I wanted to have sex when I was 15, and you probably did too.
My own teenage years are pressed into the back of my mind, and 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.
Or so I thought.
I just finished watching “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård (watch him in drag for the opening) and Kristen Wiig set in a very ’70s San Francisco. The main character is Minnie, who is 15 and wondering if anyone loves her. She’s sure that she’s ugly so when an opportunity arises to have sex with her mother’s boyfriend she doesn’t say no, “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 Minnie take risks, do stupid things to dampen the pain that she was experiencing, hungering for sex, and 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—Minnie’s mother tells her that she should wear more makeup and use what she’s got while she’s young. But we all know what happens when we see THAT girl wearing too much makeup or the tiny skirt on a cold day: We think, or even say, slut.
We might not be sure if she’s even had sex, but we know that her physical appearance is sexual, therefore she must be looking for sex. It’s like we are angry at them for doing what they were told: look sexy. The cherry on top of this 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.