On Saturday, HBO’s Lena Dunham sent a “cease and desist” letter to TruthRevolt demanding that we remove an article we posted last Wednesday on sections of her book, Not That Kind of Girl. The letter threatened legal action if we did not both remove that article, as well as print a note, the suggested language of which read as follows:
We recently published a story stating that Ms. Dunham engaged in sexual conduct with her sister. The story was false, and we deeply regret having printed it. We apologize to Ms. Dunham, her sister, and their parents, for this false story.
We refuse. We refuse to withdraw our story or apologize for running it, because quoting a woman’s book does not constitute a “false” story, even if she is a prominent actress and left-wing activist. Lena Dunham may not like our interpretation of her book, but unfortunately for her and her attorneys, she wrote that book – and the First Amendment covers a good deal of material she may not like.
In particular, the letter from Ms. Dunham’s lawyers labeled as “false and defamatory” our claims that she “experiment[ed] sexually with her younger sister Grace,” “experimented with her six-year younger sister’s vagina,” and “use[d] her little sister at times essentially as a sexual outlet.” In her desire to curb First Amendment freedoms, Dunham’s attorneys threatened legal action seeking “millions of dollars; punitive damages which can be a multiple of up to ten times actual damages; and injunctive relief.”
We assume that both Ms. Dunham and her attorneys are capable of reading Ms. Dunham’s book, which contains the following direct excerpts:
“Do we all have uteruses?” I asked my mother when I was seven.
“Yes,” she told me. “We’re born with them, and with all our eggs, but they start out very small. And they aren’t ready to make babies until we’re older.”
I looked at my sister, now a slim, tough one-year-old, and at her tiny belly. I imagined her eggs inside her, like the sack of spider eggs in Charlotte’s Web, and her uterus, the size of a thimble.
“Does her vagina look like mine?”
“I guess so,” my mother said. “Just smaller.”
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 that 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 such a success.
As she grew, I took to bribing her for 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.
I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.
If Ms. Dunham says that our quotations from her book were “false,” or that our interpretation of those events was libelous under the law, then we look forward to asking her, in her deposition, about why they appeared in her book. We also look forward to asking her why she believes it is now appropriate for a 28-year-old woman to make light of opening her baby sister’s vagina, paying her with candies for prolonged kisses on the lips in the manner of a “sexual predator,” or masturbating in bed next to her prepubescent sister.
If Ms. Dunham says that our quotations from her book were “false,” then she should explain whether her statements in which she accused a young college Republican of rape were also false. We look forward to asking her about that in her deposition as well, given that she has reportedly refused to cooperate with Oberlin police to track down the alleged perpetrator, which leaves other young women at risk if her accusations are true.
It is worth noting that Truth Revolt was far from the only outlet to point out these troubling sections in Ms. Dunham’s book. National Review’s Kevin Williamson wrote of “Lena Dunham’s sexual abuse, specifically, of her younger sister, Grace” – the article that first alerted us to Ms. Dunham’s disturbing writings. The Daily Caller’s Derek Hunter has written of Ms. Dunham’s “gleeful sexual abuse of her infant sister, Grace.”
After Truth Revolt’s report on Ms. Dunham’s book, Ms. Dunham took to Twitter with what she termed a “rage spiral,” terming accusations that “I molested my little sister isn’t just LOL – it’s really fucking upsetting and disgusting.” She added, “And by the way, if you were a little kid and never looked at another little kid’s vagina, well, congrats to you.” No, congrats to you, Ms. Dunham – you’ve managed to lead a life so free of criticism that you find it “upsetting and disgusting” when some folks are offended that you “carefully spread open” your baby sister’s vagina, or paid her to kiss you on the mouth in the manner of a “sexual predator,” or masturbated in bed next to her as a teenager. In the real world, folks find such behavior upsetting and disgusting, not reporting on such behavior.
Bullies like Ms. Dunham may believe that firing off legal threats against those who exercise First Amendment rights is perfectly legitimate. But for a woman who proclaims to be an advocate for freedom of speech to attempt to shut down such speech based on her own apparent embarrassment at her own disclosures in her own book demonstrates the totalitarianism of those on the left – and those in the legal and media establishment who enable them.