Recently, the online publication of Teen Vogue published an article titled, “Anal Sex: What You Need to Know – How to do it the Right Way.”
This sensational, poorly researched and badly written article has garnered quite a bit of attention and a myriad of responses that run the gamut from moms’ playgroups to Fox News and almost every sort of internet blogger and vlogger in between. (If you want to read the article in question, you can click here, however we strongly recommend against it! At the very least, make sure there are no little eyes around and that you have a strong stomach!) Understandably many parents are outraged and a little scared. We at The Guiding Star Project were both dismayed and disgusted by how irresponsible Teen Vogue was in publishing this article, and how degrading its message is to young people. Therefore, we want to counter this misinformation and very troubling premise with our OWN message to parents and teens.
As a parent, it is easy to think “this isn’t happening.” “Not my child.” “Not my children’s peers.” Yet there is a reason that Teen Vogue chose this topic and it has to do both with shock value and cultural relevance. Yes, teenagers, even young teenagers, are experimenting with anal intercourse. Check out these sobering statistics from The Medical Institute for Sexual Health:
In 2007, a study based on the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), found that one-third of U.S. men and women had experienced heterosexual anal sex.2 In the study, starting from the age 15, the percentage of participants reporting heterosexual anal sex increased with age, was significantly higher among 20-24 year olds and peaked among 30 to 34 year olds. Another study conducted by the University of Indiana asked questions on heterosexual anal sex and found that the percentage having anal intercourse within the past year demonstrated a similar age breakdown as that of the NSFG.
Adolescents are also practicing heterosexual anal sex; and again, the prevalence increases with age. Only 5% of females ages 16-17 reported receptive anal intercourse over the past year, while 18% of females aged 18-19 years reported the same activity. A smaller study sample from a 2007 study looking at “main” and “casual” sexual relations among urban minority adolescent females found that teen girls with “casual” partners and those with a “main” partner had a similar percentage experiencing anal intercourse (12% and 16% respectively). The frequency of heterosexual anal intercourse increased in teens with “main” partners.
A) A small Guttmacher Institute study (28 women) from 2009 reports that 25% of the women interviewed had been forced into having anal intercourse at least once. It goes on to say, “Coercion and violence notwithstanding, many participants reported pain and discomfort, including emotional distress, during anal intercourse.”Furthermore, a qualitative study from the United Kingdom concludes, “Young people’s narratives normalized coercive, painful and unsafe anal heterosex. This study suggests an urgent need for harm reduction efforts targeting anal sex to help encourage discussion about mutuality and consent, reduce risky and painful techniques and challenge views that normalize coercion.”It is the woman who is being coerced and feels the pain.
B) Anal intercourse can eventually lead to fecal incontinence. A February 2016 study concludes: “The findings support the assessment of anal intercourse as a factor contributing to fecal incontinence in adults, especially among men.” In the case of heterosexual anal intercourse it is the woman who is at risk to develop fecal incontinence.
C) The American Cancer Society reports, “Receptive anal intercourse also increases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women, particularly in those younger than 30.” HPV (human papillomavirus) is the main cause of anal cancer; but apparently, anal intercourse in particular increases the likelihood that the virus will attack the anus or rectum. Multiple sexual partners is also listed as a risk factor for anal cancer. Again, it is the woman experiencing heterosexual anal intercourse who is at risk.
D) The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released (August 2016) a new fact sheet on “Anal Sex and HIV Risk”. The first statement on the page says, “Anal sex is the riskiest sexual behavior for getting and transmitting HIV for men and women.” It goes on to say that receptive anal sex is 13 times more risky than insertive anal sex for acquiring HIV infection.In heterosexual anal intercourse, it is the woman who is always experiencing the highest sexual risk for the transmission of HIV, receptive anal intercourse. Furthermore, receptive anal intercourse carries a risk 17 times greater than receptive vaginal intercourse. Moreover, receptive anal intercourse even carries a risk 2 times greater than that of needle-sharing during injection drug use.
In other words, there is nothing “safe” about anal sex. There is nothing “sexy” about anal sex (since when is fecal incontinence considered the new sexy?). There is nothing “fun” about coercion. It is incredibly irresponsible of Teen Vogue to try to paint a risky, and all too often violent act, as a completely safe and normal activity for teens. We think teens deserve better.
Teenagers deserve to know that the way their bodies are made tells them something about their sexuality, and how it is designed. They deserve to know that their bodies are amazing and that they are made to work and fit together in amazing ways. Beautiful ways. They deserve to know that their bodies are made to give life. That this is an awesome power, and it demands respect. It demands proper boundaries. It demands order. Teens deserve to know that there are consequences when we abuse our bodies, our bodies’ natural functions, and our fertility. They deserve to know that when we abuse sex and the ability to procreate, the consequences are never pretty (need we mention fecal incontinence again?)
Teenagers also deserve to know the freedom and the joy that comes from respecting, understanding, and working with the proper order that is designed for their bodies and their fertility. This includes, as my young teens say, “Knowing exactly what goes exactly where, and when that’s appropriate.” The power of fertility is meant to be expressed fully in marriage. It is within this union that men and women are truly free and capable of experiencing what is actual sexual freedom. It is within this union that the body, and how it is made, makes sense. Anything outside of that, anything that is outside of natural law and the natural order is counterfeit. It is a fake. And it will ultimately lead to pain, degradation, sickness, or heartache.
We think Teens deserve better than that.
We think Teens deserve better than what Teen Vogue is offering.
And we think you do too.