The Controversy Over Teen Vogue’s Anal Sex Article Is Ridiculous

Over the weekend, Teen Vogue became the subject of controversy after an article about anal sex made its way around the internet; specifically, conservative circles. This anal sex guide was, apparently, so egregious that it inspired a mom (@ActivistMommy) to make a video in which she rips up the magazine and burns it in a fire pit. Along with discomfort about Teen Vogue highlighting anal sex on its site, she took issue with its magazine’s coverage of masturbation and non-binary gender identity. In the video, she encourages viewers to pressure local businesses to remove any and all issues of the “garbage” magazine from store shelves. She even started the hashtag #PullTeenVogue in the hopes of spreading her message. Plenty of reactionaries took the call, some going so far as to complain to Conde Nast–the company that owns Teen Vogue and several other publications–in the hopes of killing the magazine’s sales.

 

So, are the critics right? Is it inappropriate for a publication to provide an informative guide about anal sex, masturbation, and other sexual content for teens? If you ask me, or anyone else who writes for Gurl, the answer is simple: Absolutely not.

Frankly, this outrage is ridiculous and does more to hurt teen girls than an informative article about anal sex ever could.

Gurl.com has a long history of providing our readers with information about sex and sexuality. We’ve spent years creating informative content about everything from anal sex to masturbation, and we’ll never apologize for it. Why? Because, newsflash: Teenagers have sex. It’s pointless to waste time encouraging them not to do it. So why not provide them with as much information as possible about how to be safe while having sex instead? That’s exactly what Teen Vogue’s piece about anal sex did. It explained what people get out of anal sex and how to approach it safely; there was an emphasis on consent, condoms, and lube. If a teen girl is going to engage in anal sex with her partner, wouldn’t we rather she get information about it from a reliable source instead of her goofy boyfriend who probably thinks saliva works as an adequate lubricant because that’s what he sees in porn? Anyone with a lick of sense would say yes.

But many insist on being precious about this kind of stuff, and it does more harm than good. In fact, I got into a little debate with rapper Azealia Banks about this topic today. She argued that providing teens with information about sex in an aesthetically pleasing package would encourage teens to have sex and could potentially draw the attention of young children–outside of Teen Vogue’s demographic–and, essentially, leave them scarred for life.

But is a teenage girl going to say, “OMG, I should really try anal tomorrow” if she sees this aesthetically pleasing millennial pink diagram of reproductive organs?

Via Teen Vogue

The controversial anal sex diagram, via Teen Vogue

Probably not, because that’s not really how life works. And if a seven-year-old girl stumbles upon information about sex that is too mature for her to understand, it’s probably not the end of the world. Better she stumble upon a clinical illustration of a rectum that she can’t really comprehend anyway than to stumble upon a link to Pornhub.

The belief that informing teens about sex will just make them have sex has been held by parents for decades; it has long been a point of contention whenever schools introduce sex-education. But it simply isn’t true, and there are countless studies that prove it: Sex-ed has actually made teenagers delay having sex. These days, teens are having less sex than their parents’ or grandparents’ generations did! Plus, the teen birth rate is at a historic low. It’s safe to say that informing teenagers about the realities of sex–beyond abstinence-only education–has had an influence on these numbers.

Additionally, while an informative article about sex might not make someone decide to have sex, it’s a great resource for teens who are already having sex or might have sex soon. They deserve to have access to good information to make their experience safer and more enjoyable. Is that really so wrong?

People need to start asking themselves if their conservative positions on access to sex education is actually about helping teens, or about making them feel less scandalized in a world that seems increasingly scandalous. I’ve seen people argue that the problem isn’t that that Teen Vogue wrote an informative article about sex, it’s that they wrote it about anal sex. Let’s be real: We’ve been socialized to see anal sex as a little bit more taboo than traditional penis in vagina sex. It’s considered more intense and has strong associations with homosexual men. There were literally laws against anal sex, known as anti-sodomy laws! So, yeah, there’s a loaded history with butt stuff. But while people have been having anal sex forever, it is perhaps gaining more mainstream popularity in recent years. Let’s not beat around the bush: There are full blown songs about anal sex and eating booty these days that weren’t around 20 years ago, so these concepts are becoming available to younger audiences than they used to. That’s life! So if teens are more curious about it, they deserve to have accurate, informative, easily accessible information on it, whether they engage in anal sex with a partner or not.

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks

 

People like the angry mom in the video and those who support her are doing kids a huge disservice with their prudishness. For example: Her kids are going to have sex, and if she can’t handle a damn article about using lube during anal sex, then she sure as hell isn’t going to be the person a teenager feels comfortable approaching with their sex questions. That’s why we hope that sites like Gurl (and others) provide a much needed resource for those questions about sex and sexuality that teens and young adults too embarrassed to ask a parent, or that they just aren’t going to learn about in school.

Our goal here at Gurl is to provide our readers–you–with information about sex that will help you make sound sexual decisions now and in the future. We’re going to continue to do just that, without being intimidated into stopping. Haters will literally just have to hate.

 

What’s your take on this Teen Vogue controversy? Do you think parents have a right to be angry at publications teaching their kids about sex? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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  • Commonsense

    Grooming young girls – and let’s be frank, “teenagers” don’t read Teen Vogue. It’s directed towards the pre-teen crowd – for sexual acts is sickening and Teen Vogue has become a haven for pedophiles and misogynists. Sodomy isn’t for the Tweens. Let them stay kids. Stop grooming them for kinky sex.

  • FOL

    While I’m socially liberal, open-minded, and not overly religious (more like spiritual)…I do think it’s disturbing to have an anal sex guide in a teen magazine. Teenagers, as children, are likely not mentally, emotionally and physically mature enough to fully understand the points you are making as an adult, and the consequences of having sex too young.

    While the girls may like that they cannot get pregnant from anal sex, they do not yet fully appreciate what early sexual activity (unprotected or otherwise) is likely to do to their self-esteem, emotional vulnerability, long-term sexual outlook and identity, as well as potential health concerns. A teen magazine guide is simply not enough to protect them. I don’t need to be a conservative, religious zealot to understand these things.

    As a teenaged girl 20+ years ago, the same magazine(s) were geared to help me better appreciate myself as a PERSON, not as a depository for horny boys (or men, of course). It’s focus on us was more about self-esteem and confidence, than on becoming pleasure vessels to properly serve a patriarchal society. Albeit quite innocent, there were tips about beauty/dating, but it also offered fashion layouts/guides, celebrity interviews, and school/college articles. The content helped me cope as a teenaged girl. It was mostly useful, and generally positive.

    I do not see how a guide to actual intercourse (vaginal or anal) would have kept my focus away from sex and patriarchy…it would have likely increased my interest, as it’s journalistic focus alone would’ve deemed it as important. That may’ve had the power to reduced an understanding of my overall potential as a young woman…a human being who just happens to have a vagina.