American psychologist Abraham Maslow is renowned for developing his "hierarchy of needs." This is typically represented as a pyramid of self-actualization in which lower-order needs such as food, sleep, excretion and sex must be met before a human being can evolve to meeting higher-order needs such as health, friendship, self-esteem and morality.
If it were possible to evaluate a society's health along such a Maslovian spectrum, ours would seem to be mired at the lowest level possible.
One need only look at the way we treat our children.
Earlier this week, TeenVogue published an article titled "Anal sex: What you need to know." Authored by sex educator Gigi Engle, the article treats readers to observations that range from glib ("Yes, there might be poop") to insipid ("Anal sex and anal stimulation can be awesome, and if you want to give it a go, you do that"). Not to mention the perfunctory gender-neutral virtue-signaling (Engle refers not to "men" and "women" but "vagina-owners" and "prostate-owners.")
This is standard stuff for TeenVogue. Scroll down to the bottom of the article, and you find a link for "How to Masturbate if You Have a Penis" with the subhead: "There is no wrong way to self-love." (Concerned about gender equality? Don't be — TeenVogue had already published "How to Masturbate if You Have a Vagina.")
And then there's "5 Reasons Porn is Not Sex Ed," in which Engle (not the author, but interviewed in the piece) goes out of her way to say, "I'm not anti-porn" and "Whatever type of porn you like is valid and valuable..." Engle's big beef with porn is that it's unrealistic. So the column concludes by recommending that teens find other sources of "accurate" information, so that they "can focus on self-pleasure when watching porn, not seeking out sex tips."
But wait, there's more. In the past year, TeenVogue has published numerous articles about abortion, including "What to get a friend, post-abortion," a handy gift-buying guide for that post-abortive BFF who has everything.
So many things wrong here, it's hard to know where to start. This isn't Playgirl or Cosmopolitan. It's TeenVogue. Their readership, by definition, is girls between the ages of 13 and 19, as well as a significant number of "tweens" — little girls between the ages of 10 and 13. TeenVogue pitches itself as "the rebellious, outspoken, empowering magazine you need right now."
I have a 12-year-old daughter. I think not.
This isn't "entertainment" or "advice." It's irresponsible and reprehensible. It's probably impossible to quantify the emotional and psychological damage wrought by our society's warped obsession with children and sex. But it is certainly possible to look at some of the physical consequences.
The Center for Disease Control released a report in 2015 in which it warned that syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are on the rise, with many strains now resistant to antibiotics. At least half of the 20 million-plus new infections each year are in young people ages 15 to 24. (Yet another article in TeenVogue cites to this very report with no sense of irony.)
Pornography warps perceptions of normal sexuality, interferes with the ability to obtain (and maintain) intimacy, is highly addictive and, in extreme cases, is associated with violence toward women and sexual abuse of children.
As for anal sex, WebMD warns that there are serious health risks associated with that practice, not least because the tissue in question is delicate and susceptible to tears and fissures, "allowing bacteria and viruses to enter the bloodstream." The risk of contracting HIV/AIDS is 30 times greater with anal intercourse, and repeated practice weakens the surrounding muscles, leading to potential incontinence.
In a healthy society, children should be permitted to have a childhood. Teens ought to have concerns no more serious than acne, prom dates and algebra exams. Yet we burden our children with pornography, masturbation, promiscuity, anal sex, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion. Is it any wonder that mental illness and destructive behaviors like depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia, self-harming and suicide are up by staggering percentages in the past 25 years?
What kind of society tolerates — much less encourages — this in its young people? I don't know what Maslow would say. But it looks to me like a society that is unevolved, self-absorbed, primitive and sick.