A reader writes:
I’m a 24-year-old girl living in NYC and first-time emailer despite reading and loving your blog since high school. Thank you for defending us – the real-life girls whose very real lives are what everyone is actually criticizing when they criticize this show (and I’m not just projecting – many of my friends went to high school with Lena Dunham). I’m in medical school right now, following ambitions that may seem less “small and sad” than those of the show’s protagonists, but my more secure career path by no means inures me to the petty and constant growing pains of being a young woman in the big city.
We recently learned Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, which are based on the idea that different periods in your life are marked by different conflicts. The conflict of your twenties? Intimacy versus isolation … the existential question, “Can I love?”
An older female writes:
Yes! Yes to you and TNC. The reason women are more empowered in their 30s is that they finally have the confidence to move on from sexual experiences like the ones they have in their 20s. Girls gets it excruciatingly right.
My female friends and my 20s were riddled with guys who want to pee on you; guys who want to have anal sex with you but aren’t particularly good at it; guys who are genuinely surprised when you try to tactfully inform them that 30 seconds of foreplay is not going to do the job. It’s not really fair, but for girls, so much of figuring out your own sexuality involves wrangling the sexuality of guys. For some period of time, many girls in their 20s put up with this because they don’t have the confidence or experience to insist otherwise. (My sense of the character Adam, by the way, is that he actually does have the potential to be decent in bed, but Hannah is not giving him many pointers.)
I found that masturbation scene as surprising as you did. And what I loved about it was its complexity. Hannah wasn’t expecting to be mean to Adam in that way. And Adam was completely comfortable with asking for what he needed. Very interesting.
So, yes, it is sad. For a lot of girls, sex in your 20s is often sad, because you are fending off bad sex all the time. Then guys mature, and we mature, and we learn to be better to each other. And better for each other. And Lena Dunham is showing that process. It’s awesome.
One more thing: my 15-year-old daughter watches girls religiously. She wants me to be up-to-date on it, but she definitely does not want to watch it along with me. And I will say that I am so happy that she is getting an education from that show. Because it is not from the male gaze. It shows the gaze in action, but the perspective of the show is girls.
I didn’t have anything like that when I was her age. Well, let me correct myself. I had Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde. But there was no TV show – no mainstream smash hit – that reaffirmed my experience. That is a powerful thing.