Sensoring sex information: SASSY magazine.

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12 Aug 90
                    From the July/August Utne Reader:
             "CENSORING SEX INFORMATION: THE STORY OF SASSY"
                         by Elizabeth Larsen

"At the first editorial meeting of Sassy magazine, in 1987, the staff sat
around the editor-in-chief's office  discussing how tomake our new magazine
different from other teenage publications.  The unanimous first priority was
to provide sex education.  Since we had read the competition during our own
adolescence, we knew the sex information published by teen magazines was
scarce and usually couched in judgmental terms.". . .

[She mentions the scandalously high teen pregnancy rate in the US and the
failure of the just-say-no school, and the  article in the prototype issue,
"Sex for Absolute Beginners", which had run in Dolly, the Australian
counterpart of Sassy.]  "A few advertisers were offended by the thought of
their own teenage daughters reading the information and decided not to
advertise, while others reluctantly signed contracts, fearing that if the
magazine were a huge success, they couldn't afford to be left out.  It became
clear to me later that their concerns were business rahter than moral ones
when I realized that many of the same companies that objected to "Sex for
Absolute Beginners" (which answered such questions as "can I get pregnant?"
and "is masturbation wrong?") in Sassy nevertheless advertised without
complaint in Dolly-- the most widely read teenage magzine  in the world in
terms of circulation per capita.  For what the advertisers understood long
before the editors did is that sex may sell billions of dollars of US products
every year, but responsible, directinformation about sex directed toward US
teenagers would not.

...."the next few articles wer ran on sex were in response to ...
frantic letters asking about pregnancy, abortion, incest, suicide, and
homosexuality."

more on sex info and advertising in SASSY:
(incidentally, my 12 year old daughter has read this magazine a couple
of times, and it seemed a lot like the old SEVENTEEN... articles about
clothes, dating, boys, makeup, boys, clothes, consumer goodies, clothes and
boys).

..."the Truth about Boys' Bodies," "Getting Turned On',"And they're Gay", "My
Girlfriend Got Pregnant", and "Real Stories About Incest" were articles
written to let girls know that whatever choices they made about their
sexuality weren't shameful as long as they were responsible about safe sex,
birth control, and emotional self-care."

....(Larsen goes on to say they got a lot of approving mail from girls,
mothers, grandmothers and so on, plus some irate screaming and subscription
cancellations.)

    "What we hadn't counted on was the mass reader/advertizer boycott led by a
woman whose kids didn't even read SASSY. As a member of a group called Women
Aglow was to show us, it is possible in this country for a vocal minority to
bring about what amounts to censorship.  Through the Jerry Falwell-supported
publication Focus on the Family, Women Aglow organized a letter-writing
campaign at our major advertisers in which they threatened to boycott their
products is those companies continued to advertise in SASSY.  Within a matter
of months SASSY has lost nearly every ad account, and were publishing what we
jokingly called "The Sassy Pamphlet".  We were told that to stayin business we
must remove the"controversial" content from the magazine.  That was
reluctantly done, and today SASSY has regained its advertisers but not its
detailed information on sex education.

        Sadly , what was to a few young editors just a sobering lesson about
the power of advertising was a great loss to young women, who need the
information SASSY once provided."

Comment: Things are in a sad way when a young girl has to get her sex ed from
a commercial magazine.  What are family doctors for, if her mother can't help
her out?

Anyway.  Good evidence on the point made elsewhere about terror of women's
sexuality.  God forbid that young girls find out anything at all about it,
unless young males teach it....

   Kirsten Emmott
   Origin: PSG Vancouver (1:153/4.0)
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