Lena Dunham Is Right to Denounce "Girls" Porn Parody

What Women Really Think
May 24 2013 12:15 PM

Lena Dunham Is Right to Denounce "Girls" Porn Parody

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Let this not turn into hot girl-on-girl action

Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

When I heard the news about Hustler’s inevitable porn parody of Girls, I found myself mildly irritated. Generally, I find porn parodies cute, even though they don't really parody anything or anybody so much as steal existing characters for goofy sexual displays. If nothing else, porn parodies don't tend to take themselves very seriously, which is a welcome contrast to so much porn out there. For instance, the porn parody of 30 Rock looks like a hoot, a sexualized tribute to the beloved NBC sitcom. What makes porn parodies like that one work is that they inject sexual situations into shows that aren't actually very sexy, and the absurdity of it all is amusing. 

Problem is, Girls is already a show that has a lot of graphic sex in it. Not only that, but it's a show that takes a long, hard look at the emotional complexities that define most people's sex lives. No wonder Lena Dunham feels like her show isn't being lovingly sent up, but blatantly violated. On Twitter, she explained why she couldn’t “just laugh off a porn parody of Girls.”

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Even setting aside some of the more complex feminist objections to the treatment of women in mainstream porn, one thing is undeniable: The central fantasy of most porn is of context-free sex. Characters screw for no other reason than because this is porn, and screwing is what you do. Girls presents a more challenging view of sex, looking at the various ways people use sex to relieve boredom, shore up their self-esteem, and strive for emotional connection. In other words, Girls parodies and subverts the pornographic fantasy of context-free sex. The show’s most uncomfortable scene to date, in which Adam coerces Natalia into playacting a porn-ready daydream of female degradation, asked hard questions about how a harmless power fantasy on your computer screen can swiftly turn into real-life emotional abuse. 

Flattening out these complex portrayals of human sexuality into the usual bump-and-grind of mainstream porn doesn't feel like a tribute or a gentle tweaking. It feels like an attack. Hustler might as well market its film by saying, "Are you upset that Lena Dunham made you think too hard about women's complex sexual realities? Don't worry, we got our revenge by reducing her characters to chipper sex bunnies who don't worry their pretty little heads about anything but the next orgasm they can cause!" People look to the genre of porn parodies because they want to have their hardcore sex mixed in with silly, light-hearted fun. This, by contrast, feels hostile. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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