Teen Vogue is taking full advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting the risky and potentially illegal activity of sexting to its underage readers who are using the Internet now more than ever for school and play while hunkered down at home. When youth send or post explicit or nude pictures or videos of themselves to others via cellphones, computers or social media, they may be liable under both state and federal child pornography laws.
Teen Vogue recently publicized its “sexting” articles on Snapchat’s Discover Feature posting photos including: “Sexting should make you feel good,” and “How to Sext: The Best Tips and Tricks.” In its “Dating and the Coronavirus” article, which accompanied the photos, author Nona Willis Aronowitz stated, “There are all kinds of creative, fun ways to sext, if you’re at that level.”
The articles were promoted at the same time the FBI issued a warning that school closings due to COVID-19 present a potential for increased risk of child exploitation. In January, the Internet Watch Foundation reported that self-generated imagery now accounts for almost a third of web pages featuring sexual images of children that they take down, and more than a third of those images feature 11- to 13-year-old children, of which the majority is girls.
Depending on the circumstances, sexting may also be a federal crime under The PROTECT Act, which makes it illegal to produce, distribute, receive or possess with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. State teen-sexting laws prohibit the sending and receiving of sexually explicit images, and vary by state. Some states have adopted laws that prescribe penalties aimed specifically at teenagers or adolescents who send such photos.
It is outrageous that a teen publication would prey on the vulnerabilities, sexual curiosities and peer pressures experienced by today’s teens and tweens by encouraging them to take and share explicit images of themselves. By doing so, TeenVogue.com, which boasts of 11.6 million digital users and 13.4 million social media followers, places youth at the following risks:
• Being prosecuted and/or convicted for the production and/or distribution of child pornography which can result in criminal charges, including the youth having to register as a sex offender for life.
• Vulnerability to sex predators and traffickers who often disguise themselves as a “peer” to gain a youth’s trust in order to groom him/her into sexual activity both online and offline.
• Sextortion, revenge porn and public shaming, leading to life-long trauma and even suicide.
• Negative psychological consequences.
The once-trusted fashion and beauty teen publication of Conde Nast, Teen Vogue is now a parent’s worst nightmare. Its editors have repeatedly ignored public pleas to stop posting and remove sexualized content targeting its “teen” demographic of 13–19 year olds, including the 46,000 concerned citizens who signed Enough Is Enough’s (EIE) 2017 “Say No to Teen Vogue” petition launched in response to its article, “Anal Sex: What You Need to Know/How to Do it the Right Way.”
The graphic, jaw-dropping “guide” told its young readers “This is anal 101, for teens, beginners, and all inquisitive folk,” failed to mention the use of protection and neglected any warning of the health risks associated with anal sex, including the risk of transmitting HIV, according to the CDC.
The publication stressed to female “non-prostate owners”: “Many vagina owners love anal play … You don’t need to have a prostate to enjoy anal sex …” The guide also had a special section on “The appeal of anal sex when you have a prostate.”
Teen Vogue, hardly caving to the public uproar, simply added, “This article has been updated to include the importance of using protection during anal sex.” Not only was the article never removed, but in a wicked act of mockery and defiance, the digital publication chose Christmas Day 2019 as an opportune occasion to retweet the vile “guide” to its young audiences.
Despite being referred to as a “cesspool of pedophilia-leaning perversion”, Teen Vogue has not backed down and continues to publish sexually graphic articles that normalize potentially harmful activities for its minor readers, including:
“Dating and the Coronavirus: Can You Still Kiss, Have Sex, and Go on Dates During Social Distancing?”; “How To Have Queer Sex”; “How To Get An Abortion If You’re A Teen”; “Oral Sex 101: Tips and Tricks for ‘Going Down’ and Staying Safe”; “Why Sex Work Is Real Work”; “What To Do When Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Go Down on You”; “How To Masturbate if you have a Penis – There’s no Wrong Way to Self -Love”; and “How To Masturbate if you have a Vagina–Step by Step,” just to name a few.
Conde Nast executives must not ignore Teen Vogue’s rogue “anything and everything goes” reckless content, which exploits the innocence and safety of youth, promotes dangerous and often illegal sexual behavior, circumvents parental concerns and harms the Conde Nast brand.
EIE has issued a new petition urging Conde Nast to shut down TeenVogue.com altogether. Concerned citizens are encouraged to sign the petition. To sign the petition, visit Enough.org.
Enough Is Enough®, has been fighting to make the Internet safer for children and families since 1994.
• Donna Rice Hughes is EIE’s president and CEO.
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