Lena Dunham has always been an open book. But in her latest essay, the book is dealing with some VERY serious adult chapters, both personal and political.
Not only does the Girls creator tackle a tricky subject of rough sex in her latest essay, living up to the provocative title “Can a Good Man Mistreat You During Sex — If That’s What You Desire?” She also may give her deepest insight into her personal life yet.
Previously she wrote about the loneliness after her big breakup; now she’s moved on to “rebound romance” and… it isn’t going well.
But maybe it’s informative?
She describes a man slightly older than she sliding into her DMs after she posted “a thirst-trap picture in some plus-size panties.”
“It was a modern non-love story, the only kind I’d ever really known. But this was my first time at the rodeo in my 30s, a decade so far remarkable for my first gray hair, my first time showing up for jury duty, and my first real heartbreak, stemming from the public dissolution of a six-year relationship I had believed to be permanent.”
Lena is of course referring to her very public breakup with singer-songwriter Jack Antonoff.
She was in a strange place at the time. She was not only recently single but recently sober as well — and thinking about both:
“During the brief spaces between rebound romances, I’d felt choppy and unrealized, like a vintage TV set without the sharpness adjusted. I had recently become sober after years of dependence on prescription pills, and the new community I was meeting with in rec halls and school cafeterias after hours was happy to call my preoccupation “codependence” or, less euphemistically, a sex-and-love addiction. To me, that was as tricky as calling food an addiction (something I’ve also been warned about, since I love to consume on all levels). What are you supposed to do, quit that too?”
Right?? It’s not like you can go cold turkey on… cold turkey.
It was in this head space she decided to take a chance on a stranger from Instagram.
“I was lonely as hell — maybe lonelier, because at least those baddies are all down there together — and I had been programmed by my near miss of a marriage to see off into forever. This seemed like a good way to find someone to spend my possibly long and assuredly messy life with.”
She goes on to discuss the slow progression of the courtship with the new guy:
“We graduated from DM to text to late-night calls where he told me about his grad school program and his real estate troubles, his exes, his favorite homeless man outside his favorite diner who turned out to be an esteemed folk artist. His Instagram had given me a time-lapse impression of his life (only the cutest parts, perfectly calibrated to make a woman think he might be able to put together her forsaken IKEA shelves), and the press had given him a tragic sense of mine.”
Being famous while dating may not be a very relatable problem, but it’s a real one for people.
Especially if your press isn’t too good because you put your foot in your mouth a lot.
Luckily, this relationship went fine… until the actual in-person first date began:
“The early texting game had been golden — nearly a month of mounting familiarity with everything from his niece to his Starbucks order to his preference of boxer briefs — but when I showed up at his front door to meet him in person for the first time, almost midnight and fresh off a plane, I was shaking and not in the fun way. I’ve long given up on my body’s ability to intuit anything besides an upcoming snack, but what I was feeling wasn’t good.”
“Unsure of what came next I wrapped my arms around his redwood of a waist, buried my face in the thick cotton of his T-shirt, and tried to understand — in that quarter of a second — whether I could love him through thick and thin, whether he could raise my adopted child with strength and decency, and whether he would be willing to pull my hair so hard I couldn’t put it in a ponytail the next day if that was what I desired. I hoped that he would care for me when I got a fever or a bad review, that he was OK with an elastic sense of self and an even more elastic waistband. And I hoped above hope I might be struck with a sign, there on the deck with my hands clasped above his tailbone.”
Instead her date simply said “S’up.” Oof.
Guys, you don’t have to do that. Unless you really are a monosyllabic dullard, it just comes across as aiming low with such a weak opener to avoid slipping off a pedestal of faux coolness.
After a decent date, Lena says she started sexting with him, writing:
“‘Do you want to hold me down and force me to finish?’”
Lena takes a moment to embrace the suspense of not knowing who you’re getting to know, something you hate when you’re single and miss when you’re long-term:
“After half a decade with the same person, I had returned to my dating life with the abandon of a grandma of ten shopping duty-free. I had missed all of this: the anxiety of constructing a new identity worth wanting, the jittery caffeine-high moments before the first kiss, and an introduction to someone’s second personality, the one they have when lust is unleashed.”
With that sexual transformation comes the point Lena is trying to make in her piece.
She’s interested in the idea of finding a good guy who will only mistreat her in the very specific sexual way she wants. Though she swears the essay is not “a defense of kink”:
“That has its place and I respect it, but I don’t want to be tied up, whipped, or made into a servant. I don’t want to wear vinyl or wield a paddle. All my fantasies sound oddly cartoonish and G-rated: to be the victim of an almost mundane disdain and garden-variety cruelty. Now that I write it, it sounds like I want bad sex.”
LOLz! We think we actually might get what she’s saying. Less Fifty Shades, more these two?
Lena says she came to reflect on her attraction to abuse after speaking out in favor of it on a personal level.
“I thought that because of my aforementioned trauma I was allowed whatever I needed to make sex work for me. It never occurred to me that my desire might be essentially unfeminist until the kind of interaction I tend to be aroused by became punishable by internet lashing. As it should be. I was starting to understand that the men who turned me on weren’t people I wanted to know when my dress was back on.”
Our reflex is often to hit back at any criticism of our sexuality, never to see it as a problem which needs fixing.
Lena says she tried to express to this new guy how she liked to be “humiliated sweetly” — but he apparently took it as carte blanche to be a jerk.
He ended up saying something that deeply offended her when she wanted to stay over after sex. Annoyingly, she doesn’t repeat the cruel words — so we’re left with a twisted Lost In Translation moment.
She ended up seeing the guy one last time, and — after he apologized but didn’t seem to know why he needed to — ending it.
She credits her newfound sobriety with identifying the problem in its infancy, writing:
“Quitting drugs has its pluses and its minuses. In the plus column: You get back your free will and you can repair broken relationships. As for minuses, you no longer have a valid excuse to eat uncooked tortellini. But the most unexpected benefit of sobriety has been knowing when it’s time to leave the proverbial party.”
So what’s the upshot?
Lena writes about her perfect man who would treat her “with love and tenderness” and see her as she truly is — but “also turn into a Bad Lieutenant-style monster when the clock strikes midnight and do things that would make even my liberal mother shudder.”
“I’m not sure those things can all exist in one person or that they’re even meant to. I’ve tried. I still love some of those men, while others seem like nasty dreams. But here I am, manifesting my desire for a sober, emotionally aware pervert with a passion for his craft and the ability to break down cardboard boxes and take them to my recycling room.”
Well, sounds like a big ask, but we certainly hope she finds him. Oh, we guess he also needs to read Vogue.
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