Hey, are you familiar with this new show on HBO? It's called Girls, and it's got some issues — and while we want to continue that conversation, we also want to talk about the show itself, the stories it tells. But the world needs another recap of Girls about as much as Girls needs more white people in it, which really, it doesn't. So we're going to try something different.
Rather than enlist some dude to pretend he's an authority on What All Dudes Think, or put a professional writer/critic on the case, we've asked writer Foster Kamer to search far and wide for men in show's target demographic, who watch Girls, who do not hate it, and who have thoughts about it. This week's interviewee is a man who we'll call Hank. He's 27, in Brooklyn (of course), and is a line cook.
A brief recap for reference purposes: The episode opens on Hannah having sex with Adam, The 30 Year-Old Actor-slash-Woodworker who doesn't text her back, and Marnie having sex with her boyfriend, Charlie. Adam and Hannah's sex looks like a dish assaulting a sponge, as Adam attempts dirty-talk with Hannah, who isn't so in tune with the experience. Charlie wants to look at Marnie when they're having sex, and she asks him to smoosh from behind. One is overly careless, the other, overly caring. Somewhere, Andrea Dworkin rolls in her grave.
Testing, this thing on? Your initial impression of Girls, go!
David Mamet's daughter. I kinda want to have sex with her.
Not her character, though.
How much does her being Mamet's daughter have to do with this?
Oh, nothing. I really like her eyebrows. But American Buffalo is awesome.
In the first episode, this Adam fellow tries to straight stick it in Lena Dunham's ass while having fairly casual sex. Now he's saying he wants to return her to her parents, covered in cum, which is before he takes off his condom, busts on her, and then offers her a Gatorade. My impression was that at least two of these things require a very, very, implicit understanding, kind of like the standard of proof in a court of law: Beyond the shadow of a doubt, no?
Which two [things]? Kidding. Nobody straight up goes for the ass! Come on. But as for the dirty talk, yeah, I've attempted and failed many times. This actually happens. There has to be one person who initiates it, though, right? But I've never taken it that far. I've tried it, hasn't worked, so I backed off.
The dynamic here's a domineering one. You've dated younger women. Do you identify at all with the dynamic Adam and Hannah have? On a scale of one to ten, how big of an asshole is Adam?
It depends how self-aware he ultimately turns out to be. Have I been that kind of asshole before? Sure. Have I unintentionally been that kind of asshole before? Yes. He's ostensibly not a mean person — he does, after all, offer her a Gatorade [Ed: eye roll.] — but they have two different views of their relationship. Mercy-curved, I'd give him a 6.5. And obviously, yes, I definitely relate to it. The domineering older-guy/younger-woman dynamic? Not so much. I'm not that vocal. I'm too passive. I could never Scott Disick somebody, but I could probably Kris Humphries them.
Speaking of passivity, Charlie can't see that his girlfriend wants it rough. The theme here is that all the men in their lives are — as far as sex is concerned — fucking obtuse, literally. Has this problem ever come up? And has not being "masculine" enough in the sack ever been an insecurity of yours?
No, but I've slipped into that role of ‘sensitive boyfriend' before. And it's been a learning experience. It's killed relationships. You?
A long time ago, after a relationship that was way, way too cozy. It fucked me up about it for a minute because she got with a taller guy, after. But agree or disagree: Men our age were raised to extol the virtues of sensitivity and compassion more than the generation before, but pop culture may have caused us to over-correct a little, resulting in guys like Charlie.
Agree, and now, you're seeing a trend moving in the opposite direction.
Especially in Brooklyn. Like guys who are into "woodworking." And beards.
Yes. The American Guy archetype was Dirty Fucking Harry, and then it was Seth Cohen this and Bright Eyes that, and now it's a mix of the two. Kind of like both stereotypes in the show.
So both of these guys are fairly astute caricatures?
Thin caricatures. But is there truth to them? Yeah. Absolutely.
What's the dirtiest thing you've unsuccessfully said to a lady during sex?
Besides "Can I offer you a Gatorade?" I don't know. [Thinks] Oh. Oh. [Laughs] One time I said something in the tune of R. Kelly. Not, like, about pissing on her. But actually in song, like, whatever key R. Kelly sings in. Another time, I said something about a baby seal. It was a hot day, and it was something about laying on her stomach and sliding around. The majority of my metaphors have to do with animals. Not a bestiality thing. Just a go-to. Note that the wrong animal will turn the tables really fast. Girls do not always appreciate being compared to animals, no matter how cute.
