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Generation S.L.U.T.
4.28.2004 by Julian, every Tuesday.

Even though I’m roughly the same age as Marty Beckerman and grew up in roughly the same country as him (he, Alaska; me, Canada), I can’t pretend to understand his new book, Generation S.L.U.T.. I remember my days at St. James’s Preparatory and Boarding School as an idyllic time of chaste study and intimate masculine friendship. My only experience with the world of the erotic was the thrill of excitement and terror that ran through my loins as I stepped onto the cricket pitch with the sixth-formers for the first time. Perhaps I led a sheltered life within the confines of an Anglican boys’ school, but I knew nothing of the “pussy fisting” and “glorious teenage rectums” of which Beckerman speaks.

Generation S.L.U.T. is the story of seriously fucked-up (literally and figuratively) teenagers. Their lives are filled with meaningless sex and brutal, abusive relationships and they are routinely driven to despair, suicide and bouts of weeping on each other’s shoulders. The book bills itself as “the first exploration of the sex lives of modern teens, as reported from the frontlines,” and attempts to be a ruthless, unabashed examination of teen sex which avoids the condescension, naivety and timidity that such books are likely to suffer from. It’s a bold attempt, and Beckerman has some good intentions, but in attempting to avoid naivety, Beckerman falls into the equally dangerous trap of sensationalism.

The central story is not an accurate description of the sex lives of modern teenagers—it is a caricature. It reads like a melodramatic coming-of-age novel for “young adults”, except that the lives of Beckerman’s characters are full of mindless sex, orgies, rape, abortion, suicide, violence, torture and not much else. While all of these things are undeniably real problems, they are concentrated and exaggerated to such a degree that my response was the same as to reading tabloid headlines at the supermarket. The climax of the book, for instance, involves Trevor, the evil-rich-pompous-asshole character, videotaping a bunch of drunken jocks gang-raping the malnourished, unconscious body of a girl he has drugged and bound to his bed, while he beats her ex-boyfriend. Afterwards Trevor reveals the full extent of his evil to the nerdy, naïve Max:
”This special friend and I have an interesting arrangement.” Trevor smirked. “He supplies me with GHB [(a date-rap drug)] and in return I make photographs and videos of underage girls getting fucked and bloodied in every orifice. He sells these images to perverts worldwide on the Internet and we split the profits fifty-fifty. Of course, you’re not going to remember that in fifteen minutes, so there’s no harm in letting you in on the secret, is there?”
Shocking yes, but hardly an accurate representation of the problems of the average Sexually Liberated Urban Teenager. My resonse to the story is, “It’s a good job high school isn’t actually like that!” Surely not the one Beckerman wants to produce.

There are lots of pathetic, lonely, isolated teenagers out there, and the steady decrease in the age at which we are becoming sexually active certainly brings problems too, but Beckerman inflates these problems into shock-sensationalism, bolstering his description with out-of-context quotes and semi-relevant statistics. Furthermore, Beckerman offers very little insight or analysis into the problems he describes. At the end of the book he points a finger vaguely in the direction of feminism and the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s as a reason for the culture of mindless sex and lack of intimacy that’s destroying the youth of today. He claims that “meaningless, uncommitted intercourse was the Sexual Revolution’s only real objective or outcome,” which is, of course, utterly false. The Sexual Revolution fostered an open attitude toward sexuality which allowed issues such as contraception, sexual abuse, STDs, homosexuality and reproductive rights to be discussed openly on a broad scale for the first time. So much social good has come of this that I don’t even know where to begin. Even within my five years at high school I saw great progress in teenagers’ attitudes toward sexuality. Knowledge about contraception and STDs was universal, and a Gay and Lesbian Coalition was formed and membership grew exponentially each year I was there. Sexual liberation in itself isn’t the problem. Frank, open discussion of real sex can only benefit teenagers.

The book includes this insightful quote from Leora Tanenbaum:
I think girls are getting mixed, contradictory sexual messages. On the one hand, that they should be sexually active, sexually curious. At the same time they are told that they shouldn’t have sexual desire, that it is slutty….A large part of why girls feel like they can’t say no is tied to the fact that they can’t say yes. If you say yes, you’re a slut. If you say no, you’re a prude or a loser.
Beckerman splays this quote in a large font over two full pages, but doesn’t seem to take it to heart himself. He has labeled an entire generation “slutty” for its sexual curiosity and drowns out the positive impact of this curiosity with hyperbolic fiction about its negative side. In doing so he commits the same sin as the advertisers, fashion designers and music video directors who glamorize sexuality through exaggeration and distortion.

It should also be pointed out that Generation S.L.U.T is published by MTV, a chief purveyor of images of glamorized sexuality (remember, our generation has also been called the MTV Generation). Beckerman even advertises another MTV book through the mouth of one of his characters. Julia, the intelligent-kind-thoughtful-good character, says that Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is her favourite book. However, Beckerman seems to be aware of the hypocrisy of his situation. Julia says, “It’s actually published by MTV Books, and personally I think MTV is kind of everything that’s wrong with America to be honest, but the book’s still really, really good.”

Generation S.L.U.T. will no doubt sell well with such lurid subject matter and with MTV marketing it, and hopefully it will “open a dialogue within Generation Y about the problems we have,” as is Beckerman’s stated intention. There is much to criticize about our society’s attitude toward sex and how that attitude is affecting teenagers, but Generation S.L.U.T. provides neither accurate description of, nor insight into the lives of modern Sexually Liberated Urban Teens.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to point out that Marty Beckerman is a year younger than I’ll ever be and has already had two books published. Thus, much or all of the negativity of this review is the result of jealousy.

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