topless lena dunham screencap

Love her or hate her (seriously, is anybody at all on the fence?), you can’t deny that Lena Dunham knows a thing or two about taking her clothes off. At Carnegie Hall last night, Dunham sat down with Naked author David Sedaris to discuss both memoirists’ feelings about nudity. And life and death and relationships, but mostly nudity.

Dunham reportedly joked with the audience that she was nervous to do a reading “without the shield of nudity,” (how many times can I write that word?) and made several references to her oft-unclothed Girls character. She discussed–and read from–her upcoming book of essays, which centers around the question: “Who gets to be naked, and why?”

Makes sense. That’s the Lena Dunham-est question in the world.

If there’s anything the media never gets sick of discussing, it’s whether Dunham is the second coming of our lord and savior or a totally worthless hack, and the conversation almost always starts with an analysis of her naked form. Some people praise the 27-year-old for unabashedly displaying her size eight-or-ten body with all its pocks and dimples. Others say there’s nothing revolutionary about a pretty-enough, mega-rich white girl being sexual on HBO. I tend to favor the former point of view, since Dunham’s jiggly white belly pooch makes my own jiggly white belly pooch feel validated, but the counterargument is totally justified. Does Lena Dunham get to be naked? And why?

It would certainly make a bigger impact on the entertainment industry if Dunham’s nudity were coming from a woman of color, as WOC are simultaneously desexualized and hyersexualized in our culture, or if Dunham were legitimately overweight, or disabled, or any other underrepresented group. But, unfortunately, the battle still rages on even for the rich WASPy types.

Dunham opened up about the sexism and body-shaming she endures for playing the perpetually topless Hannah Horvath, confessing that a man higher up in the industry told her “you’re prettier than you let yourself be,” and that many older men see her confidence as an invitation to sexually harass her. There are whole blogs devoted to getting her to “put some clothes on,” and yet she receives the message daily that the most important part of her career is the fact that she shows her boobs. Despite her abounding privileges, it’s still up for debate whether Dunham is allowed to be naked.

Whether you think Dunham is “a voice of a generation” or an overrated, culturally insensitive brat (or a combination of the two), her choice to take her pants off is apparently quite political. Does she get to be naked? I don’t know. What do you think?

Via Metro / Photo: HBO