Lena Dunham and the Re-Objectification of Women

Are women more than the sum of their sexual parts? Watching Lena Dunham’s “First Time” ad, you wouldn’t think so.

The message of the ad was especially disappointing for me because, not too long ago, I praised  Dunham’s critically acclaimed HBO show “Girls” in the Washington Times for its candid depiction of the hook-up culture. With its painfully awkward and unerotic sex scenes, “Girls” revealed just how degrading sex in the era of post-feminism has become, especially for women.

As I write in my latest piece for the Washington Timesthat was Dunham 1.0:

To Miss Dunham 2.0, women really are just sexual objects, after all. They make important decisions, like voting for president, by consulting what goes on between their legs rather than by what goes on between their ears. As she advises in the ad, “You want to do it with a guy who cares whether you get health insurance and specifically whether you get birth control.”

Translation: The kind of guy you should have sex with (or vote for) is someone whose primary concern is not with who you are, what you want, or what you think, but with you not getting pregnant with his kid. To me, this guy sounds like a jerk. To Miss Dunham, this guy sounds like Barack Obama. This must be a joke right? “The video may be light, but the message is serious,” Miss Dunham tweeted last week.

Over at NRO, John O’Sullivan described the Obama campaign’s appeal to women as “The Vagina Dialogues” because it assumes women are “walking, talking, and voting vaginas with no other value or interests.” As I explain in the Times, I wouldn’t date a guy who thought that about women, and I wouldn’t vote for a president who thought that. It’s sexist, plain and simple.

  1. liberal jim

    To my knowledge I have never read or seen anything of Ms. Dunham’s and am probably the better off for it.   I consider the  phrase “pop culture” a euphemism  of immoral behavior and based on your description would classify Dunham as a “sl..”    

    Since everything produced by the Obama campaign is tested I gather the material has been found to be appealing to immoral women.

    Given the state of morality in this country why is anyone surprised?

  2. Garrett Petersen

    Joss Whedon came out with a video mocking Mitt Romney, despite the obvious pro-freedom messages of movies like Serenity and The Avengers.  Dunham, Whedon, and others like them, are people who are reasonable and sensible in all parts of their lives except the part that concerns their religion (liberalism).

  3. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    What if she’s just showing an elaborate Andy Kaufman-level of commitment to her craft? The alternative makes no sense. The whole enjoyment of Girls is based on the understanding that she’s in on the joke — these women are demeaning themselves in their pursuit of meaningless sex. The ad undermined the entire idea that she is in on the joke (unless, again, she’s just committed to her character).

  4. Devereaux

    Let me post a broad generalization that may have real holes in it.

    Most men, and I make the generalization with a bit of trepidation, view women initially from a sexual point of view. In a bar, a guy won’t think, “Boy, she must be smart.” but “Man, is she hot.” 

    Social sexual mores have long been the bulwark of defense of the family and so of the female, making the possibility of having sex dependent on getting married. Or at least having to if your “success” led to pregnancy.

    My generation laid waste to that under the banner of “liberating women”. My sense is that it removed one of the natural barriers of defense women had against the predatory male. I would submit that most men (or perhaps many would be a better adjective) marry to find regular sexual release, and discover the joy of marriage and family only along the way. When you remove the marriage need, such responses will diminish, to the detriment of society.

    This is not all men, and infidelity will always be with us – as will whoring. But women were more “interesting” when they were less “available”.

    Just stirring the pot…

  5. MBF
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: What if she’s just showing an elaborate Andy Kaufman-level of commitment to her craft? The alternative makes no sense. The whole enjoyment of Girls is based on the understanding that she’s in on the joke — these women are demeaning themselves in their pursuit of meaningless sex. The ad undermined the entire idea that she is in on the joke (unless, again, she’s just committed to her character). · 6 minutes ago

    Or maybe she is just the Ralph Nader of her field. Nader rails against regulators and business working together at the expense of consumers. His solution? Better regulators!

    Dunham is concerned with the sad state of pre marital sex culture. Her solution? Better pre marital sex culture!

  6. DocJay

    The sad thing is that she equates her voting to a wonderful virginity losing experience with Barack Obama.   Him being president feels more to me like be asked in to the showers at Penn St.  

    Lena is part of the left’s giant culture of defining everything and everyone by race, sex, orientation in to a couple of simple poor values which inexorably lead to a democrat vote.    

