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Not since anal-oral sex became a household term in the nineties after the President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal was made public has anal sex received so much attention.
For nearly a week following publication of an instructional guide to anal sex, Teen Vogue magazine has been both heralded and criticized for its breathtakingly explicit and detailed handbook written by self-described “sex educator” Gigi Engle.
Among those not celebrating the new guide is Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at Family Research Council, a leading voice for families in America.
“It is, frankly, disgusting that Teen Vogue would think this is an appropriate subject to discuss—and actively promote—with young people,” Sprigg said.
The article, “Anal Sex: What you need to Know,” delivers detailed information referenced as factual – and is fronted by a large, pink graphic illustrating a side view of the male and female mid to lower torso body parts which it labels as “Anatomy of a Prostate Owner” and “Anatomy of a Non-Prostate Owner.”
The “non-prostate” chart, which otherwise denotes the female anatomy, does not, however, include the clitoris, the female sexual organ, a move which feminists have criticized as political given a surge in LGBTQ awareness and appeasing teenagers who are biologically female but do not identify as women.
The move is consistent with the magazine’s metamorphosis from one focused on fashion for teen girls into an agenda setting and print and online magazine covering politics, feminism, identity and activism, according to The Atlantic.
Sprigg said although he prefers the magazine would not have discussed the issue of anal sex at all, he finds it “shockingly irresponsible” the article did not apparently initially include information about “the importance of using protection during anal sex.”
Still, Teen Vogue—with a reported print circulation of one million and 27-million monthly impressions—has failed to “adequately warn” readers of the serious health hazards associated with anal sex, according to Spragg, who said anal sex is far more effective at transmitting HIV than vaginal or oral sex.
Although the article does mention STIs (sexually transmitted infections), nowhere does it mention one of those is human papilloma virus (HPV), which in this case could cause anal cancer, he said.
Though the guide calls the use of condoms “non-negotiable” and urges teens to “practice safe sex every single time,” it does not explain condom manufacturers indicate condoms are for vaginal intercourse only, or they are more likely to fail if used for anal sex.
Referencing Dr. C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General of the United States at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, Sprigg repeated, “[A]nal intercourse is simply too dangerous to practice.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, in 2016 an article in the UK’s Independent suggested a recently released report showed an increasing number of young people may be trying anal sex as a result of having viewed pornography.
“While the increase in anal sex cannot be attributed directly to pornography consumption, it does feature in a large percentage of mainstream pornography (for example, one content analysis found it featured in 56% of sex scenes),” the article quotes the report reading.
The report suggested restricting access to pornography with hopes it would reduce the numbers of people trying anal sex – and also discussed a “watered down” approach to discussing AIDS or risky sex in the eighties because of “harm if young teenagers were to read it.”
Noting the average parent would be “shocked” by the article in Teen Vogue, Sprigg said most would expect it would have tips for fashion and make-up – not how to have anal sex.
Like in the UK, Sprigg believes the fascination with this topic in America may also reflect the wider exposure of young people to internet pornography, which moves toward depicting more and more extreme forms of sexual activity in order to maintain its audience.
“In some ways this article may reflect our fast-moving culture, but yet I also think that Teen Vogue cannot avoid responsibility for driving change in the culture with articles like this, not just responding to it,” he said.
“In saying things like, ‘There is no wrong way to experience sexuality’ and calling anal sex ‘perfectly natural’ while reassuring that ‘it isn’t weird or gross,’ Sprigg continued, “the magazine has gone well beyond a merely educational function to the point of actually promoting this dangerous conduct.”
— Joni B. Hannigan is an award-winning writer, editor, teacher, PR specialist, and the author of thousands of news and feature articles. She is also an accomplished photojournalist. In 2015 Joni won the Frank Burkhalter Award in Religious Newswriting at the Wilmer C. Fields Awards Competition. She is a U.S. Navy veteran. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook