Girls on Boys: The Body Politic of Goddess Feminism

Check out the first nine installments of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s ongoing series dissecting HBO’s Girls:

June 6: A Biblical Feminist Confronts The Girls Goddesses, Part 1

June 16: Sex Mitzvah’d: Virginity Isn’t Easy for Girls

June 23: Money: Is That What Girls Goddesses Really Want?

June 30: Millennial Girls Are Easy: Sex, Power & Porn

July 7: Sex for Girls’ Sake: Porn, Art, or Both?

July 14: Single Issue Goddess: The War on Women’s Intellect

July 21: Her Body, Herself: The Right Size & Shape of Girls

July 28: Girls: Best Friends Forever-ish

August 4: Girl on Girl Action: Girls and the Female Gaze


Dustin Rowles writing at Salon recently accused Lena Dunham of “reducing men to walking hard-ons.” His observation is as hysterical as it is true. It is also unsurprising given the huge goddess feminist influence on the show. After all, if women are nothing more than physical objects valued for their sexuality and fertility, men must necessarily be just as flat and lifeless, except for their phallus, of course.

But Dunham’s commentary on men isn’t as simple as all that. Her straight male characters, Adam, Ray and Charlie play off of one another providing a running commentary on the state of the Millennial male psyche. Rewarded with the lead male role, Adam is the goddess feminist’s male archetype embodying all of the alpha-male characteristics goddess feminists have been taught to both lust after and loathe. In the background are Charlie and Ray, symbolizing love and intellect. Having reduced both themselves and their men to nothing more than sexual objects, goddess feminists have no time for emotion, let alone intellect. Therefore, Charlie’s undying love is spurned in favor of Booth Jonathan’s sexual prowess, and Ray the unfulfilled scholar tearfully contemplates his lack of purpose and motivation with an unwanted dog at his side.

Critical of the show’s male characters, Colin Horgan commented: “Put more bluntly, faced with the women, they just don’t know what to do with them. So, they debase and dismiss, categorizing as if browsing videos in a porno shop.” For Horgan, the male/female relationships on Girls are so disturbingly confusing because they’re solely sexual; after all, this isn’t the cast of Friends who happen to date each other once in a while. Yet, instead of encouraging more non-sexually based relationships among the characters, Horgan caves to goddess feminist critique: women aren’t empathetic to men because their need to be controlled is what makes them desirable. That does nothing to address the issue and everything to justify it. It’s as if to say, “Well, we’re all just sexual beasts and that’s the way life is.”


If the male characters on Girls seem like nothing more than sexual animals, Dunham is not solely to blame. The critics whose focus remains completely geared towards the sex of the show, who refuse to see these characters in relationships outside of the bedroom, are also responsible for predicating the goddess feminist myth that we are nothing more than physical creatures designed for sexual pleasure.

King David is the ultimate masculine role model in the Bible. A warrior king, he reeks of machismo. He spends his young life hiding out in the desert with a rag-tag band of criminals that he’s assembled into a vigilante army. He is both intellectually driven and emotionally motivated: As faithful as David remains to God and His promised Kingship, David cannot take Saul’s life in order to gain the throne. When he finally does become King of Israel, David dances in praise to God during his coronation parade and manages to flash the onlookers more than once. (Underwear wasn’t hip in those days.) Did I mention David was a rather runty guy with red hair and not much to look at? When his wife gives him a rather good tongue-lashing for being nude in public it is God who punishes her – for interpreting David’s innocent praise as guilty perversion. The act wasn’t about sex, it was about God; just as the story of David wasn’t about a physically gorgeous man, but an emotionally and intellectually sensitive human being.

By inserting Ray and Charlie into the equation, Lena Dunham gives evocative food for thought when it comes to modern masculinity. If valuing men as nothing more than sexual objects has forced us to devalue their humanity in terms of emotion and intellect, what characteristics have women devalued in themselves? Why are our modern role models, whether they are Kim Kardashian or Hannah Horvath, valued for their physicality in spite of their awful character and horrendous choices? Goddess feminism has re-framed the discussion on sex in terms of a woman taking control over her own body. But if her own body remains the sole reason for admiration (or idolization) has she truly achieved the equality she’s been promised? If not, how can she possibly treat her male counterparts as equals in their own right?