Reviews

Generation S.L.U.T.*: A Brutal Feel-Up Session with Today's Sex-Crazed Adolescent Populace by Marty

Garrett Chaffin-Quiray

It's as if the worst aspects of advanced capitalism have come true. Orgasm equals validation, promiscuity determines popularity, fashion determines social hierarchy, and savvy manipulation of others is the highest pursuit of all.


Generation S.L.U.T.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 208
Subtitle: A Brutal Feel-up Session With Today's Sex-crazed Adolescent Populace
Price: $11.95
Author: Marty Beckerman
US publication date: 2004-02
Amazon

Max is a nerdy high school freshman. He's also a virgin who wants to get laid. His friend, Brett, wants to help him become a man. Enter Ashley. She's the girl Max has sex with before meeting Julia, his new neighbor. Then there's Trevor, Brett's millionaire rival. In the balance: Quinn, Brett's ex and chattel in Trevor's game to assault everyone. So it goes in Generation S.L.U.T. (Sexually Liberated Urban Teens) by Marty Beckerman.

Reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero and C.D. Payne's Youth in Revolt, and detested by family-values pimping culture cops like the hosts of stopmartybeckerman.com, Beckerman's second book is an attention-grabbing spectacle of libido run amuck. It's also an important benchmark in his ascension of the publishing world, previously marked by spot reporting, blogging, and advertisements for the author himself. Typically sewing these disparate parts together, aside from an aggressively opinionated voice, is the need to screw, but then Beckerman himself is a college student only just entering majority age.

Youth, then, is the book's subject, as is our national fascination with adolescent sexuality (think Abercrombie and Fitch). More to the point, young people are described as being far more interested in gratifying their erotic desires, in an attempt to anesthetize themselves from alienated lives, than is commonly realized. To this end, young people exhibit rampant nihilism and boundless inter-generational contempt, making Beckerman's book a rather typical coming-(or is it cumming?)-of-age story, this time drawn in the nether world between fiction and nonfiction, memoir and investigative report.

Organized around a kaleidoscopic mix of essays, cartoons, and trivia to amplify, and contradict, the novella describing Max's adventures, the book includes recurring topics such as suicide, overbearing parents, and the teen caste system. By far the most re-iterated point, though, is that adolescents fuck and fuck a lot. Whether, and to what extent, this is truer now than ever before, is seemingly proved through the statistics Beckerman excerpts from reputable sources. The point he makes, while not a shocker, is that growing up is hard to do since there may be no tomorrow in an age of global terrorism, nuclear threat, and general anomie.

Balancing this very real but clichéd theme with a fast-moving story as entry point for his unique, genre-bending generational expose, Beckerman can't help frequently shifting between masturbatory navel-gazing and pop sociology. Concerned with teen sexuality and violence, he also asks what makes today's adolescents different from their parents and grandparents. That his answer largely credits material wealth and ruthless hedonism is a statement on life in 2004 while also being a leading indicator of the landscape inherited by Generation Y.

From Beckerman's view, his demographic was conceived in the glow of Baby Boomer striving through a post-feminist, post-Vietnam world. Where Generation X earlier struggled with meaninglessness in the '90s, grudgingly settling into adulthood conventionality after experimenting with the slacker lifestyle, Generation Y seems to have fully accepted meaninglessness as the basis of life in the 21st century.

It's as if the worst aspects of advanced capitalism have come true. Orgasm equals validation, promiscuity determines popularity, fashion determines social hierarchy, and savvy manipulation of others is the highest pursuit of all. Max's worldview is thus peppered with an ethics run aground on self-interest but still he's our hero, and a troubled gem, if only because he knows he's damaged goods trying to become whole.

As the shadow of Marty Beckerman, it's hard to know if Max is, in fact, the author's true doppelganger. Reeling from stats about teenage experimentation with alcohol and anal sex, we're anchored by this one nerdy freshman, largely because he's both confused and amazed by the events of his life. So are we and herein is the lasting impression of Generation S.L.U.T.: Beckerman convincingly fuses our sympathy for Max as he thrusts him into conditions describable only as fascinating in the purest sense of simultaneous repulsion and attraction.

Throughout this exploration, Beckerman's story-telling style is profane, cruel, and hyperbolic. One example: It's not enough that Trevor is a son-of-a-bitch millionaire, having catapulted into his fame and celebrity on the basis of writing a teenager's investment guide; he also arranges the gang rape of Quinn as part of Brett's comeuppance for an old grudge. Such gruesome satire isn't likely acceptable from an older writer. From a twenty-something striver, though, such lambasting of good taste with vivid exaggeration is rewarded with both tolerance and, dare I say, glee, even with so obviously noxious a subject.

By settling on a boorish approach, Beckerman manages to give his book an infectious verve otherwise lacking in similar stories and exposes. But it's this same quality that also compromises his authority to speak on behalf of his generation with anything more than the stilted experience of a smart young writer with enough edge to identify his market niche.

Is the book an example of strong self-promotion and good public relations? Oh yes. Is it the last word on Generation Y sexual precocity? Oh no, nor is it intended to be. But in the end, Beckerman ends up strangely other even if his extraordinarily vivid story is reflective of mainstream teenage life today.

That critics and watchdog groups are arming in opposition to Generation S.L.U.T. further substantiates its firebrand capacity. In the twain between illumination and confusion, entertainment and obscenity, older readers will long mull this book no doubt wondering, "was I so lusty and experimental?"

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