Wednesday, February 10, 2016


by Charlotte Roche

A few years ago someone told me this book was being made into a movie, but I was doubtful, just from having flipped through and read a few bits. I mean, the protagonist starts talking about her hemorrhoids in the first sentence, and later she talks about liking to have sex while she's menstruating and how great it is to get the blood all over the place. And that's barely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So much more "ew" in this book.

I think my friend was confusing Wetlands with Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner (who isn't German like Charlotte Roche but does have a Germanic sounding name, as does her book's protagonist), which actually was made into a movie. Both the film and book Diary of a Teenage Girl were criticized for their frank portrayal of teen female sexuality. Wetlands offers sort of the same kind of look at a teenage woman's physicality, turned up to 11.

As disgusting as this book is at times, it isn't gratuitous. The author is going to extremes to make a point (and the fact that this book seems extreme is part of the point) about the cultural treatment of women's bodies and sexuality: how they're purified and polluted, policed and protected, exposed and shielded and shamed. This attitude is very different from the way men, even teenagers and children, are explicitly and implicitly encouraged and praised in their sexual appetites and bodily functions, secretions, and smells. The difference is much more fundamental and insidious than "boys can be dirty, girls should smell pretty" or "guys are studs, girls are sluts."

Anyway, this book is a fairly quick read. It's viscerally shocking while also being challengingly subtle, layered, and powerful. The author never really tells you the point she's trying to make, she just throws a lot at the reader to see what will stick. The reader's reaction to all the ick is part of the book's message.

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