4 ways to address sex work with your teens

Responding to Teen Vogue’s op-ed

July 18, 2019

This past Spring, Teen Vogue published an article titled “Why Sex Work is Real Work.” This op-ed piece, authored by Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, outlines an argument for why sex work should be normalized and legal. It is not surprising that an article like this has made it to our mainstream media. However, it is both shocking and appalling that this type of content was marketed toward minors. 

Christians have long argued that marriage is the best environment for the God-given gift of sexuality and oppose the commodification of bodies. The exploitation of women in the adult entertainment industry is an assault on human dignity. But to target this toward children is a new low, even for a secular society. 

We must stand firm in protecting our children and loudly proclaim that our children’s bodies are not for sale. The Teen Vogue article might not have been asking for the legalization of sex work for children, but it was marketing the idea without mentioning the risks or the research that shows how harmful it is to both individuals and societies. It neglected to mention that sex work is directly linked to human trafficking and the exploitation of the most vulnerable in our society, or that it is considered one of the riskiest occupations in the world. Selling the idea to minors that sex work is a viable option is not just absurd—it’s a way of grooming our children for future harm and abuse. 

And when a medium like Teen Vogue decides to groom our children, we protect our kids. We protect them, not by sticking our heads in the sand, but by talking about these issues with in age-appropriate fashions and equipping our kids with ways to engage brokenness in our culture. 

Here are three ways to address this issue as a family: 

1. Respond with care    

It’s natural to respond angrily when we see headlines about legalizing sex work. Rather than engaging in an online yelling match or shifting blame to the sex workers, though, we must respond with care. It’s important to remember that these sex workers are image-bearers of God who reflect his goodness and glory merely by being human. These are people with unique life stories, joys, and heartaches. And all of them have experienced the trauma of being used as a commodity. The glamour that Teen Vogue tried to sell is far from the difficult and dark realities that sex workers face. So we should talk about prostitutes with deep compassion, because we ought to love them as Christ loves them, and our hearts should break for their present realities.  

We should also respond with care because we, the Church, are called to be Christ’s ambassadors to a broken world. We should be running toward the darkness, carrying the light, rather than running from it. We ought to reach out appropriately to sex workers because we know the path they’re on leads to death and destruction and that the way of Christ leads to life, and life abundantly. We shouldn’t just posture our hearts toward them with compassion; we should posture our presence and resources toward them as well.   

2. Teach our children about God’s good design for sex

Sex isn’t a topic we should avoid; it’s one that we should full-heartedly discuss in our families, our churches, and communities for several reasons. First of all, it was created by God. And second, the good news of Jesus has come to make all things new—even sex. 

Scripture tell us that sex was created for the context of a safe and loving marriage. We know that sex is powerful, important, and was designed for our good and the glory of God. We also recognize that we are living in a post-Genesis 3 world where sin and brokenness prevail. What God designed for good can now be used for evil, and prostitution and the objectification of sex workers is a prime example. 

So we should teach our children about honoring their bodies, others’ bodies, and sex.* Because if we don’t, Teen Vogue will.  

3. Provide community for the lonely

According to the US News and World Report, three out of four Americans struggle with loneliness. The reality is that there are many people longing for intimacy and connection, and although not every lonely person will turn to prostitution or pornography to fill those needs, some will. One article said it this way, “The idea of purchasing intimacy and paying for the services can be affirming for many people who need human connection, friendship, and emotional support.” 

Community isn’t a quick fix to ending prostitution. However, the church has the unique opportunity to speak hope into issues like loneliness, pornography addiction, and even prostitution. More than that, we have the opportunity to “set the lonely in families” (Psa. 68:5-6). This isn’t just for the single person in our churches, but also for the struggling marriages, the at-risk women and children who could be taken advantage of, and the families and community members outside the walls of our churches. 

So we should open our doors, pull up another seat around our tables, and welcome people into the daily routines of our lives, because the good news of Jesus compels us to offer a true and better connection: Christian community. 

4. Advocate for laws that protect the vulnerable 

One article brings to light the urgency of protecting the vulnerable when it states, “Prostitution is one of the most dangerous professions in the country; worse than Alaskan fisherman, or loggers, or oil rig workers.” Not only that, but our government issued a directive in the early 2000s that pronounced that “prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanizing, and fuels trafficking in persons, a form of modern-day slavery.” These statements align with research in other developing countries. Sweden and France are great examples of a countries that have taken a strong stance against prostitution because they recognize the link between global prostitution and human trafficking. Their laws target the buyers and abusers, rather than the prostitutes who they recognize as victims. 

As Christians, we ought to advocate for laws that protect the vulnerable—laws that care for, prevent, and provide assistance out of this lifestyle. We should do this because we are called to be a people of compassion and action, like our Savior. 

Walter Brueggemann says it this way in The Prophetic Imagination, “Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural, but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.” As we see the hurt of the sex worker, we should boldly and tirelessly fight for laws that proclaim that this is an unacceptable condition for anyone. 

In the meantime, we should let Teen Vogue and our U.S. government know that we will never be okay with legalizing the harm of those who are already marginalized. And as for our children? Well, I never thought I’d have to say this, but for the record, their bodies aren’t and never will be for sale. 

*For resources on talking to young children about bodies, pornography, and sex, check out this article at The Gospel Coalition

Brittany Salmon

Brittany Salmon is a professor, writer, and Bible teacher. She is the author of the book It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Cross-Cultural Adoption releasing in April, 2022. She has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Teaching from NC State … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24