"Diary of a Teenage Girl" (2002) is even less of a recent book than <"Pedal">. It is the story of 15-year-old Minnie, living in San Francisco in 1976. She lives with an alcoholic and druggie mother and a younger sister. Her mother has a variety of men in her life, but one man "Monroe" has been in a closer relationship and hung around their apartment a fair amount. The girls' mother is fine with Monroe doing things with her girls, kind of like a stepfather.
At one point Minnie is out with Monroe at some nightclub-like place and they're both drunk. His attraction to her becomes obvious, and after some mild sexual stuff, the book says: "I told him I wanted him to fuck me and he said are you crazyohgodlookyou'regivingmeahardon. I said I really mean it I really really want you to fuck me. I was laughing and it seemed ridiculous. I didn't even know if I was serious but it was a funny game and I was totally drunk". ("Fuck" is the term Minnie uses constantly -- it's hard to imagine using a different one in telling her story.)
Monroe does fuck her before long. And although she's sore for a week, Minnie's appetite for sex comes alive. She wants sex and a lot of it. Monroe fucks her pretty regularly, but something's not quite right -- it surely is a complication that he is also still fucking her mother. Minnie also starts fucking Ricky, a rich and attractive kid in her school, but is dissatisfied as she realizes he fucks anyone he can and she has no special place in his life.
What becomes clear to the reader pretty quickly (more slowly to Minnie) is that the key missing element is love. This is San Francisco in 1976, perhaps the peak of sexual openness in the US. She's certainly no prude: "Oh God, you know, you can really feel it when they come inside of you... And that hot breath... dreamy. And when they're just as hard as rocks and they're stabbing you and you could just scream you can hardly breathe it is so [great]".
Minnie's life goes into crisis as she gets kicked out of yet another school, then she gets into harder drugs. The causes of this are probably many -- she is certainly lacking the sort of stable emotional foundation that a decent mother could provide. But sex is at the center of it.
Very near the end (p276) we have, "I've never known what it's like to have someone really love me, which is what I've always wanted, I think, someone to love me no matter what and let me know it, someone I could love.... I wish I knew how to accept love and give love freely." She loves Kimmie, but "I want to get close to someone physically,l too -- and I don't think that Kimmie and I would ever make love."
One alternative path to Minnie's life would have been this: Monroe decided NOT to fuck her and she'd held off fucking anyone else for a few more years. Maybe done her first fucking -- lovemaking, now, perhaps -- with someone where there was a goal of monogamy and some emotional connection.
As she finds fucking at age 15, she has intense physical desire and pleasure (though, mysteriously, she never describes having an orgasm in the entire book, even shying away from the question when asked). But the cost is a hunger for love to match the sex. The sex is not ultimately a good thing for her at this particular point in her life. And it's not because anyone is teaching her that good girls don't do that. She gets the occasional advice that too much fucking will make her callous -- make it harder for her to love people. But it's offered pragmatically, not in terms of morality, and it's not at all at the center of her thinking. She wants and needs love, like any of us, but the sex hugely magnifies that lack.
I sometimes argue with pro-contact pedophiles online -- those who think that only misguided laws and attitudes are what makes adult-child sex wrong. (Though this isn't really about pedophilia or even hebephilia -- Minnie is mostly done with puberty.) We agree that young teen girls often have a strong sex drive. We agree that girls ought to be free to enjoy the pleasure of sex without shame. But they think sex feels good, and if a girl feels like it, she should go ahead and enjoy it, no matter her age (if only the laws could be changed). I think there are good reasons to wait, and more often than not a cost to be paid if they do not wait.
I think Minnie would have been better off if Monroe had decided NOT to fuck her, even though she asked for it -- sort of, when she was drunk. Like most men he has an animal desire to fuck a willing 15-year-old, so he's inclined to hear what he wants to hear. I certainly think that if this happened when Minnie was 13 he should absolutely have declined. And the younger a girl is, the greater benefit there is to a fear of legal consequences weighing on a man's mind.
We assume this book is almost completely autobiographical -- Minnie is Phoebe Gloeckner. She's a classic case of a girl who craves sex and is unashamed of sex, but finds she regrets it -- not because anyone tells her she ought to, but because within herself there is a strong pull to link sex with love. And there is a tendency to feel betrayed when love does not come along with the sex -- even though no explicit promises were violated.
At the end of the book she's on the way out of this whole mess. Her final interaction with Monroe is a smiling handshake where she is thinking to herself, "I'm better than you, you son-of-a-bitch." The early sex was ultimately a serious obstacle to be overcome, not a simple early pleasure.