  7. katievs

    My advice to young women: “You want to do it–not just the first time, but every time–not with someone who ‘cares about women’s access to birth control’, or whose great and cool, but with someone who is genuinely committed to you and your welfare.  Not someone who’s going to use you for his own purposes then forget about you tomorrow.”

    Vote for committed over cool every time.

  8. Capt. Aubrey

    I have only seen ads for the HBO series and I’ve only seen the commercial here on ricochet but my first thought was homely, if not ugly girls acting stupid, I guess that’s TV for you. Second thought was on seeing the commercial, if BO is having to advertise to get this group’s vote he is truly desperate.

  9. drlorentz

    Emily, I read all the articles linked in your post and came away terribly depressed about the state of sex among our youth. Where, indeed, is Camille Paglia when you need her? I worry for my teenaged daughter.

    As for the president’s shameless pandering to women, the vagina dialogues is at once a hilarious and stingingly accurate description. Have feminists lost their way? It seems so.

  10. drlorentz
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: What if she’s just showing an elaborate Andy Kaufman-level of commitment to her craft? The alternative makes no sense.

    I never found Andy Kaufman to funny, especially not after the first encounter. Sadly, the alternative makes all too much sense.

  11. Doug Lee

    Is it only a objectification of women?  I mean, don’t they view men in exactly the same way?

  12. MLH

    Maybe they paid her a boatload of money?!

  13. Tom Meyer, Ed.
    C

    First time I saw the Dunham ad, I thought it was mildly funny; the extended metaphor was deftly delivered and seemed worthy of a good-humored snicker.  Social-cons were making way too much of this, I thought.

    Criticisms like Emily’s and Julie Borowski’s are bringing me around, though.  Besides the bizarre assumption that women’s votes are (largely) contingent on “women’s issues” there’s a really obscene way the ad equates public policy stances with private virtue (“being a great guy”).  That’s the same logic that made Bill Clinton a champion for women.

    I’ll put it this way: if the Dunham ad is taken seriously, it’s disgusting; if it’s not taken seriously, it’s piffle.  Either way, why is this running under a president’s seal of approval?

  14. Umbra Fractus
    Emily Esfahani Smith: Over at NRO, John O’Sullivan described the Obama campaign’s appeal to women as “The Vagina Dialogues” because it assumes women are “walking, talking, and voting vaginas with no other value or interests.”

    Some people on Twitter (I forget exactly who, but I’m pretty sure Sooper Mexican and/or Ace of Spades were involved) started referring to the HHS mandate as “Big vagina subsidies.”

    It’s a curious and infuriating double standard. Women are encouraged to view meaningless sex as liberating, but if men decide to take them up on this premise we’re oppressing them.

  15. Nigel Cones
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.The whole enjoyment of Girls is based on the understanding that she’s in on the joke — these women are demeaning themselves in their pursuit of meaningless sex. · 12 hours ago

    (Girls spoilers below) I think she’s in on the joke insofar as she can mock twenty-something authors declaring themselves the voice of a generation, but I don’t know if the Douthatian thesis about the implicitly conservative critique of sexual politics in the show survived the second half of the season. They spent a fair amount of time redeeming her male friend and building towards a type of rough intimacy. The continued messiness and confusion of that intimacy could still be read as a critique of dating in a vacuum, with no defined norms and scripts about expected behavior, but they seemed to leave the ugly portrayal of a soulless, atomistic sexual culture after a few episodes.
  16. Crow
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: What if she’s just showing an elaborate Andy Kaufman-level of commitment to her craft? The alternative makes no sense. The whole enjoyment of Girls is based on the understanding that she’s in on the joke — these women are demeaning themselves in their pursuit of meaningless sex. The ad undermined the entire idea that she is in on the joke (unless, again, she’s just committed to her character). · 5 hours ago

    Cognitive dissonance is not unheard of.

  17. Blue State Blues
    Capt. Aubrey: … Second thought was on seeing the commercial, if BO is having to advertise to get this group’s vote he is truly desperate. · 9 hours ago

    For this demographic, the choice is not between Obama and Romney; it is between Obama and not bothering.  Yes, he has to advertise to get them off the couch.

  18. Indaba

    I had no idea about men’s “wolf” side although warned by my father. My husband certainly disguised this side of men too. It was only when my sons began to tell me their thoughts about girls did I realize the difference. Society sets up the structures for a good reason.

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