Teen Vogue blew up the internet with one of their latest articles: a tutorial on how to have anal sex. It’s generated a venomous response from vastly different groups of people; others have rushed to defend the magazine’s choice to publish an article that is meant to be informative, educational, and inclusive to heterosexual and LGBTQ+ teenagers.
Seeing this article and the responses got me thinking a lot about my responsibilities as a parent. Like most kids I knew growing up, sex was a taboo topic in my household. I was mortifyingly sent to the obligatory “talks” about sex in middle school, and other than discovering a few books here and there that had some illustrated diagrams of male and female sex organs, I was pretty much left to fend for myself. And attending a Catholic high school where the mantra was “if you have sex before marriage you’ll get gonorrhea and your life will be over,” I had no real and meaningful way to understand the most complicated ubiquitous topic there is. Let’s face it: we are all reading a moms blog because we procreated. Sex is one of the most fundamental parts of life. And yet, I still get squeamish when my daughter asks me where babies come from.
But if I’m doing my job as a mother, I have to break the cycle of misinformation and whispering around sex. Treating it as a taboo topic makes it forbidden, and I want my daughters to be well informed and in charge of their bodies. And the only way I can do that is by being as frank and honest as possible. My daughters use anatomically correct terms for their sex organs; the word “vulva” is just as mundane to them as “head” or “foot.” My oldest, in her desperate desire to know how her little sister got in her mom’s belly, has a pretty firm grasp of what sex is at the age of five.
Yes, Teen Vogue’s article made me squirm uncomfortably in my seat. But at the same time, sex isn’t a topic that any parent should hide from. Because as much as parents might not want to think about it, teens experiment. Teens have sex. And if my kids aren’t learning about sex from me, a parent who loves them and wants to protect them, they’ll find the information somewhere else, or be woefully uninformed, which could lead to greater problems and heartaches down the road. And to be frank, it is naive for me to ignore the fact that if I’m not the source of information, a quick Google search of the word “sex” yields some pretty dangerous and hypersexualized pornographic results that not only teach our sons and daughters an unhealthy perspective of sex, but contribute to America’s porn addiction that fuels human trafficking. I don’t want my daughters to first learn about anal sex because they are being pressured into doing something they don’t fully understand. And if parents are going to hide away from these difficult conversations, I’d rather there be a safe source of information out there where they can have the right facts and be informed.
So Teen Vogue, I give you a lot of credit for trying to help teens gain more information about anal sex. And for the parents who are outraged and upset by this article — while I hear you, I want to ask you this: are you talking to your children about sex? Are you finding ways to provide them with the information they need to know to keep them physically and emotionally safe? Because if the parenting community is upset that Teen Vogue is talking to our kids about intense topics surrounding sex, maybe we need to embrace these uncomfortable conversations and learn to have them ourselves. If Teen Vogue is talking to our kids about anal sex, shouldn’t we, as parents, be talking to them about it too?