It used to be considered fashionable to be late; it demonstrated that one was so important that other attentions had to be given before one could even think of making an appearance at a party or some other social function (it doesn’t seem to have worked in the work setting, unless one was somewhat elevated in the hierarchy). While I would not venture to say that I am important enough use this as an excuse for tardiness, it might still be considered fashionable to be late only because it allows one’s thoughts to mature and, hopefully because of that, to hold a little more than they could.
When Teen Vogue ran its guide to anal sex this past summer, the reactions were already written: people were shocked and rightly outraged that a magazine for teenagers would print such a how to guide while the magazine’s digital editor, Phillip Picardi claimed that the only possible explanation for the backlash was the predictable and boring accusation of “homophobia.” Of course, there was nothing “homophobic” about the reactions of the parents and the commentators who expressed their shock; they were simply flabbergasted that a magazine devoted to teen-age girls would tell its readers how to do something that has been proven to have serious medical consequences.
It is an interesting and ironic twist that the people who often cry the loudest about science really do not care about what science says. They are much like the “cafeteria Catholics” of the Eighties, Nineties and Thousands, picking and choosing which science to cite and believe and which science to ignore. Teen Vogue chose to close their eyes to the myriad risks which anal sex opens. Author Gigi Engle did mention in her guide that contact with feces was inevitable but that this was nothing to worry about, a statement that might have been true if a cornucopia of diseases, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, parasites like Giardia and intestinal amoebas, and bacteria like Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli, were not contactable through anal sex. On top of that, the risk of HIV and other STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis and herpes, increase dramatically from the practice. Added to these threats, there is another layer of danger waiting for someone’s teenage daughter who decides to give “bottoming” a try–fecal incontinence. The chances of contracting anal cancer is also increased. These bacteria, diseases and sicknesses are really not a surprising result from practicing anal sex since, to put it bluntly, things are being put where things should not be put, in this case, the male sex organ being inserted into the manhole of the body’s sewage removal system. One can compare that to the harmony naturally inherent in what Gigi Engle termed ” ‘penis in the vagina’ sex” what used to be known in common circles as simply, sex, the natural harmony found in how the two different sex organs work together so perfectly in their complimentary that Occam’s Razor practically screams that the two were made to go together. The horrible consequences of anal sex are simply the natural results of ignoring ontology and teleology, large, philosophical terms which mean nothing more than “what things are” (ontology) and “what those things are for” (teleology).
If the physical health issues were the only harms done by Engle’s guide, that would be bad enough, but Teen Vogue’s piece does even greater harm than simply the physical. In the first place, the piece can be added to the list of pieces and speeches and actions which erode history and an honest understanding of history. Engle attempted to use history as a defense of anal sex by claiming, “Anal sex, though often stigmatized, is a perfectly natural way to engage in sexual activity. People have been having anal sex since the dawn of humanity. Seriously, it’s been documented back to the ancient Greeks and then some. So if you’re a little worried about trying it or are having trouble understanding the appeal, just know that it isn’t weird or gross.” It should be noted, again, that simply possessing a long pedigree in history does not instantly make X activity moral, or else murder, lying, rape and stealing would also be seen as being “perfectly natural.” The activity has to be taken for what it is, not for how long it has been practiced or how many people have practiced it. It may also be recalled with some amusement that during the oral arguments of the Obergefell case in 2015, the fact that marriage had been seen and understood as a conjugal union of a man and a woman was not deemed sufficient reason to keep reality as it was; rather, it was merely one more barrier which the soldiers of justice had to storm in order that history could be righted. A principle which can be used and discarded at will is not the strongest pillar on which to rest a case. But, even beyond the historical fallacy, Engle’s assertion attempts to change history. It is a fact that anal sex was practiced in the world of the ancient Greeks; there even survives a debate of sorts from that time, in which it was discussed which was more pleasurable, sex with women or sex with boys. But to leave the assertion at that is to play dishonestly. Anal sex, for one, was acceptable to the Greeks only within certain parameters: In Sparta, for example, it was seen as a way for boys to bond and, thus, a way for a brotherhood of sorts to exist between the next generation of soldiers. Once the boys came of marriageable age, however, such activity was not only frowned upon but was punishable by death. Intellectual giants by the names of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle condemned the practice. Casting a wider historical net, behavior of this sort was condemned in ancient Israel; in ancient Rome, though this sort of thing may have been accepted at times with a wink and a nod, it was technically against the law and accusations of some person having or performing anal sex was often used as an attack on one’s enemies, which happened to Emperor Elagabalus. The history is not as clear-cut as Engle would like to have it.
