Monday, December 30, 2019

The Anal Analyst. On Teen Vogue.

The anal analyst would be me, because I will dedicate this post to the study and dissection of one particular piece published in Teen Vogue quite a few months ago (" Anal Sex: Safety, How tos, Tips, and More"), then re-published last November, and then re-advertised by someone working at Teen Vogue in social media on Christmas day.

Why is that particular piece one the editors at that magazine are so very excited about that it deserves reprinting (with a few tiny edits) and lots of advertising?  They must be very proud of a job well done.

In fact, the piece is utterly hilarious.  It would be completely and totally out-of-this-universe-hilarious if it wasn't aimed at very young readers (teens and pre-teens) who might just accept  the article as one having to do with general sexuality and sexual health, when it appears to have additional and rather disquieting and even sexist undertones.

The hilarity begins with the way human beings are classified for the purposes of this article: Into prostate-owners and non-prostate-owners.  Later in the piece the latter group is also (grudgingly?) allowed to have the ownership of only slightly used vaginas (1), but it's the initial juxtaposition of those who own something (prostates) and those who own nothing (non-prostates) but are still called "owners" which gave my brain that sudden little hurricane feeling (2).  I get that every time someone demands that I accept a totally idiotic thing Or Else.

But it's not only an idiotic thing.  It's also a sexist thing, because the two groups are defined by the presence or absence of a prostate.  Had the article used the terms "male" and "female" in its anatomical descriptions it would immediately have become clear that the choice of the term "prostate" to divide humans into two categories was a sexist one.  But because the terms "male" and "female" are now contested, problematized and interrogated (under harsh lights and with electric cattle prods), digging up the obvious sexism of that choice required some shovel-work.

The greatest hilarity in that piece is, however, yet to come.  It's about the helpful anatomical drawings which are used to show a view of the insides of the pelvic areas of prostate-owners and non-prostate-owners.  I reproduce one of these pictures from the November re-printing of the article here:

The left drawing is about a non-prostate-owner's pelvic anatomy.  Have a careful look at all the labels attached to it, and then ask which organ has been erased from the picture altogether.

The clitoris.  That's the only organ which appears to exist in non-prostate-owners' anatomy for the sole purpose of giving them sexual pleasure.  But it doesn't exist in the drawings attached to the Teen Vogue article.  It has been excised (3).

This, my friends, is extremely troubling.  The piece begins with this statement:

When it comes to your body, it’s important that you have the facts. Being in the dark is not doing your sexual health or self-understanding any favors. 

It then simply erases the most important female sexual organ from the drawings!  Given that the intended readership is very young and quite possibly uninformed (4), it's not too strong to call this omission misogyny.


(1)  Sorry, I got carried away with all that "ownership" language which for some reason I keep connecting to buying a used car.

But why not call the two groups vagina-owners and penis-owners, you might wonder, if terms such as male and female are now unacceptable in certain circles?  Perhaps because penis-owners can enjoy anal sex in two ways, either penetrating or receiving,  while vagina-owners can only receive, so that penis-owners have twice the incentives to want anal sex?  Or because the penis is involved in anal sex but the vagina is not?

(2) And yes, I get the real meaning, but this is how I first read it.  To write about something as medically important as the safest way to do anal and then to use such fuzzy language is really bad.

(3)  The November reprinting of the article does include an added paragraph discussing the clitoris and suggesting that anal sex is enjoyable to non-prostate-owners because it can stimulate the back of the clitoris.

But the accompanying drawings were not corrected and, clearly, the writer and editors of the initial article saw nothing wrong in the original erasure of the clitoris.  The added paragraph in the November version was probably a response to criticisms such as my vicious ones here.

(4)  The piece is also deficient in some of the possible health consequences of anal sex.  For instance, it doesn't mention that the condom should be changed if one moves from anal sex to vaginal sex or vice versa, and it doesn't mention the possible correlation of anal sex practice with later anal cancer.