Are Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’ sex scenes too realistic to appeal to viewers?

Jan 16, 2013


Actress Zosia Mamet, actress/writer Lena Dunham, and actress Allison Williams pose with Best Series Award in the press room during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 13, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Lena Dunham’s breakout HBO series Girls has attracted a lot of critical attention since its premiere in 2012. Dunham has been praised for her representation of young twenty-somethings in New York, but has also come under fire for her under-representation of people of color. The most disputed criticism as of late, however, is related to Girls’ plentiful sex scenes. Critics tell Dunham to put some clothes on, but fans of the show’s famously-awkward sexual scenarios have spoken up in defense of Dunham, her body, and the creative choice to focus on sex for the sake of sex, rather than what some have called “the gaze.”

Much of sexuality on TV and in film is focused on making things look good – viewers are used to seeing perfect bodies engaging in sex geared towards an audience eye. Dunham’s approach to sex on Girls is decidedly not about looking good – some of the scenes are notoriously hard to watch, and the result is, in the eyes of viewers and reviewers alike, more realistic. Dunham’s response to the critics who would rather not look at her naked on or off-screen is unsurprisingly reflective of the show’s mentality: “Get used to it because I am going to live to be 100, and I am going to show my thighs every day till I die.”

What do you think of the intimate scenes and nudity on Girls? Is it realistic, or just awkward? What types of on-screen sex scenes work the best?


Shira Tarrant, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, California State University, Long Beach

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