Article  Marriage and Family  Parenting  Sexuality

4 ways to address sex work with your teens

Responding to Teen Vogue’s op-ed

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

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