When Lena Dunham's memoir, Not That Kind Of Girl, came out at the end of September, it was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, praising Dunham's "gutsy voice" and "often hilarious" writing style. But in the wake of an article by right-wing columnist Kevin D. Williamson, the Internet exploded with allegations that Dunham had sexually abused her younger sister when they were both children.
Dunham responded on Twitter on Nov. 1, calling the accusations "really fucking upsetting and disgusting," and her sister tweeted: "i'm committed to people narrating their own experiences, determining for themselves what has and has not been harmful."
The allegations caused a debate within feminist communities -- with some even calling on Planned Parenthood to #DropDunham -- raising questions about what constitutes sexual abuse and normal childhood sexual exploration. It also spurred discussions about the impact of white privilege, narratives of victimhood, and the right to examine one's own messy truths through memoir.
Amidst the controversy, writer and producer Collier Meyerson and Talking Points Memo Features Editor Nona Willis Aronowitz, saw an opportunity to encourage greater openness among women. Thus Those Kind Of Girls, a Tumblr where women can anonymously share the "weird sexual shit" they did as kids, was born.
"We realized that collecting those stories -- even the murky ones, even the uncomfortable ones -- defused the shame surrounding them," Willis Aronowitz told HuffPost over email.
Meyerson and Willis Aronowitz created the Tumblr and sent it around to people they knew, and within three hours they had over 20 submissions. A day later, Jezebel linked to the site and now Meyerson says they're receiving "more submissions than [they] can keep up with."
Below are a few examples of stories that appear on Those Kind Of Girls:
I masturbated in the same room as a friend when I was 10 yrs old because I was feeling aroused and wanted to satisfy myself and didn't understand that there was a stigma. I didn't realise, but she was watching me curiously as I did it and later told me she was relieved because she did it too.
The only secret I've kept for my whole life due to feeling ashamed and very guilty is that when I was about 5 or 6, I remember being curious about bodies. Me and my little brother (3) used to play doctors together, which would mainly involve him putting a tray under my t-shirt (?). Then we started to pretend to play mummy and daddy, and he would lie on top of me without his pants on.
In college it came up that my sister once put a pencil (eraser side) into my vagina at bath time. I was a baby and she was about 3. I don't remember it, and hell if I know why there was a pencil in the bath- but after a doctors check-up everything was fine. Kids do strange things.
The stories featured on Those Kind Of Girls are incredibly diverse, but they all reveal the fundamental innocence and weirdness of childhood sexual exploration. Reading through the anecdotes, it becomes clear that there is a wide gap between "uncomfortable," or even "disturbing" to reflect on as an adult, and "abusive." The creators acknowledge that childhood sexual abuse is absolutely a reality, and even posted a story they received where the woman involved felt victimized. Their goal was "to point out the differences between what happened here and what happened with Lena Dunham and her sister."
As for women reading these stories -- and reflecting back on their own odd childhood memories -- Collier and Willis Aronowitz hope the Tumblr provides a space for people to process and share their stories without fear of stigmatization.
"When the [Lena Dunham] controversy took a more serious turn; when I saw folks calling her a molester, calling for her to step down from her role at Planned Parenthood, I had a moment where I was like 'uhm, if Lena Dunham is a child molester, so is everyone,'" said Collier. "Suddenly the shame I felt about the experiences I had as a child melted away and I felt emboldened by the critics. My hope is that if we tell our stories, we can chip away at the puritanical model clearly planted in us all. It's freeing to tell these stories."