But there is another, and deeper, danger posed to history, not particularly by this particular article, but by the attitude which exudes from its attempt to marshal history in its defense. One of the reasons why History is necessary not just for people but for societies is because History is supposed to act as our teacher. It is true that an answer to a particular, contemporary problem–such as the exact percentage of the federal income tax– will, more than likely, not be found in the Alexiad or in the chronicles of Tacitus or Hume’s History of England, but answers to general questions can be found in its annals. When History is simply used as a battering ram for a particular point or ideology, it ceases to be History but, rather, a monster that we attempt to control in order to sanction our own points and peccadillos and sins. When History is slashed and sewn up into one’s own Frankenstein Monster, we taken to very strange Wonderlands. In the field of American history, to give just one example, a divide has formed between those who see the Founders as Deists to a man and those who see them all as Evangelical Christians neither side making any real attempt to come to a realistic and true account of the matter. But that situation is not surprising; monsters are not strong at dialogue and reasoned arguments but are very good at attempting to crush other monsters and their creators, while the common villagers suffer the most from the battle.
In the second place, Teen Vogue’s guide destroys people and children. There are, again, all of the medical disorders that come from anal sex and which will infect boys and girls–real boys and real girls–which will cling to them and eat at their bodies. More than likely, it will not just end at anal sex; once a particular door is opened, people have a habit of rushing further into the labyrinth, opening more doors and falling further and further into the dark. I remember reading, some years ago, a piece online, the title and author of which I have forgotten but I have not forgotten his story. It concerned a young women in the Seventies who, at the time, was living in a lesbian relationship. As she and her partner were walking through a festival, the woman in question came across two other girls making out; her nonchalance became horror when she discovered that the two girls were actually twin sisters. When she turned to her partner, the partner simply said that they couldn’t say anything; if they wanted society to approve of their behavior, they could not condemn the sexual behavior of others, even if it was composed of incest. Though it happened forty years ago, that story has not expired; as Dr. Robert Oscar Lopez recorded three years ago, the homosexual community was quick to praise a pair of Brazilian brothers and a pair of Czech brothers who declared their sexual love for each other, love that was quickly captured by the camera and which left nothing to the imagination. These doors are opening more quickly than some people may give credit; an eighteen year old girl has declared that after two years of dating, she is going to marry her father after twelve years of estrangement and have children with him and a mother and son were arrested last year for incest. These new arrangements will only lead to more physical and mental problems and, as the doors are opened by real children, they will be the ones to pay the price.
As with History, there is another way in which Engle’s guide destroys real people. Never once does Engle use the words male or female. As Jennifer Hartline commented,
Anatomical parts are mentioned, and the owners of certain parts are given directions pertaining to their parts, such as someone who has a prostate vs. someone who does not. But there’s no mention of men and women. Just nondescript persons with parts.
The world of Engle’s telling is a world without men and women, regardless of the current claim that men and women are simply two of the fifty-seven “genders” from which one can choose, as if choosing what one is were as easy as choosing which brand of milk to buy. In a way, Engle’s world is even more terrifying and cold than the world as it is now since in her mind, it seems that there never anything such as men and women. If there are only organs that can be stimulated so as to give momentary pleasure but no underlying essences to which these organs can cling then, in the words of Andrew Klaven, men and women are merely “meat puppets,” automatons surrounded by other automatons who agree to come together for the sole purpose of exchanging pleasure. Perhaps more terrifyingly, contrary to Miss Hartline, there cannot even be people in this world view since, in this physical world especially, a person can only be composed of matter and form, to use the tried and true Aristotelian language, and matter, especially in the case of people, can only be male or female. If these do not exist, then matter is a lie and if one half of the mystical formula for the creation of a person is a lie, is there really a person? Can there be a person at all?
