Teenage sexuality has never been so visible or lucrative. Delving into two books by adolescent writers, Sylvia Patterson asks whether what they’re doing is exploitative, natural - or any good.
eenagers are having sex and this time -— the tarts? ~
they re writing abotrt it. getting paid for it. in grown-tip
books and everything. in front of the (I'm/(lam world. This month. two books threaten the Harry Potter pile-up in every bookshop across Britain and the parents will not be purchasing tor perhaps they will. in the name of terr'orised ‘research‘ l. Banned in their native countries (Italy and (‘hina. by the Pope and the government respectively) they come buoy ed on a tide of controversy. ()ne IllHH/H’t/ Strokes oft/re Brnv/i Before Bt’t/ is a dairy form. sexual memoir by then lo-
year—old. middle—class Sicilian Melissa I’. The peeved I’ontiff
single—handedly guaranteed its official position as a 'worldwidc erotic best-seller". irtclttding 300.000 copies in Italy. Sirntrltarreously. we‘ve Beijing l)()//.' .‘I Novel. written by then l7-year-old ('lrun Stre (now 20) alter three years‘ struggle to lind a willing publisher. ()n initial pre-ban release (in May 2003) It sold l00.000 copies in weeks and Is now' printed in it do/en larrgtrages. This summer. a global. teen-perv. literary phenomenon has sneaked in the back door like a renegade Busted fan on Ritalin.
That Beijing l)u// has been banned at all tells tts plenty aborrt the (‘Irinese government and shockingly little abotrt the state of adolescence. Written as fictional prose (and based on actual diaries) it‘s all the teenage disilltrsion you‘ve known. with added and promising poetic. literary pretension. (‘hun Strc is a teenage punk on soyamilk. a romantic. melancholic. green-haired. lledgling rock journalist w ho loathes her comically strict school life (with its 'Rules of Student Governance‘) and searches for 'freedom freedom freedom‘ through rock’n‘roll. Kafka. awkward boys and sex. Iiveryday stuff to \\'esterner's. it's challenging idealism in China. the post-Maoist counterculture producing authors now labelled 'Iinglci‘. a term once akin to ‘hooligan‘ and now the word in rebellions cool. ‘My' tnood those days was like dry logs that caught tire and burst into llames for hardly any reason.~ she writes. While an empathic read for any leftlield teen. explicit erotica is laughany absent. Beijing Dull contains not a single line of even semi- pornographic prose. Not one. Other than. perhaps. ‘I should‘ve gone with I.uo Xi. jumped into bed and fucked his brains out.’ Mostly. she makes ‘quiet love‘ to her' boyfriends. in relationships lasting six months. And that. evidently. is enough to appall the kind of atrthority which surely despises humanity itself.
One Hundred Strokes oft/re Brits/r Be/in'e Bed is your actual teen-perv conundrum. Melissa I) —— in her brisk. detached. emotionless diary —— doesn‘t so much have a sexual ‘awakening' as a soul detonation involving the worst men have to offer. This is brutal. confusing stuff: daily. degrading. loveless sex with a continual stream of hand-picked blackhearts. all gratilication in the slithering hands of the men. .-\nd they 're men all right. I‘rom the age of IS through lb. for bewilderineg vague reasons 7— she wants both ‘love‘ and to be treated like ‘a slut‘ - Melissa seeks sex with everyone. including her 27-year-old maths tutor. who calls her ‘I.o'. for Lolita. Through the net. she gives a 35-year-old married man her mobile number and within half an hour they're in a garage having sex. We‘re asked to believe a girl turned just 16 will allow herself to be blindfolded. naked. in a brutish lover‘s roorn and fellate four of his stranger friends. and then allow the live to fuck her. "I returned home full of sperm. my make- up smeared.~ she writes. 'I saw a mouth that had been violated so many times. Then I brushed my hair a hundred times. as . .' She is. however. no-one‘s victim. wishing only to morph from a ‘diligent student‘ into the empowered 'woman who drives men era/.y‘. A standard female fantasy. it makes for standard. flimsy erotica. no different to any
princesses do .
