I have a confession to make: Many years ago, I subscribed to Cosmopolitan magazine.
It seemed like the cool hip trendy thing to do when I was a career woman in my 20s. To a naïve young rustic, it gave a tantalizing glimpse of an exotic urban fairytale lifestyle that took place in the Big City. It offered hope that a klutzy wallflower like me could somehow be transformed into the glamorous, sophisticated women featured in the magazine’s pages. It offered fashion tips, makeup pointers, office politics management, and how to conduct one’s self in endless social situations I could only dream about (and for which I might someday need that ubiquitous Little Black Dress).
And it offered sexual tips. My goodness, did it ever. It seems every reader of Cosmo was having a sex life on par with professional hookers.
I dragged the magazine subscription around with me for several years, even after I got married, moved to a small farm in Oregon, entered grad school and had my first baby. Then one day I opened the magazine and realized I had matured way, way beyond what it could ever hope to offer in terms of some vaguely refined, trendy lifestyle. Suddenly every page seemed trashier than the one before. The editors had a particular talent for linking anything and everything to sex, no matter how unrelated.
I didn’t want this kind of rubbish in the house with our newborn daughter. And that was the end of my subscription.
I haven’t cracked open an issue for well over 20 years now, so – curious – I logged onto the magazine’s website this week and saw – well, the same thing. There’s sexy summer cocktails. Sexy movies. Sexy fashions. Sexy makeup. Sexy snacks. Sexy hairstyles. Sexy horoscopes. Sexy travel destinations. I’m sensing a theme here, aren’t you? Yawn.
But, whatever Cosmo’s obsession, at least it’s a magazine geared toward adults. Teen Vogue is another matter.
As the name implies, Teen Vogue is a magazine for adolescent girls ages 11 to 17. Doubtless it, too, imbues its readers with hints of the glamor and sophistication that awaits young people when they grow up. It covers the usual stuff you’d expect to find: beauty tips, fashion, makeup, popular culture, etc. It also steers its young readers firmly toward the political left by keeping up a more or less constant attack on the current president.
But even by progressive standards, many parents were horrified when their daughters read the article in the July issue: “Guide to Anal Sex: What you need to know; how to do it the right way.”
All the young 11 to 17-year-old tween and teen readers could learn “the lowdown on everything you need to know about butt stuff, no matter who you are, whom you’re having sex with, or who you want to have sex with. … This is anal 101, for teens, beginners, and all inquisitive folk.”
This wasn’t just a vague “Maybe you should try it, but be careful”-type article either. This was a graphic piece with both text and illustrations encouraging minor children to engage in a risky behavior any sane doctor would recommend against.
To the resulting firestorm of criticism, Teen Vogue’s digital editorial director, Phillip Piccardi, defended the column by stating the backlash was “rooted in homophobia. … It’s also laced in arcane delusion about what it means to be a young person today.”
Homophobia? This article wasn’t directed at adult gay male readers. It was directed at young teenage girls who are interested in fashion, makeup and pop culture. Where did the “homophobia” slur come from?
As one disgusted parent tweeted, “If u text the content of this article to a 12 yr old girl, you’d lose ur job and probably be prosecuted.”
But others came to the magazine’s defense, pointing out that adolescents are steeped in a highly sexualized culture and need “accurate” information about “reproductive health.”
So why would Teen Vogue unrepentantly publish such an article? If their prior focus has been the usual fashion, makeup and popular culture, what on earth could be the reasoning, logic, or – dare I ask – agenda behind cultivating children to be “safely sodomized” (in the words of another revolted parent)? I’ll leave you to speculate.
Presumably, Teen Vogue’s purpose is to give teenage girls fashion tips so they can grow up to be glamorous and sophisticated. But an instruction manual for anal sex? Is this the type of sophisticated, glamorous adult lifestyle Teen Vogue’s editors hopes its readers will engage in?
Am I the only mother who believes it’s a parent’s job to protect children from graphic sexual information, not marinate them in it? I mean, how far do you want to take this? Next thing you know, marketers will be pushing thong underwear and push-up bras for toddlers, and pole-dance kits for kindergartners. Oh, wait …
There is such a thing as editorial responsibility. I think Teen Vogue needs to learn this before it convinces impressionable teens that anal sex is fun, safe, harmless and recreational. In other words, this is beyond – way beyond – a dumb editorial decision. This is evil, pure and simple.
Y’know, it’s funny. For years, we’ve been told we were stunting our daughters’ growth and development because we homeschooled them in a rural environment. We were told they would be impeded academically, morally and sexually. We were told they would be social misfits. We were told they would rebel the moment they left home. We were told they would explode into the world as adults and engage in every risky, destructive behavior we taught them was wrong.
Our daughters are now 21 and 19, and we’re still waiting for the explosion and rebellion. Somehow, despite being raised by regressive knuckle-dragging conservative parents “laced in arcane delusions about what it means to be a young person today,” our girls managed to emerge into the world as moral, competent, respectable adults who ace every academic environment and wow every employer they’ve had so far. They’re not cheapening themselves or jeopardizing their “reproductive health” by engaging in risky, stupid activities. They’re hard-working, honest and have managed to cultivate something the editors of Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan totally missed: self-control.
I outgrew Cosmo when I realized the stuff they were pushing bore no reality to real life. My hope is parents who allow their young daughters to subscribe to Teen Vogue will recognize the same thing.
Or, if anal sex IS what their 11-year-old girls are exploring, these parents had better step up to the plate – fast – and reclaim childhood for their children.
Media wishing to interview Patrice Lewis, please contact [email protected].