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Women's rights advocates are criticizing a teen fashion magazine aimed at girls for encouraging them to engage in anal intercourse and minimizing the dangers.
A July 7 article in Teen Vogue featured a "What You Need to Know" advice column about anal sex from writer Gigi Engle. The article offers advice to young girls about "how to do it the RIGHT way"; gives detailed instructions regarding the use of lube, condoms, and butt plugs; and purports the sexual act to be an enjoyable activity that everyone seems to be doing.
"This is porn culture completely normalized and mainstreamed," said Dawn Hawkins, senior vice president and executive director of the National Center of Sexual Exploitation in Washington, D.C., in a Monday interview with The Christian Post.
Teen Vogue is coming alongside "patriarchal" and "male-centered" forces in society that teach boys to manipulate girls into doing whatever they want with them, she added.
"And we have to remember that [Teen Vogue] is not writing to adults," she reiterated.
Engle, the New York-based "sex educator" who authored the piece, refers to women as "vagina owners" and "non-prostate owners" and men as "prostate owners" and frames everything almost entirely in terms of the man's sexual satisfaction. Anal sex is described as "perfectly natural" and "unique" and girls are led to think that by letting their partners sodomize them a "feeling of fullness which can be delightful" may result.
The relevant statistics today show an uptick in young men viewing pornography that includes anal sex, Hawkins said. When those boys attempt to act out what they have seen on screen, they pressure their girlfriends to do it.
"But now we have a source that the girls trust and they look to for advice and to teach them about the world around them, and that source is coming alongside and saying 'Yeah, you should try this' and they are giving them very misleading information," she said.
"And they aren't talking about the physical and emotional harms that come with this, and the long-lasting impacts."
Natasha Chart, a member of the board of directors for the radical feminist group Women's Liberation Front, agrees that Teen Vogue is not showing the abusive power differential in play here.
"They totally ignore these realities," Chart explained in an interview with CP.
That the publication speaks of people in terms of the ownership of their bodily organs reveals a "dissociative mindset," she said.
"People talk about their bodies in that way when they have had some sort of trauma and they are trying to separate their consciousness from the horror of what was done to their body," she continued, adding that such a message is a destructive one to send to young people.
The first 90 percent of the advice column portrays anal sexual stimulation as a completely positive experience. Near the very end of the article, the author finally entertains one potentially negative "burning question" a girl might have about the sex act: the possibility of being exposed to fecal matter. The author then breezily dismisses it.
"But that's just not even on the top five list of main concerns that a young girl should have about this," Chart insisted.
She went on to explain that what usually happens is that boys are being educated about sex through pornography, as Hawkins maintained, and forcing their will on girls. They are often competing among their peers as to who can do the most extreme things. She pointed out that even academic research shows that these kinds of sexual encounters are routinely fraught with severe emotional and psychological trickery; a 2014 sexual health study published in the British Medical Journal showcases the dysfunctional relational dynamics operating in these situations.
Chart also noted that an especially revealing moment in the Teen Vogue article occurs when the writer says that it can be "daunting" for a boy to "ask" for anal sex. And the piece also advises that if anal sex hurts, the girl should just "take a breather," implying that she must continue to comply with everything no matter how uncomfortable she is. She is never told she can just say "no."
"As if we aren't talking about a situation in which boys regularly coerce girls into this!" Chart said.
"That's not a relationship, that's exploitation," she said, noting that people should be mindful that Teen Vogue's audience are girls as young as 13.
Internet safety activist Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough is Enough, told CP that she finds Teen Vogue's promotion of sex of any kind among minors "incredibly irresponsible."
"I think every parent of a pre-teen girl, or a boy for that matter, needs to say no more Teen Vogue," she said, adding that she does not know of any parents, Christian or not, who desire that their teens be sexually active.
Hughes, who hails from a medical background and was once an emergency medical technician, noted how the author inadvertently makes the case for why anal sex is not natural or physically safe.
"She says [in the article] that you have to 'work up' to this, describing the muscles in the anus and the entrance to the anus being very small. Well, that's for a reason: God designed it to be that way. It's not meant to receive any kind of foreign object. Period. Unless it is a doctor doing a physical exam," she said.
Young people going through puberty are naturally sexually curious as their hormones change, she added, and Teen Vogue is preying upon that curiosity, suggesting things to them they might have never thought of otherwise.
"Parents are under the assumption that certain types of publications are safe. This just goes to show everybody — and this is what I would say to parents — don't assume that anything is safe."
"This kind of information and material, misinformation I should say, is sneaking in everywhere and parents have to be super vigilant," Hughes emphasized.
Meg Kilgannon, executive director of Concerned Parents and Educators in Fairfax, Virginia, concurs.
"Everything has become political," Kilgannon told CP.
"If you want to think that these things are purely entertainment, you're certainly free to think that. But they aren't. They have an agenda that they are pushing."
In the past, fashion magazines were targeting women, she noted, and the content was mostly about clothing. Kilgannon grew up reading Vogue and enjoyed the glamorous pictures and told CP that her mom — thinking that Teen Vogue was a harmless fashion magazine — got her granddaughters a subscription.
"But it's horrific," Kilgannon said. "Within a couple of issues coming to the house last year it was clear that this was not at all about fashion. It's about fashioning opinions, it's about fashioning worldview. It's not about fashion and clothing."