Lena Dunham's Girls debuted last night, to much hype and a not inconsequential aftermath: We're still talking about it, aren't we? Two "girls" of The Atlantic Wire of varying ages watched, and we had feelings.
That Sex Scene
Rebecca: Pre air date, a lot of the Girls talk had to do with the "awkward" "bad sex," Lena Dunham's character, Hannah, has with what Frank Bruni called her "boyfriend." This dude, whom she earlier says never returns her texts, is absolutely zero percent her boyfriend. She's in the sort of murky, "uncomplicated" relationship that my cohort -- Dunham is only about a year older than I am -- often gets into when we're feeling lonely, bored, or insecure. Living in this post-sexual revolution world we still want sex and companionship, so we find ourselves an Adam to occupy our time, fulfill our libidos, and give us some sort of pseudo love. To me, it was clear Hannah has found herself in exactly this kind of confusing "relationship," so it didn't feel off that Dunham claimed she enjoyed herself and keep going back. She's getting sex and companionship, something we all crave, even though the sex looked a bit sad and the companion a lot douche-y. Adam does have his moments where he seems to care for Hannah a teeny-tiny bit, at least enough to keep her hooked. Yes, it's pathetic, but not unrealistic. It's much less pathetic and more believable than the sexual encounter Dunham has in Tiny Furniture, where she screws a man in a tube on the street. (That's pretty low.) But, even my most confident (and sexy!) friends have found themselves in repeated decent (borderline bad) sexual encounters that still fulfill them just enough emotionally and sexually to keep on doing it. The point, I think, is that this type of sexual encounter certainly happens among my peers, especially in that type of uncommitted relationship. Dunham claims it has something to do with YouPorn and the Internet, but I think it's more about being in the type of relationships that breeds bad communication all around. A guy who doesn't text back isn't going to care about you in bed, probably. Or at least not be open to talking about it.
Jen: OK, this is painful. Painful in an extreme, Did we actually do this sort of thing back then? God I don't want to watch! way. As a woman who grew up on Sex and the City (and who's now in her 30s), the sex in Girls is, well, something new, but something old. New in that we haven't really seen it this way on TV. It's hard not to compare it to the Sex in the other show, and Dunham's clearly expecting you to make comparisons; she makes them herself, which we'll get to in a moment. But if you'll recall, Carrie's bad sex was of the guy-still-trying-to-please-her variety (think jackhammer sex guy from Charlotte's wedding, who thinks he's doing it just great). The same is generally true with her friends. There wasn't the same visceral, awful feeling of watching someone get used, as we feel when we watch Hannah and her male "friend," who balks at using condoms and wants to "sneak" in some anal sex when the moment arises. Yet, guys trying to use women is not a new thing—it's just that we're finally going there, in this new graphic sexual kind of way, on TV. That's what makes Girls so poignant, I think, at least, as someone who's older than the characters depicted. And that's what makes it something old, because whether we slept with insensitive loutish guys like Hannah's (that scene in which he grabs her fat rolls is just brutal) or had boyfriend's like Marnie's (the complete opposite, attentive and sweet and so doting that she can't help but despise him), we all eventually believe we've moved on from them, and this sort of behavior. Hopefully. This sex is real, yes, though wrought in the extreme: You want to yell and Hannah to get the hell out of that loser's apartment even as she's acting out her post-sexual-revolutionized "choice" to have sex with this idiot; you also want to take Marnie in hand and force her to release that poor boy from her cruel capture. But you can't, and they'll eventually do it for themselves, you have to believe. Because we did, right?