The Butt of the Joke

Children have always been vulnerable targets for sexual exploitation, but—in most modern societies, anyway—there has generally been a rather strong taboo against it, inasmuch as, for the most part, it is considered unacceptable to make children into sexual beings. The old way of doing things was, if you wanted to be a pervert, you were expected to conduct your perversion with a modicum of circumspection, and if you were caught acting on any of your perverted desires then you were thrown into jail.

Quaint stuff. Last week Teen Vogue, an aggressively shallow magazine dedicated to making teenage girls feel insecure and self-conscious, ran an article entitled: “Anal Sex: What You Need To Know.” Now, I know what you’re thinking: what does any teenager “need to know” about anal sex? There was a time—like, before last week—when only perverts would have felt comfortable in claiming that thirteen-year-olds should be educated about the finer aspects of putting penises in their rectums. But those days are over. A new era has dawned!

To be sure, these are just tentative first steps into this brave new world. Teen Vogue’s teen butt sex piece, after all, is ultimately a bit shy about what it is proposing: it offers anal sex lessons to both “prostate owners” and “non-prostate owners,” likely because the editors at Teen Vogue are uncomfortable writing the words “girls” and “boys” in connection with anal sex. Rather than admit that they are openly advising children on how to stick sex organs up their anuses, they have retreated into the comforting anonymity of anatomy. This is a work in progress, people.

Now, one might be moved to point out the obvious: that, whatever your feelings on combining sex and feces, it’s probably something that should ultimately be left to adults, and teen-centric magazines of all things shouldn’t be in the business of encouraging young people—girls and boys who may not have even begun puberty yet—to do any kind of sex, full stop.

The modern, post-sexual-revolution response to this perfectly reasonable argument usually runs along these lines: “Kids are going to have sex anyway—there is nothing we can do to stop them—so we might as well teach them how to do it safely!” This belief is exemplified nicely by feminist hero Amanda Marcotte, who tweeted in defense of Teen Vogue’s anal sex advice:

[I]t’s really, really stupid to refuse [kids] information and just let them have sex without any education on safety.

I’m not positive, but I think Marcotte is, at this point in her life, childless—so she may very well be completely unaware that there is a third option, namely that you don’t have to “let” your underage child have sex at all. Put another way, as a parent you are not simply a helpless idiot who is powerless to stop your child from banging the nearest prostate owner at will. Parents can, you know, do things to stop their children from engaging in sexual activity. It’s not rocket science; it’s not even non-rocket science. It’s just fact.

That being said, this argument—“Kids are just going to have sex, so we should teach them how to do it ‘safely!'”—is, while flatly untrue, nonetheless pervasive. So let us imagine a rhetorical corollary to such an argument: the promotion of, say, “safe” drug use.

Imagine that Teen Vogue ran an article educating teenagers on how to “safely” use cocaine: how to ensure the proper amount to snort so as to avoid overdosing, how to verify that you’re ingesting pure, high-quality blow, the necessity of clean spoons and trustworthy drug dealers. Should we “refuse kids information” when it comes to hard drugs? After all, statistics show that many teens are just going to do cocaine—and it seems stupid and risky to “just let them take drugs without any education or safety,” doesn’t it?

At one point I might have believed that such an argument would never pass muster with any magazine that appears in supermarket checkout lines. But why should that be the case anymore? A popular and nominally respectable magazine is encouraging thirteen-year-olds to explore the possibility of what Teen Vogue calls “butt stuff,” urging them to experiment sexually while assuring them that “yes, you will come in contact with some fecal matter” (this is advice for thirteen-year-olds, people). Once you have descended to this level, the question of “standards” becomes a blurry one, if it’s even a question at all anymore.

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