Lena Dunham To Revise Book's Rape Passage After Lawsuit Threat

Photo: REX USA/Ray Tang/Rex.
Update: Following the news that Random House would be altering the "Barry" chapter in Not That Kind Of Girl, Lena Dunham wrote a new essay for BuzzFeed Ideas called "Why I Chose To Speak Out." In it, Dunham further explains the reasons she decided to write about her sexual assault, and the repercussions she knew it would have. Dunham also talks about the ways in which she has had her character and credibility questioned following the revelation, and what she has learned from the experience.
"Since coming out as a survivor I have gone from an intellectual sense of the ways in which victims are doubted and debased to a bone-deep understanding of this reality. I hope to apply that understanding to art and advocacy. I am deeply grateful for the support I have received. I am deeply grateful that this dialogue is taking place. I am angry but I am not alone."
Advertisement
The best way to stand by a survivor? "You can help by saying I believe you," Dunham writes.
(The following post was originally published on December 9, 2014)
Lena Dunham's first book, Not That Kind Of Girl came out in late September. According to Nielsen BookScan (via The Hollywood Reporter), it's selling at an adequate pace — one similar to that of her literary contemporaries Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. But, Poehler and Fey's tomes failed to attract the widespread criticism, fact-checking, and other scrutiny that Dunham's did. Readers and reviewers went through Dunham's book with a fine-tooth comb, many of them with fangs bared for problematic tales.
One of Dunham's stories that was raked over the coals was that of a sexual assault during her college years at Oberlin. In the chapter, Dunham describes being raped by the "campus's resident conservative," a Republican she calls "Barry." She provides a lot of information about Barry. In addition to his conservative reputation, Dunham says he wore cowboy boots, had a mustache, worked at a campus library, hosted a radio show, and graduated in December 2005. Her detailed profile sent readers and the press on a mission to locate Barry in real life.
They were able to locate an Oberlin alum who matched Dunham's description. His name also happens to be Barry. Since Not That Kind Of Girl hit shelves, he's had to defend himself against accusations that he is the man Dunham is talking about. Barry hired a lawyer to defend his reputation and maintain his innocence, and the lawyer requested that Dunham absolve Barry.
After several weeks without a response from Dunham or her publisher, Random House, Barry's lawyer established a legal fund and threatened a lawsuit. Random House finally responded to the threat of litigation. The publisher is offering to pay Barry's legal fees, and Random House will also alter the passage about Barry in subsequent printings of Not That Kind Of Girl. Newer versions of the book will come with a disclaimer that Barry is not the name of Dunham's alleged rapist.
Advertisement
Even though Random House and Dunham will be making those edits, there's no disputing that Lena was sexually assaulted. She tried to distort her rapist's identity for legal reasons, but in the process unintentionally ended up describing someone who actually does exist. It's similar to the case of Jackie at UVA, where some details have also been revealed as off, but that doesn't make the story any less important to tell. Nevertheless, in both instances, we stand with the survivor. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Advertisement