Organization Trends

Teen Vogue NC-17

Editor’s Warning: This article contains some unavoidably explicit discussion. 

A section on the Teen Vogue website is titled “Sex and Relationships.” If you’re anything like me, the mere fact that a publication with “teen” in the name has a sex section is shocking.

Some of the articles in the section are exactly what I expected from writers hired to attract girls who are in their tweens and teens, like “201 Fun Questions to Ask Friends” (though some of the questions are strange).

Others, however, made my jaw drop. Look no farther than “15 Cheap Vibrators That’ll Help You Reach the Big ‘O’,” guides on how to masturbate, and “Anal Sex: Safety, How tos, Tips, and More.” Teen Vogue even delves into aspects of sexuality outside the mainstream, like the aforementioned anal sex, and BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism). The article also includes an interview with a dominatrix.

Actively Sexualizing Youth

The average American loses his or her virginity at 17.4 years old and starts experiencing sexual feelings at 15. Only 30 percent of high school students surveyed by the CDC in 2021 had ever had sex. This means that many of Teen Vogue’s readers are likely too young to even understand things like anal sex, let alone seek them out. The contributors and editorial staff of Teen Vogue are choosing to expose readers to things that are far past their depth and maturity, seemingly in the name of sex education.

Given that children as young as 11 or 12 read Teen Vogue, publishing this kind of information is unacceptable. First, it may pressure them to investigate and attempt things they aren’t ready for. Second, because sex education from an amateur (which most of Teen Vogue’s authors are) is inherently risky.

Moreover, when sex education is provided in a public school, or when a parent discusses the birds and the bees with their child, an adult is present who can make sure that the information provided is age appropriate, answer questions, and dispel misconceptions. None of that exists when teens read articles online.

If Teen Vogue wants to cover relationships and attraction, there are appropriate ways to do so. I have no objections with some of the articles on their site, like one describing signs that you’re falling in love. Appropriate topics to cover could include things like getting your first period, dealing with menstrual cramps, talking to your crush, body positivity, and even how to kiss.

If Teen Vogue wants to cover sex, it should focus on letting teen girls know to take things at their own pace, set strong boundaries, and tell a trusted adult if anything happens that they are not comfortable with.

Dumping heaps of explicit information on tween and teen readers with no plan of how to moderate who reads the content, and how they react, or to dispel any misconceptions created by the content is irresponsible at best.

In her anal sex guide, Gigi Engle writes “it doesn’t hurt to have the information.” That’s not entirely true—sexual practices often lead to injuries, especially when those sexual practices are outside the mainstream. Expecting teenagers to have the forethought and maturity to seriously consider the risks of participating in sexual acts (unplanned pregnancies, STDs, injuries, and more) is reckless.

Focusing on Sex

I understand that the content of this article is far from comfortable, and many people shy away from discussing topics like sex. That is a mistake, because Teen Vogue is not avoiding sex.

In fact, they are focusing a huge amount of their staff and resources on sexually explicit content that millions of teenagers will read. Teen Vogue is more than willing to talk about even the most taboo topics, and if we are not willing to expose what they are doing and oppose it, they will continue to “educate” minors unimpeded.

Parents, aunts or uncles, teachers, coaches, and even concerned citizens should be alarmed that Teen Vogue publishes such information to teens and tweens—information so uninhibited and explicit that it feels inappropriate for adults, much less high school students, to read.

Kate Haberl

Kate Haberl is an intern at the Capital Research Center.
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