Teen Vogue Magazine Tells Readers ‘Sex Work Is Real Work’

Rachel S

Teen Vogue, that is, TEEN Vogue, as in short for “teenager,” as in a person aged in their “teens,” that is, 13 (thirTEEN) to 19 (nineTEEN), i.e. CHILDREN, had a thing or two to say about sex work the other day. TEEN Vogue. For TEENS. About SEX WORK.

Now, I think it’s great that today’s teens are much more politically engaged than previous generations were at that age. But there’s a reason they’re not allowed to vote until 18 (which, the older I get, the more I think seems a bit young), and that reason is that teenagers are stupid. So while it’s great that they’re thinking about these things, I definitely don’t trust them to have the maturity and experience to reach well-reasoned conclusions about highly nuanced issues, and I definitely don’t want them voting on them.

But, thanks to Teen Vogue and their article “Why Sex Work is Real Work,” we’re well beyond that.

I actually had some hopes for this piece; I think there’s valid arguments to be made about the merits of the regulation afforded to decriminalized industries and the positive impact that could have on sex workers’ safety and health, and there’s certainly a discussion to be had about whether legalizing sex work might reduce human trafficking. But, alas, neither of those hyperlinks lead to Teen Vogue, because their garbage article covered nothing of value.

Instead, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng asks questions like, “I am a doctor, an expert in sexual health, but when you think about it, aren’t I a sex worker? And in some ways, aren’t we all?”


No, Dr. Mofokeng. You’re not. We’re not. We need to stop arbitrarily changing definitions and terminology to make actually harmful things sound harmless. Abortion isn’t about “reproductive rights,” it’s about destroying a life. “Sex work” isn’t any labor that has even the most tangential relationship with intercourse, it’s the exchange of money for services relating to sex and arousal. Let’s just, let’s keep that VERY CLEAR.

Further, in all her impassioned grandstanding about supporting “women’s rights, health rights, labor rights, and the litmus test for intersectional feminism” (side note: anyone using the term “intersectional feminism” unironically is someone I do not trust), Dr. Mofokeng conveniently ignores victims of human trafficking. Not that I’m an expert on the matter, but I feel like any argument about sex work that doesn’t exhaustively address those involved against their will by use of force, violence, kidnapping, rape, abuse, imprisonment, molestation, threat of death, injury, etc. etc. etc. is not an argument that deserves even a nanosecond of attention.

But you know who has a hard time reading between those lines?

Children. I.e., this publisher’s target demographic.

To understand this article without the analytical tools afforded by life experience, sex work is a bunch of strong, empowered women following their dreams despite the interference of pesky law enforcers. But, while there are certainly some such women in the sex work industry, it does not represent all of them, and I would venture to suggest it doesn’t even represent most of them. By hiding actual victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, Teen Vogue is not only depriving those individuals of their own narrative, but they’re also putting others at risk of falling into a similar story because they were led down a dishonest path.

Teen Vogue, this is unacceptable. Fix yourself.

Here is a list of organizations and nonprofits that aim to aid victims of human trafficking worldwide.

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