Teen Vogue: Wanking Is Magic
We find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of not really being able to mock an article at righty outlet The American Conservative. At least not much. Oh, sure, you'd think it would be ripe for ridicule, since it involves what sounds like some moralizing about witchcraft, masturbation, and Teen Vogue. The tweet promoting the piece sure sounds like it's going to be heavy on finger wagging and culture war:
"Masturbation will not help you get an A in algebra, stop your parents from splitting up, get you the lead part in… https://t.co/SncIdbaiuS— The American Conservative (@The American Conservative)1562124000.0
Thing is? The Teen Vogue feature in question really is some industrial-strength woo on a par with "The Secret" or any other "law of attraction" New Age hokum. More surprisingly, the American Conservative critique, by Libby Emmons, is generally valid-ish, even thoughtful at moments, and almost free of panic about the crazy liberals trying to turn patriotic American girls into self-abusing witches. (Fortunately, other culture wars outlets like Newsbusters and "Rapture Forums" picked up the slack and accused Teen Vogue of exactly that.)
The Teen Vogue piece is part of a series on "Practical Magic" by someone calling herself "Lisa Stardust." She's an astrologer, and apparently unrelated to David Bowie, so don't look for a Spiders From Mars reunion tour. The column promises readers they can achieve big life changes through sex magic, because it is the 21st century and you may as well tell young folks they can have it all by polishing the pearl:
Did you know that orgasms can help manifest desires and bring forth dreams? In magic, orgasms are considered to be the ultimate magical force. In fact, occultists believe that orgasms can help cleanse the body, produce magical power, and are a vital tool in manifesting desires.
Or maybe it's just fun, but if you stopped there you wouldn't have much of a column, now would you? Stardust goes on to remind would-be practitioners of witchcraft they should only work magic on themselves, because magicking others is nonconsensual, so that's actually sort of nice. Conveniently, a good wank is therefore perfect for self-magic, so go ahead and get a candle, carve a sigil in it, and charge up your preferred magic bean-flicking apparatus in the moonlight. NO REALLY:
A radical approach of incorporating the lunar vibrations into your sex magic manifestation is to charge your sex toys under the moon. Chakrubs makes crystal vibrators and yoni eggs that can help heal your aura and revive your energy. [Woo book author Kristen] Sollee says "pink quartz is a great stone for conjuring self-love, amethyst for spiritual guidance, or obsidian for working through trauma."
Then you just visualize your desires, and tune "into the goal you have in mind and channel all of the electric energy of your orgasm into that visualization," and before you know it, you will either achieve your dreams or at least have a nice few minutes to yourself.
There's plenty more of this glurge, but let's move along to Emmons's critique, which keeps managing to fall short of full Satanic Panic. This is about as close to Culture War rage as Emmons manages, what with the ritual transphobia:
Teen Vogue is great at steering young girls in weird directions. From advocating prostitution as a valid career choice to providing info on how there's no such thing as boys and girls, the magazine has its branding down. And just when we thought it couldn't send its readers any further off the rails, it said hold my beer [...]
The idea that the power of the orgasm can be externalized and projected out into the universe in order to have an actual and effectual impact on real world events is absurd. That they are telling tweens (their core audience) to masturbate to get what they want is downright creepy.
Eh, we'd call it silly and a waste of time, and only harmful in the way all that Law of Attraction nonsense is: It suggests that if your life sucks, that's because you didn't belieeeeeeve deeply enough. Or maybe you shouldn't have thought of Chuck Grassley's face at a crucial moment.
And while we doubt the magic finger-painting advice will truly turn teen girls into "complete narcissists" (as if adolescents aren't already halfway there) as Emmons frets, her criticism of just how deeply dumb this all is seems on-target enough.
Lisa Stardust would cast young women as complete narcissists who believe that they can alter the physical world around them using nothing but the power of their minds. This encourages a level of self-delusion that even Teen Vogue should be ashamed of. Masturbation will not help you get an A in algebra, stop your parents from splitting up, get you the lead part in the school play, supersize your Instagram following, or keep Becky off your back [...]
Young girls often have little control over their world. From homework to parents to teen cliques and Instagram impressions, they feel like they're at the mercy of circumstance. We're all for recasting girls as major players in their own stories, but deluding them into thinking that they can obtain power through magic is a lie.
That second paragraph is actually pretty darn humane and decent, bravo.
Emmons then explains why "sex magic" is such attractive foolishness, because who wouldn't like to reshape reality just by thinking and spelinking about it, and even throws in a little anthropology from The Golden Bough for good measure. Then she wraps up with some Culture Squirmish tut-tutting:
If the magic being touted were less sexy and more like Frazer's description above, would Teen Vogue be so apt to advocate for it? One doubts it. It would be equally hard to imagine the magazine invoking the power of prayer. [...] Manifesting one's desires through drive, dedication, and not taking no for an answer is one thing, but it's repulsive to tell young women -- children, considering the target age group -- that they can masturbate themselves to success.
Ah yes, prayer and the Protestant work ethic are indeed far more likely to help you attain your dreams. Still, this column could have been so much worse -- Emmons's chief complaint is that "sex magic" is worthless, and that's a perfectly valid critique. For that matter, Emmons doesn't even seem overly freaked out by the mere existence of masturbation, which puts her well ahead of the dipshits who forced the resignation of Joycelyn Elders as Surgeon General ages ago. She wishes no one would mention it to the girls, but she doesn't seem worried they'll become feeble-minded or go blind.
Emmons certainly seems more progressive on the topic than Ross Douthat, which we'll confess is a pretty low bar:
How true, Mr. Douthat. Haven't we learned any lessons from the culture-destroying example of Joan in "88 Lines About 44 Women"? Shame on her.
We like to offer positive reinforcement to rightwingers so please, Ms. Emmons, treat yourself to a SEX COOKIE for not freaking out and saying Teen Vogue is opening the Gates of Hell or creating a generation of witches who can't stop dialing the pink phone. And we're also happy to report that despite the presence of that ridiculous woo column, Teen Vogue has no shortage of articles on science and STEM stuff, so we're not especially worried it's going to turn into the junior edition of Natural News.
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