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Today in Porn: Girls Edition

So Terry Gross interviewed Lena Dunham, the youthful creator/writer/star of the girls-in-the-city HBO show Girls.  Most of the attention has been on her response to questions about the show’s lack of diversity.  But whaddya know, they also chatted about boys who get their sexual education from pornography.

GROSS: So do you get a sense that a lot of guys your age have learned about sex through porn sites and have these unrealistic and sometimes ludicrous ideas of what sex is like or what a girl would like?

DUNHAM: I do get that sense. I get the sense that there’s a new kind of learned behavior. I had a conversation with Frank Bruni about this for The New York Times where he was asking me yeah, about the porn question it and I told that there’s certain things that you’ll experience when, you know, not like I want to make it sound like I’m all over town, you know, testing different guys’ sexual prowesses. But in my own personal limited sexual experience I’ve found that there are guys doing things where you go there’s no way that that is your own personal instinct. You learned that from somewhere and it wasn’t, you know, a birds and bees conversation with your mom and it also wasn’t taught to you by a high school girl you met in Michigan. Like that you’re your – that is something that you have, you know, learned through osmosis culturally and now A, want to try yourself, or even more insidiously, think that I will like. And I think that young people are really scared to tell each other what they actually want.

It’s funny. I mean not to get too personal but I just found a diary that I kept in college. I’ve been an intermittent diary keeper always, never a faithful one. And there’s some guy had done something. It wasn’t anything, you know, to dramatic, like he’d just been I think sort of we kissed in college and he’d been sort of rough with me and I asked him if he always acted that way. And he said no, I don’t. But with you I do because it’s clearly what you want.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GROSS: What made him say that?

DUNHAM: Which was to me – I was looking back at it. I think at the time I just felt this guilt. I was like why am I – oh my God, what kind of girl am I that I’m projecting that that’s what I want. How did I, you know, like just massive guilt? And I remember at the time thinking, oh my God, if I could just replay that and act differently then we could have had this sweet encounter and I’ve missed out on something great. And I realize now that that’s just some way for a guy to shirk responsibility for some weird embarrassing thing that they’ve done. And I mean it’s almost like your skirt was too short and you were asking for it. So I don’t – that’s the weirdest human interaction I have on record in my diary. But I was thinking that that encounter and that interaction has informed more of my work than I ever knew when I reread it.

GROSS: Do you think it’s difficult, and I don’t want to get too personal with you. I don’t want to cross a line, so I’ll ask generically.

DUNHAM: Yeah.

GROSS: Do you think it’s different – difficult for young, single women to say no to a guy who wants to try some things he’s probably learned from a porn site and say, you know, I’m not going to enjoy that. That’s not going to be pleasurable. It’s not even going to be comfortable?

DUNHAM: I do. I mean it’s difficult for me to say no to my friends who want to try a restaurant that I don’t think I’m going to like.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DUNHAM: So it’s like – so trying to say no to something that personal and specific it’s – yeah, it’s really hard. And I also think that, you know, maybe girls will rise up against me and go I don’t know what your problem is but I feel perfectly comfortable saying no. But, you know, for me, I mean, I think that for young women sex is about sex but sex is also about wanting to be liked and wanting to be appreciated. And the fear when you say no is that someone will go OK, well then see you later. Like that you will, you know, lose your loving audience.

So, yeah, I think it is really challenging and I think in the sexual relationship on the show between Hannah and Adam I wanted to show that it’s not a case of complete victimization. Hannah thinks about sex as a way to learn more about herself and she kind of feels like she needs to accept what ever opportunity to learn is offered to her. And Adam is continually testing the boundaries and also using sex as a way to experience to be close and also not to be close. And so he’s not going to have the kind of sex where you, you know, move slowly and look into each other’s eyes. He wants to be near another person but in the least intimate way possible. And as the season goes on you sort of learn more about his drives and who is and like what happens when they strip away a little bit of that role play but it’s a complicated dance.

GROSS: Well, I think you just got to something really difficult emotionally, which is when sex becomes the least intimate way of communicating.

DUNHAM: Yeah. Which I think is…

GROSS: I mean that’s, because you’re at your most exposed and vulnerable so if that’s not the most intimate and it’s the least intimate, that’s so uncomfortable, isn’t it?

DUNHAM: Yeah. I remember in high school like long before I started having sex with anyone or kissing anyone, thinking this is – I mean this sounds like a real leap, but I’ve always had like a little bit of a morbid streak, like a little bit like we’re all going to die so what’s the point.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DUNHAM: Like that – that’s where my brain goes when I’m tired. And I think I was like lying in bed and I was thinking like probably once your in love and once you’ve had sex you’re not scared of dying because you know what true connection is and you know what the world is all about. And then the minute that I had sex I understood that that was at least not yet in my experience the case and that it was not the cure to like all existential anxiety and that it’s very possible to feel – to be naked and feel quite alone, which is poetic in its own way.

Comments

  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    I like it when Terry Gross substitutes for Dave Davies.

  2. Because of the combined hype around this show and the death of Adam Yauch, I have had the Beastie Boys song “Girls” stuck in my head for days. Daaays. It won’t go away.

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