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diary of a teenagegirl

I wanted to have sex when I was fifteen; I’m pretty sure you did too.

My own teenager years are pressed into the back of my mind, when looked at from a certain angle in a particularly rosy light they are nostalgic rather than shameful and full of bad decisions. I sometimes pull out an anecdote or two but they remain firmly rooted in a time that happened long ago and isn’t really worth remembering.

mimiMimi

 

I just finished watching “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård (check out him in drag for the opening, AMAZING)  and Kristen Wiig set in a very 70’s San Francisco. The main character is Mimi who is fifteen and wondering if anyone loves her. She’s pretty sure that she’s ugly so when an opportunity arises to have sex with her Mother’s boyfriend she jumps at it, “it might be my only chance” she remarks in the film.  The film follows her as her sexuality explodes and she illustrates (she is a burgeoning cartoonist) her finest and worst moments in her sketchbook. As I watched Mimi take risks, do stupid things to dampen the pain that she was experiencing, hungering for sex, wanting love I saw something I rarely see in cinema – a truthful portrayal of what sexuality can be like for (some) teenage girls.

 

We tell teenage girls they should be sexually appealing; her Mother tells her in the movie that she should wear more make-up and use what she’s got while she’s young. But we all know what happens when we see THAT girl with too much make-up on wearing the tiny skirt on a cold day. We think in our minds (and some even say it outload) “SLUT”.

 

The best insult to cut a teenage girl down is to tell her she’s a slut. We might not be sure if she’s even had sex, but we know that her clothing is sexual therefore she herself must be looking for sex. It’s like we are angry at them for doing what they were told; looking sexy. The cherry on top of this slaggy, slutty cake is the idea that they might be enjoying the sex they went and out and got all by themselves. You can’t look like you want sex AND actively go and look for it, no. That makes you the worst kind of slut.

 

Mimi enjoys sex, so much in fact that her teenage class mate is intimidated by her sexual “intensity” as he puts it. Don’t be too into it, don’t know more than me – I’m the guy, the one who is supposed to be control of this whole thing. Just want it but not much ok? Don’t be sexual, just sexy.

education-viard

I never once during the movie judged her for being sexual, in fact it made me think back to my own experiences with a less judgmental eye, softening my shame into something like acceptance. My teenage years were a time of yearning for experience, I wanted to have sex. Most of friends wanted to as well and most of us ended up having sex. But the vibes we got from the adults around us were that either “SEX WILL GIVE YOU THE DISEASES” (check out this video which is what I was shown at my High School for sex ed, thanks Catholic school) or it was seen as something that was going to happen eventually so best leave it to just occur naturally without interfering. So you’re left to contend with the two sides simultaneously saying you’ve gotta be sexy but don’t have sex too much, or don’t have it all, or maybe just half-have it so you can tell everyone you’re DEFINITELY not a slut.

 

That shit is HARD to make sense of.

 

Teenage girls shame each other, too. We shame the one who has had too much sex, the one who hasn’t; we shame each other for trying too hard or not trying at all. We are all aiming for the perfect level of sexy without actually being sexual. If we are passive, if we say no sometimes then it’s ok. If we want it and we want it bad like Mimi does then that’s really NOT ok.

 

Teenage girls will probably have sex; they will also probably take risks.

 

We have to cut the bullshit and pretend that it isn’t happening. It’s just like teenage binge drinking, we are appalled at how drunk and violent they all are when we (the adults) can drink just as much and be just as out of control. Adults have sex; teenagers will probably have sex too. Instead of ignoring it or judging harshly, we should try to remove some of the shame around being sexual – especially for teenage girls. Like whenever I watch a show about teenage pregnancy and both parents were so surprised when their daughter got pregnant; looking the other way never helps.

 

Maybe you could say something like this instead:

 

SEX IS OK YOU CAN HAVE IT PLEASE GO AND DO IT SAFELY WITH SOMEONE WHO YOU LIKE BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE THEM IT’S OK JUST ENJOY YOURSELF AND IT’S COOL IF YOU LIKE SHOWING YOUR BOOBIES IT’S YOUR BODY YOUR GREAT AND AWESOME.

 

Why don’t we tell this to our kids? Why isn’t this the basis of sex-education?

 

But, sadly shame stops us from talking about it; it stops teenagers from asking adults, it makes us angry about something that is supposed to be enjoyable.

 

So, just like Mimi I wanted to have sex when I was fifteen, and maybe you did too.

 

There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

 

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