‘Generation S.L.U.T.’ author tells all

    As the years go by, society evolves and changes, and so do our attitudes toward sex. With “Generation S.L.U.T.” author Marty Beckerman looks at the the increasingly rapid promiscuity of today’s youth in an MTV-published book that is both funny and disturbing. The book has three distinct parts: There’s the story telling the week in the life of a group of fictional characters, Beckerman’s own biographical stories, and statistics and quotes about teens and sex that complement the stories of the books.

    GUARDIAN: So, let’s begin with the most obvious question: What was your inspiration for the book?

    Marty Beckerman: I graduated high school and went to college, and came back home five months later for winter break. I saw that a lot of familiar faces had really deteriorated as human beings, and it was pretty emotionally distressing. When I went back to college, I talked to a lot of my friends about this, and they had their own horror stories of ex-girlfriends with cuts, [who] slashed their wrists, all kinds of weird stuff. I also heard about these 13-, 14-year-olds talking about all this stuff, so I got really interested in hearing about society now. I heard more and more about 12-, 13-year-olds committing suicide, cutting themselves, all sorts of stuff, so [the book] was sort of like trying to put together the anonymous sex scene that has trickled down to elementary school. I started asking what this is doing to prepubescent children and what this would do to their psyches, and that’s where the book came from.

    G: Mixed into the story are statistics and comics — what was the purpose of this?

    MB: The point of including the statistics was that a lot of people would read this and say, “Come on, please, this doesn’t happen and if it does, it’s random incidents being blown out of proportion.” What disturbs people the most is the gang-rape scene at the end of the book, but right after that, I quote Associated Press stories about 12-, 13-year-olds in white, affluent communities doing all these horrible things. Even reading through that stuff disturbs me — it’s like, what’s happening to our “precious youth”? Basically, I included it all to back up what I was saying in the fiction.

    G: What about the comics?

    MB: That was actually MTV’s idea. I think they add something cool to the book. It’s for a generation that doesn’t read too much, that isn’t very literate except for those goddamn LiveJournals. I think it breaks up the text pretty well, especially for people who browse through the book at the bookstore.

    G: How did you feel about the book being published by MTV?

    MB: Well, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” one of my favorite books, was published by MTV, and that’s how I justified signing with MTV. Their books and TV division are totally different, and I did have some reservations initially. I lost a couple nights sleep over it, wondering if I had sold my soul to MTV. It’s the same issues that some punk rockers have with major labels, the feeling of “betraying the scene.” HBO actually just got the movie rights this week. I don’t know when that will get made, but HBO is perfect, because they won’t back down and put somebody like Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff in it.

    G: Why did you include your own autobiographical diary stories?

    MB: I used diary mode so the book didn’t come off as a preacher on a pulpit, like, “I am pure and you are all swine.” When I was a teen, these were the kinds of things I struggled with when I was lucky enough to get laid. It showed that I’m a creature of lust and I’m not here to be condescending toward everyone. It’s more that I’m kind of nervous about where we’re headed. I’d never written serious fiction before I tried the novella part; all I’ve done is nonfiction and journalism. The combination of fiction and nonfiction backs up everything in the novella. And also to say that I’m a horny little teenager.

    G: Did you feel that by putting all of the events in the book in the space of one week, you ran into the risk of a “Sweet Valley High” soap opera-style book?

    MB: The book is partly autobiographical, but I can’t say how much because the lawyers would get nervous. Basically, I compiled three years of my life. The characters are all composites, and I ended up cramming three years into one week. It was really the only way, I tried writing it over the space of three years, but doing it day-by-day was the only way to make it believable.

    G: How do you think this book could relate to the college crowd?

    MB: I would think that college kids have learned media criticism and critical skills to help them challenge notions of how the world works. People go into this book with assumptions, and if you assume teen sex is the same as before, you’re going to look at the numbers and have an excuse. Or if people are going to say, “I don’t see my teens doing this and that,” you go into the book and read it and say, “I don’t believe this.” I think the challenge here is to go into the book with an open mind. Even those who like it don’t like that I don’t make a thesis statement in the end, but it’s definitely there, between the lines. I was trying to challenge the reader to make his or her own conclusion — it’s almost a trial in a way. These things happen all over the country and people should go into this and just let their assumptions and their guard down for a little while to see if it changes their minds about anything.

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