In the third place, Engle and her guide and Teen Vogue are destroying love and romance. It is apparently a truism that must be repeated or risk being forgotten, that people who are in love want what is best for the beloved, even if that would cause inconvenience and even some discomfort to the lover. But anal sex, as is known causes physical harm; it also causes emotional harm as a 2009 Guttmacher Institute study discovered. It also causes moral harm. Such language is not taken seriously today and yet it is often the case that the most serious things are not taken seriously enough and these are the pillars which people believe they can topple to form a bridge to a new utopia. If not simply the sex organs but men and women themselves are meant for each other in a special way for a special reason, then using that natural instinct and that power for something contrary for its purpose will inevitably cause disaster, even if the participants escape any physical consequences such as, in this case, HIV or cancer; as Emerson once put it, “Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass.” An example can be found in people who live together as though they were married before they actually are married. On the surface, the proposition seems the most logical in world; marriage is such a drastic change in lives that it seems commonsensical to have a “test run” before committing to it. And yet, couples who do so seem more likely to divorce. On an aside, even if this claim is definitely proven to be false (as one study has claimed) it is interesting to note that couples who are married handle stress better than couples who are simply living together. People addicted to pornography have confessed that they became deadened, unable to invest time in their other relationships, even their spousal and familial ones, because of the pornography and yet, at the same time, it was not satisfying them either–the very thing that they craved was unable to fill them. Speech is meant for the communication of the truth and when lies are woven for gain or personal protection against some just action against us, how many times has the lie taken over our lives so that the very thing created to protect us becomes the very thing choking the life from us? Will the consequences of anal sex be different?
Such guides as Engel’s also contribute in the destruction of love and romance by placing exorbitant emphasis on sexual pleasure–by turning it into the summum bonnum of love–that sexual pleasure becomes another monster which destroys love and romance. The reason being is that when sexual pleasure becomes the end all and be all of love and romance then the attainment of that pleasure becomes the only reason for the relationship and the romance to last and a barometer as to the health of the relationship. The spouse, again, becomes merely a means for sexual pleasure, easily replaced if “boredom” sets in. And boredom will and does set in since rather than finding delight in one’s spouse–a person–happiness is made dependent on a temporal and passing state. Not only that, but that temporal and passing state must be gradually increased so that boredom does not set in. This can be seen by a simple experiment: After you stroke your arm with a feather for a few minutes, what used to tickle you now causes no sensation. A variation must be began or more pressure be added to the same space in order for the sensation to start again. It is the same with sex and sexual pleasure; it has been made the “god” of love, the god quickly loses its luster, much as a spoiled child loses interest in his new toys. That is why, two summers ago, Men’s Health, ran a small piece declaring that BDSM a la Fifty Shades of Gray was perfectly normal and desirable. That was not the cry of healthy individuals; that was the sign of the surrender to boredom. The “god” was failing and only an increase in its bacchanalian rites could return it.
And in the fourth place, Engle and Teen Vogue are destroying the very idea of sex itself. It used to be that the word “sex” referred to the sexes, man and woman and not to what they did together, which was considered cosmically awful (in the old meaning of the word, which meant “inspiring awe”), awful because of the power which formed between the man and the woman, the power to make the beloved one’s own in the deepest sense by giving the most intimate part of yourself to the other–half of what was needed for the creation of a new life, a new person, a new story upon the stage of the world, full of his own joys and sorrows, triumphs, disasters, virtues, vices, sins and graces. Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet brilliantly captured this power and its awfulness when, at the beginning of Act Three, Juliet says:
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus’ lodging: such a wagoner
As Phaethon would whip you to the west,
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaway’s eyes may wink and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalk’d of and unseen.
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties; or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match,
Play’d for a pair of stainless maidenhoods:
Hood my unmann’d blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle; till strange love, grown bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.
Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night,
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
By telling teenage girls that sex can include equally what it is meant to be and its contradiction, Engle and Teen Vogue cheapen it to the point of buffoonery. Rather than a leap into the beloved’s arms for the amorous rites that shine with their own light, sex, to the modern sensibilities, can be that or it can equally include acts which will cause pain and emotional distress.
Young girls deserve better than this. Women deserve better than this. People deserve better than this. Rather than a cheap imitation that can corrode the body and the soul, they deserve real, genuine love and real genuine romance. Not the species that often comes to mind when we say the words, covered as they are with harlequin veneers, but the real kind that burns both the lover and the beloved into a union of awful dimensions.