with her, doesn’t mean Dunham was sexually deviant, or a horrible person, or any such thing.
Now I know well that many (if not most) readers will react to the above paragraph with shock and disgust—the usual human response to highly discomfiting truths. Therefore, I would ask you to click on the following links and read the text therein—the first is from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network; the second, from The American Academy of Pediatrics. There is plenty more literature on early human sexuality, but here the main point—confirmed daily all over the world—is that behavior like Dunham’s is not abnormal and nothing to be upset about it.
Dunham, it must be understood, was writing about her early childhood and early teenage years (she was seven, she says, in the passages quoted above). And a young girl is not a rational moral agent. She hardly knows what morality is, just as she hardly knows what sexuality is. A seven year old girl, like a seven year old boy, acts mostly on sheer impulse. So it would be inaccurate to describe Dunham as some kind of twisted woman who molested her younger sister then wrote about it shamelessly.
The Greater Significance Of The Issue
What, then, is really problematic here? To answer this question, we need to take a good look at the context in which this issue occurred. We need to understand what is going on with America’s intergender relations. Here the thought experiment with which I began this essay is illustrative. It is impossible to imagine a male celebrity writing as Dunham has without being subject to a figurative public hanging. We also have not heard any feminist outcries concerning Dunham’s failure to procure an affirmative “yes” from her younger sister.
This hypocrisy is disturbing because feminists and the media have become unsparing and unreasonable in the way they scrutinize every aspect of male sexuality. We have reached a state of things where a remark such as “hey cutie” is considered “harassment”—rather than what it actually is, an advance, or a compliment, or an advance by way of a compliment.
Then there is the inane “yes mean yes” policy. By this means a simplistic and coddling binary is set up, one that functions to maximize female power just insofar as it oppresses men: if a woman did not say “yes,” then she really meant “no.” So runs the logic, and so heterosexual intercourse is supposed to be some kind of perfectly tidy transaction. No one ever gets hurt, because getting hurt only happens thanks to the wrong kinds of “social constructions.”
In reality—that little seen red-pill place—intergender relations are naturally and permanently difficult, messy and irrational; far beyond the purview of contracts and policies. It is part of the seducer’s art to have a woman’s pants off before “yes” or “no” ever occur to her. It is likewise part of his skill not to settle for “no,” but to continue to seduce his lover until she yields—nor is this to advocate rape or any other behavior that doesn’t respect a woman’s wishes.
Endeavoring to secure an affirmative “yes” while in the throes of desire is quite contrary to the nature of heterosexual seduction. Driven by a pursuing man, it’s usually a matter of urgent irrational passion; it is not some bloodless contract, or something reducible to logic or a simple binary. In many cases, a woman says “no” only at first, because she doesn’t want to be thought of as a slut.
Besides, women are strongly aroused by men who simply go after things (read: confidence and dominance). Asking permission is a huge turn off; taking what you want, a huge turn on. Finally, from a logical point of view, lack of a yes is not the same thing as an (implicit) no: it’s simply lack of a yes—full stop.
Feminism’s Primary Agenda
Feminism’s primary agenda is the same as the liberal one: it is to condemn reality itself while asserting its utopian dream of a world based on fairness, equality and the like delusions. Man as such—man as he really is—that thorny creature is not acceptable to liberals and feminists. He needs to be chopped down to size, made more passive, more tame, more agreeable, more “equal.” When similarly “deviant” behavior is seen in women like Lena Dunham, however, most feminists are predictably silent.
And, interpreting expressed interest or a compliment from a man as harassment goes a long way, over time, toward building the fantasy of a world without awkward encounters. This is the same world, tellingly, where everyone is middle-class and no one has to scrub toilets for minimum wage. The Gulags of the last century may serve as a reminder as to what happens when humankind sets out to realize its utopian chimeras.
Feminism is like any other large human movement in that while it makes much of fairness and equality, its actual main effect is to try to maximize Power. In other words, it is essentially self-interested. For, take any movement, however noble and well-meant in the beginning: before long, the intellectual stupidity and moral baseness of the human majority will corrupt it, whether it’s democracy, feminism, the manosphere, or whatever.
Feminism presents a very interesting and complex case. The unseemly truth, which virtually no one wants to recognize, is that conflict frequently is inevitable between the sexes. At best, we can complement each other. But even when that increasingly rare state has been reached, it doesn’t follow that our respective agendas are not still averse to one another in certain respects.
More generally, it should be understood that human relations consist of people needing or wanting things from another, from fellow creatures who are laden with all sorts of anxieties and burdens, just like you and me. And since almost all of us are not only far from being saints, but rather perversely self-interested, it follows that not equality but competitive discord is our natural and indeed permanent condition.
To those who disagree, I say look closer at what is called equality. True equality, as lived out in actual life, would consist of literal sameness—an impossibility. Now, as for equality as a legal and political thing, here we invariably find that whatever is the cause, the main goal ends up being to maximize power, not to achieve any real equality.
Hence, then, the conflation of an advance or compliment with harassment. Hence the lunatic notion that de facto rape has occurred if a man didn’t receive a “yes” from his lover. Hence the trite cant that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is “patriarchal objectification that contributes to a rape culture.” And hence the muted response to actions from a feminist icon that would inspire widespread outrage if the sexes were reversed.
To a student of human nature, all this is just how it should be. Like the characters in Moliere’s great plays, the world is one vast ever-smiling fraud. With few exceptions, the poor man who castigates the greedy rich would, if only possible, be a heartless miser himself. So too with the typical feminist. She may go on and on about the “subjection of women,” but as we have seen from many recent events, feminists, and women, will be happy to get in on the intoxicating fun of Power if only they can.