‘WITH A VOID WHERE MOTIVE SHOULD BE, AT BEST IT'S SPURIOUS FICTION, AT WORST A GIFT TO THE GRIMMEST
voyeuristic thrill in any top shelf. high street wank mag. all permanently erect penises 'which. at the touch. vibrated slightly in the air like the ﬂag of a commander victorious in battle. I was cra/ed with lust. I wanted to straddle that perennially erect shaft'. With a void where motive should be. at best it's spurious fiction. at worst a gift to the grimmest male fantasies —— text-book paedophile porn.
Visiting the [K recently. Melissa I’ tl’anarellol. now' l8. spoke through an interpreter. proving herself an assured. if curiously” dispassionate young adult who wrote this book 'because I had a lot of material‘. A fan of .-\na'r‘s Nin. she was both bleak and realistic.
'I think human beings are fundamentally self-destructivef she stated. 'I describe my experience as like that of alcoholics and drug addicts: they know what they are doing is not good for them and they don't particularly enjoy it. but it becomes an addiction: you are addicted to your pain and start feeling pleasure in your pain. and depending on it. I don't view' pain in a negative way -- I think it can have a purifying effect.‘
Much like today's epidemic of depressed. teenage self- har'mers. Most importantly of all. this book — to teens -r apparently rings true. Since publication Melissa‘s received constant emails — from girls and boys — ‘who thank me for having the guts to say what really goes on in people's lives‘.
Never before in human history has teenage sexuality been more visible. more marketed. more lucrative. ()trr pop stars dress like prostitutes. The sound of youth — mostly American R628 — values money and sex above all. We have a high street label named fcuk. Glittering. slogan-porn T- shirts — ‘(‘um Sltrt Teen ()n (‘rack‘ etc — are as ubiquitous as bare-arsed thongs. You must be sexual to be cool. And if that means boob jobs for your Ibth birthday. so be it. Group sex. now. is common. So. terrifyingly. is gang rape. Drugs. of course. have never been more available. And there‘s nothing. in either of these two books. which you cannot see. in Technicolor. virtual reality. on the uncensorable internet. every moment of every day.
I kept a diary once. in the pre-MTV 80s. in the weeks before my ISth birthday. There was no other theme but boys. January l8th: ‘Got hair cut short. It's quite nice but I found out later Neil Miller liked it better the other way. I was seek.’ Feb 91h: ‘Am now going with Neil! Got carry—out and went to Neil‘s house. Watched darts final. He tried it on tonight so he‘s not as innocent as I thought. He didn’t get very far though.‘ I‘eb 17th: ‘Neil won't go out with me any more because he fancies Marnie. I am totally seek! (I'll kill her.)' April l8th: ‘Have fallen madly in love with Neil Johnson. Would give anything to get off with him. Have no interest in any other boy at the moment.‘ Innocent days. ma. Which are not — to anyone now over I l — ever coming back.
Growing tip through the 80s my teen-perv literature comprised late-70s benchmarks ‘Christiane I‘" and ‘Go Ask Alice‘. brilliantly emotive heroin/prostitanon/degradation classics to this day. In comparison. these latest tomes are insubstantial. financially exploitative whimsies. adding depressingly little to the sum of emotional knowledge. Girls like Melissa are the lucky ones: educated. articulate. ambitious. For the individually vulnerable — those not-so- assured girls driven by excitement. curiosity. copy-cat cool or ‘what-evah!‘ to have brutal sex with men who couldn’t care less — damage. you can be sure. is being done. Meanwhile. we can only have faith: we‘ve survived everything. and therefore so will they. Whether or not it makes adults. in the timeless traditional way. as totally seek as the Pope.
One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed (Serpent’s Tail) is published on 26 Aug, priced £10. Beijing Doll (Abacus) is published on 19 Aug, priced £6.99.
Melissa P (opposite) and Chun Sue (below) write radically different diaries of teenage life
19-26 Aug 2004 THE LIST 7