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Teen Vogue Silencing Women's Views On Sex Is Misogyny

24/07/2017 14:32 BST | Updated 24/07/2017 14:32 BST
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An article appeared in Teen Vogue last week. It made feminists and others pretty angry. It seemed irresponsible at best and probably more harmful than that. It was promoting anal sex amongst young people and doing so under the banner of being an informative piece. It erased the mention of women or girls completely. It called them "non-prostate owners" and it suggested ways that they could and possibly should participate in anal sex whilst examining few, if any, of the risks or concerns. It did not discuss the porn industry or its coercive influence. It was frivolous. It was a dangerous message for young girls on many levels and it has continued to cause controversy with Teen Vogue suggesting any challenge to the article is homophobic. Meghan Murphy discusses this here in Feminist Current http://www.feministcurrent.com/2017/07/20/no-teen-vogue-backlash-anal-sex-article-not-rooted-homophobia/

It isn't homophobic to say that young women are being hurt. It is misogyny to try to silence women who raise that as a problem. I am terrified reading a study by Dr Cicely Marston from the London School Of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine titled "Anal heterosex amongst young people..". (BMJ 2014) Some of the comments from girls who have experienced painful attempts at coerced anal sex are difficult to read as a both a feminist and as a mother. Equally the qualitative data interviews with boys who use "slipping" as an excuse to anally rape young women is horrific to read. The conclusion is very clear. Dr Marston writes, "Anal sex among young people in this study appeared to be taking place in a context encouraging pain, risk and coercion. Harm reduction efforts targeting anal sex may help encourage discussion about mutuality and consent, reduce risky and painful techniques and challenge views that normalise coercion". http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/8/e004996

Talking to teenagers about sex is difficult. Many teachers are deeply uncomfortable with PSHE which seeks to educate young people on the issue. Even when sex education is successful in schools it would have a difficult job to counter the tsunami of porn that overwhelms our young people on a daily basis from a very young age. They receive their messages about sex from an industry which exploits and dehumanises women as a standard practice. This is extremely disorientating for both boys and girls. Sadly it is girls who may receive a painful or possibly torn anus and a substantially damaged reputation from the aggressively promoted porn sex featuring ever more violent and degrading sexual experiences. Porn rarely features an act where a woman is not spoken to or treated in a way that is the embodiment of misogyny.

There is still no equality in the way boys and girls are judged for their mutual sexual experiences. Girls are openly vilified and boys celebrated for the same sexual act. Girls engaging in sexting see their intimate images shared for ridicule on a regular basis. These can often be coerced and then airdropped to an entire school yard. The reaction is sometimes so immediate and so devastating for a young girl in the short term that she may be forced to leave school. This has happened at my daughter's school. More than once. Teen Vogue must understand that this is the backdrop against which they publish their "encouragement" and "advice".

Talking to my own teen about anal sex generally, and the depictions in porn specifically, I received a quite visceral response and we have a relationship where we can discuss most things openly. She is physically repulsed, not by the thought of the act itself, but by the lived teen experiences she hears discussed around her. She confirmed that boys are frequently influenced by the porn they see in both their misogynistic language when discussing their sexual experience with girls and the way they use a girl's sexual experience to demean her. Both demanding anal sex and expecting it are sadly quite normal. Refusal is met with ridicule. Compliance is met with almost certain humiliation.

Boys are being primed by the porn industry for a specific sexual experience which includes the penetration of as many orifices as a girl possesses and culminates in an ejaculation on her face or body. Precious little porn sex focuses on female pleasure or on the most obvious anatomical location for female orgasm. This is the clitoris in case the journalists at Teen Vogue have also forgotten.

Let's be as honest as Cicely Marston's academic data is. The study confirms that anal sex is painful for many young girls. Girls generally don't want to participate in it. Boys should stop being encouraged by the porn industry and mainstream journalists into seeing it as something they can and should obtain through coercion. Teen Vogue shouldn't bully feminists into being quiet when we express our views of their misogynistic journalism.

Teen Vogue needs to listen and learn about women from women.