Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Gawking at Dunham’s Republican

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We’re a long way from the days when Jezebel offered $10,000 for un-retouched photos of Lena Dunham, or even when Buzzfeed offered $10. (Do I hear $5?) Now there’s a ride to the rescue of Lena Dunham whose depiction in her book of a possible sexual assault has inspired investigations into the identity of her alleged attacker, or even if the sexual assault took place.

After reports by National Review and Breitbart, and a threatened lawsuit, Dunham’s publishers are changing the story in future editions and in the online edition of the book. The problem was Dunham’s description of a “campus conservative” named “Barry” was too close to an actual person at Oberlin College. Despite an awfully worded apology, there is still speculation that “Barry” was targeted specifically by Dunham in order to make a political point, and whether a rape really occurred.

Now J.K. Trotter in Gawker attempts to come to Dunham’s rescue by attempting to identify the “real” attacker based on details provided by Dunham in her book proposal. Guess what? The alleged attacker is a Democrat, but may have been a Republican in college despite familial connections to National Public Radio.

Trotter goes even further in identifying the alleged rapist by name, and the article even explains how the details of the book proposal matches up with the details of the suspect’s life. However, Trotter admits in the article that he may not have the right person.

“It’s possible, also, that [name redacted] is not the person who raped Dunham—that, for reasons unknown, she used certain details of [name redacted]’s life in her description of her sexual assault, and decided to remove them upon publication of the memoir.”

In other words, following Dunham down incrimination road can be perilous. Since none of the details in the book appear to be accurate, why should any of the details in the book proposal be accurate? By naming the alleged “rapist” Trotter and Gawker may be just as guilty as Dunham and her publisher were in identifying “Barry.”

It gets worse. Unlike Rolling Stone, Trotter actually attempts to reach the person, but in doing so he contacts the suspect’s family whom he also names in the article. Despite no cooperation from the new suspect or his family, Trotter and Gawker still name them in the article.

Unfortunately we don’t have the full book proposal to read because Gawker was asked to take it down by Dunham’s lawyers. (By the way, Gawker’s responses are pretty funny.) We don’t know if the description of the alleged “rape” is complete. If it is, then Trotter’s naming of the person is even worse, because the “rape” is really consensual sex with next day regret.

The “crime” allegedly committed by the person named in the article is removing his condom during sex and hanging it on the houseplant. I’m sure it violates so many of today’s mores. So would a woman lying about being on birth control. But it’s not rape.

Of course, removing the condom isn’t even the worst crime.

[Redacted] had purposely flung the prophylactic into our tiny palm tree, thinking I was too dumb or too drunk or too eager to please to call him on it. […] The next day, on the radiator in the art building, I told the story to my best friend Audrey who winced. Firstly because he was a Republican and secondly because, she whispered “you were raped.”

“Firstly because he was a Republican…” More important than the alleged rape. More important than the condom. He was a Republican, and that’s what made Audrey wince.

If the person named in the Gawker article is innocent of any crime, I supposed being educated at Oberlin he’ll understand being falsely accused of rape is a good thing if it brings greater attention to the problem of unreported campus sexual assaults. However, I doubt his lawyers feel the same and Gawker may have opened itself to legal trouble. It will be well-deserved along with any criticism they will receive.

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