Market’s morality: Teen Vogue promotes “real work” – sex work – for young girls

A Journal of People commentary

Teen Vogue has recently been blasted for “promoting sex work” as “real work” to young girls/

Teen Vogue published in April an article that advertised sex work as “real work” to its audience, which is made up mostly of girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

The magazine has to face backlash for “promoting prostitution” after publishing the article.

The article – “Why Sex Work Is Real Work” – got attention and criticism after the magazine decided to promote it on Twitter in mid-June.

In the article, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng argues for the decriminalization of sex work across the world.

Dr Mofokeng cites global efforts to ensure better labor rights for the women involved.

She argued, the continued criminalization of sex work is “a form of violence by governments and contributes to the high level of stigma and discrimination” around prostitution.

Major part the article come across more as an advertisement for sex work as a potential career path than a simple argument for decriminalization.

The article says little about the dire circumstances, which often lead young girls into that world.

Dr. Mofokeng tells teen readers that people often “misunderstand” what sex work actually is, writing that “sex-worker services” can include “companionship, intimacy, nonsexual role playing, dancing, escorting and stripping.”

She suggests that relationships that started as sexual could “evolve” into “emotional and psychological bonding.”

The article says, the idea of “purchasing intimacy” can be affirming for people in need of “human connection, friendship and emotional support.”

It seems that the article tries to promote prostitution as a form of caring profession.

Dr. Mofokeng compares her work as a medical doctor offering advice and treatment for sex-related problems to sex work.

She argues she is not criminalized for her work, so “sex workers” should not be either.

She writes: “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?”

Teen Vogue’s tweet with the caption “Yes, sex work is real work!” received instant backlash, with many accusing the magazine of promoting prostitution to vulnerable minors.


@FBI@CIA This company is promoting prostitution as a real job to minors…

𝒫𝓇𝒾𝓃𝒸𝑒𝓈𝓈 𝒥𝓊𝓃𝑒 🍓🐇 (@PrincessJune) June 17, 2019


One user pointed out that girls are often forced into prostitution by human trafficking gangs and not all “sex workers” are campaigning to have the so-called “work” they are forced into be made legal – a side to the story never explored by Dr. Mofokeng.

Responding to the article in May, former prostitute Dana Levy argued that support for full decriminalization, which would turn the sex industry into a “legitimate financial business” is “not shared by most people in prostitution.”

Levy argued that adolescent girls from dysfunctional and poor backgrounds could become confused when they see the sex industry lobby presenting prostitution as a “social mobility tool” and succumb to the myth of “easy money.”

Yet, Teen Vogue was obviously unmoved by the stories of rape, drug abuse, lack of control, PTSD and ruined lives that emerged after it published the story – and decided to keep promoting the article anyway.

It is not the first time Teen Vogue has courted controversy with articles arguably inappropriate for the age-range of its target audience.

In 2017, Teen Vogue published a “guide to anal sex,” which it said could be “awesome” and encouraged readers to “give it a go.”

Earlier in June, Teen Vogue was also criticized for advising minors on how they could obtain abortions without their parents’ knowledge.

The article carries a value, which is not of all human being. It looks at its market, and the market of trading with young girls. It fails to question: Why young girls have to earn money instead of getting opportunity to develop their talent, creativity, get prepared to work as a human being to work for human society. The article fails to tell that all young girls should have equal opportunity to develop themselves in an environment where there is no compulsion of any form to earn money at young age. They should have the opportunity to study and nourish their talent and creativity, they should have enough time to play, join sports and games, carry cultural activities, social work, establish ties of friendship into broader society, learn from the experienced, offer care to the old population; and all these not in exchange of money. The article and Teen Vogue have actually marketed a value system, which is favorable to market. The article and the magazine have considered all as labor for sale. To them, giving care and affection is also a product. It is a particular value, which originates within capital for exploitation.

Marketing the value is not new.

A Cambridge professor’s finding: Women have right to sell their bodies

In 2017, Cambridge economist Victoria Bateman argued: Prostitution should be as respected as being in the armed forces because women have the exact same right to make money from their bodies.

Bateman, Director of studies at the Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, argued in an article for the Times Higher Education magazine: Society values men in jobs where they risk injury or violence, but not women in the same position.

“For society to be inconsistent is one thing. For supposedly rational economists to be likewise is another,” Bateman wrote.

“As a profession, we economists need to be standing up to irrational societal norms. The inconsistent treatment of a largely female profession compared with largely male professions is nothing other than sexism under the cover of ‘well-meaning’ paternalism.

“Those engaging in consensual sex work need to be helped to benefit from markets that work with them rather than against them.”

She added, denying women the right to prostitution is simply, even if well-meant, sexism.

“The neglect of the sex trade is an eloquent symbol of fact that women are underrepresented among economists. But it cannot go on. However dismal your view of prostitution, there is no question that this oldest of trades is ripe for study by the dismal science,” Bateman said.

“The usual justification is that the sale of sex is ‘immoral’ and preys on the most vulnerable in society. However, there is a logical inconsistency with the way that we think about consensual prostitution compared with the male-dominated spheres of soldiering and boxing.”

Bateman also said that society seems to be fine with women “pimping their brains” but that women who make money out of having a desirable body and erotic talents are shamed.

The economist fails to suggest that all women should have equal opportunity where they can work with their intellect, where they have freedom from labor hurting their mind and body. The economist failed to suggest measure that does not compel women to work as beast. Even in today’s world, all beasts are treated with care so that beasts are not harmed, as people are getting aware of ecology, flora and fauna. The economist failed to question: Why many women are treated as beasts, as lower than bests. The economist failed to question: Why women have to market their body. The economist failed to question limitation of employment market: Why market fails to employ all with dignified and safe work.

The economist was marketing a value system that does not question market, does not take into consideration human aspect, and considers everything for sale. It is shameful that today, at this part of modern age, these values are being marketed.

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