Why are people so scared about young people being informed?
On paper, the aim of the Teen Vogue article was a noble one: to talk about anal sex without taboos, using educational language athat is adapted to the publication’s target audience, i.e., teenage readers.
‘’When it comes to your body, it’s important that you have the facts,’ states the article. ‘It’s important that we talk about all kinds of sex because not everyone is having, or wants to have, “penis in the vagina” sex. If you do have “penis in the vagina” sex and are curious about something else, it’s helpful to know the facts.’
The guide features two diagrams that represent the female and male genitals, and the text kicks off with a brief introduction to anal sex and its origins. The tone is 100% educational and clearly has the sole intention of informing young people directly about a sexual practice.
‘Obviously there is a lot of stuff on the internet about anal (we don’t suggest you Google it), but most of what you’ll find is either porn or advice for experienced sexual persons looking to try something new. What about the teenagers? What about the LGBTQ young people who need to know about this for their sexual health?’.
The guide goes over the basics for embarking on a relationship of this nature: desire, consent, relaxation, lubricant, trust, etc. So, really and truly, nothing that shocking. Mixed reactions, however, have quickly flooded in. And there’s even a hashtag calling for the magazine’s boycott:#boycottTeenVogue.
— Queen of my castle👑 (@AdoredByMyKing) 12 de julio de 2017
— Beautifulone_2 (@Beautifulone_2) 13 de julio de 2017
Some users have branded the article as excessively ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’, others as ‘inappropriate’ for such a young audience. They accuse the publication of teaching young people about their potential adventures into ‘sodomy’ at an early age. Other Twitter users have declared they’ll cancel their subscription to Teen Vogue to stop their daughters accessing this kind of content.
Image from Teen Vogue
The Christian website The Stream has published a critical article which it claims that the guide normalises and glorifies a practice that is more common in homosexual relations, and says it has been presented as if it were natural. And there’s more: it also accuses the article of teaching young girls to be submissive. ‘It is teaching them to be used by a guy, in a very dangerous way, for his pleasure and satisfaction.’
The first argument – that the article encourages gay men to have sex – is, of course, preposterous. The second, however, does coincide with other critical responses to the article from a more feminist standpoint.
The Independent has criticised the publication for removing the clitoris in a diagram of the female body and said the message it transmits is that girls should indulge their partners’ needs to the detriment of their own pleasure. It also focuses on the article’s description of women as ‘non-prostate owners’, which is simply not true. Women do, in fact, have a prostate and its stimulation results in female ejaculation (or squirting).
This is a surprising slip-up for a publication like Teen Vogue, which tends to publish inclusive and responsible content with a certain gender and LGBTQ focus for the teenage community. Something that isn’t easy to come across.
And, as the article goes on, it clearly falls short of the magazine’s usual standards: besides the blunder over basic notions of female sexuality, it also lacks any kind of focus on stimulating a woman’s erogenous zones (for example: the clitoris), even if you are practicing anal sex. That would be a positive way to teach readers how, even in a sexual practice where women could be seen as mere ‘receivers’, there are also ways for both parties to enjoy the experience. Whether that involves using your hands or sex toys.
The article has also been slammed because it places no emphasis on the risks that this kind of practice entails in terms of sexually transmitted diseases.
However, beyond this mistake, it’s important to value a teenage magazine that dares to publish content about sex, especially regarding a practice that is so stigmatised. Despite it falling short of being inclusive, particularly with regard to the woman’s standpoint, this article’s contribution is still positive.