I'm reminded of "The Zoo." In the next scene, Allison Williams explains that her boyfriend is too busy respecting her such that he's ignoring her. How's this rate?
What's funny is that, sure, dude's kind of a wet blanket, but he's more vocal about the discord in their relationship than she is, at least to him. Maybe, to some extent, it's our responsibility to pick up on these things. But nobody's a mind reader. We know explicitly know what her problems are, but only because she tells her friends.
Soon, we find Lena Dunham Googling STDs. You ever done that?
Seriously. I've never done it.
You ever have an STD?
Nope. And I have been tested.
When was the last time you had unprotected sex with a girl who you did not know had been recently tested? Wednesday. Like Adam, you seem fairly nonchalant about this. Why are you nonchalant about this?
Well, she's not having sex with anybody else, and neither am I.
[Asks question about technical nature and title of relationship.]
No! I'm not answering that shit. Go somewhere else with your hard-hitting journalism.
Well, do you answer her texts?
I'm a pretty prompt texter. Though I do work a job where I don't have a phone for twelve hours a day, so, there is that.
Fine. In the next scene, Vince, Turtle, and Drama are eating Tasti D-Lite, and we learn a little more about Jessa, who questions the conventional knowledge of relationship books and sexual mores; in regard to having sex from behind, she asks, "What if I feel like I want to feel like I have udders?" What if, indeed? How do we feel about Jessa?
Slightly too free-spirited for my own comfort zone — I think there's some free-spiritedness-for-the-sake-of-shock-value, and that's a turnoff. Absolutely a turnoff. It seems contrived.
Have you ever been turned off by someone as outwardly cavalier about sex as Jessa?
Yeah, definitely. What's that saying about nobody buying the cow if you give the milk away for free? But the udders joke is funny.
You're really going with this animals thing.
Just who I am.
Jessa ends up going to a bar before her abortion appointment, and hooking up with a guy in the bathroom. He puts his hand in her pants, and asks, "Like this?" to which she responds, "Don't ever ask me that again." Sound familiar?
And asking can sometimes be a turnoff.
It's not that you can't ask for things, it's just that you can't ask for all the things. Some implicit knowledge should be expected. That's not to say you can't find out by asking, but you have to have some moves. Nobody wants to be with someone with no moves. By the time you're our age, sex is one of those "if you ask how you're supposed to be doing it, you're doing it wrong" kind of situations, but sometimes, you can't help but ask. That doesn't mean you can't express to someone the things you like — or don't like — it's just not something that you want to hyperscrutinize.
What do you think was meant by her answer, though, beyond a literal interpretation?
I'm not sure. What do you think she meant by it?
Hannah's guy doesn't want to give her anything, and gives her nothing she wants. Marnie's guy wants to give her what he thinks she wants, and gives her nothing she wants. This guy wants to know what she wants, and she basically tells him to shut the fuck up and finger her. I could be mistaken, but I think the import of this lesson to just shut the fuck up and finger her, no?
That's a good question. I think what it's trying to say is that all the women are looking for a balance, and they're finding out that this doesn't exist. Which is fine, but that doesn't mean that all guys fall into such diametrically opposed categories. But maybe we should just shut the fuck up, and put our hands down pants.
And as it turns out, she's on her period! [Ed: Or miscarried?] No abortion for Jessa. Dude is freaked out but Jessa basically jumps him. Does ladyblood freak you out?
No. It's all good.
Right? Final tally, what do you make of Girls?
For what it is, it's a pretty enjoyable, funny, smart, and slightly charming comedy about twenty-something women, and twenty-somethings. I can understand the appeal of the show, and I get the show. At the times when I actively didn't want to enjoy the show, I found myself enjoying the show.
And what do you think about their relationships with men on the whole?
So far, the ones we've met fit into diametrically opposed stereotypes. There's some truth to them, but for right now, I think they only serve to move along the plotlines of the female characters.
Do you ever feel that way about your life?
That you're just a thinly-sketched character meant to move along the narrative arcs of the women you're romantically involved with?
Not really? Well, actually, yes. Sometimes.
Foster Kamer is a senior editor at the New York Observer. Are you a Boy who watches "Girls"? Get in touch.