Teen Vogue touts its publication as “the young person’s guide to conquering (and saving) the world.” I don’t know how many of their 3.3 million followers are actually teenagers, but teens are the audience they claim to be for.
Before I say more, let me be clear about some things I’m for. I’m for compassion. I’m for understanding. I’m for healthy debate and dialogue. I’m for showing love to all people, on all sides of the walls that are being built between us these days, even when we disagree.
I am for people.
But loving and being for people does not mean loving or being for their ideology. And as the father of a 13-year-old girl, when Teen Vogue moves from popping pimples to pushing pimps, I need to raise my hand and say, “Um, yeah. I’m not for this.”
Teen Vogue recently published “Why Sex Work Is Real Work.” Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng bookends her thoughts with two ideas. First, she claims that it’s “not right or just that people who exchange sexual services for money are criminalized, and I am not [criminalized] for what I do.”
Citing her work as a doctor, she writes that helping people with their sexual issues is no different than other sexual services. She ends the article by saying, “Evidence, not morality, should guide law reforms and sex work policy for full sex work decriminalization.”
Although I don’t agree with her, I’m not against Dr. Tlaleng for writing this piece. I’m for free speech, which I obviously value even as I write this now.
Sad but true
Vogue could have published this piece in any of their 23 editions. But they intentionally published it to their teenage audience. An audience that likely includes minors who have been, or have the potential to be, harmed and abused physically, psychologically, and emotionally by the sex trade in its many forms.
Here are some statistics to ponder.
- 600,000 to 800,000 women, children, and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex, says a source from the U.S. Government.
- Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.
- 50% of those victims are estimated to be children.
- It is estimated that 76% of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the internet.
Vogue is seeking to normalize sex work to the very demographic targeted by predators.
I can imagine the insecure 13-year-old, being groomed by a sexual predator in person or online. And here’s a source she has grown to trust. Making it feel fashionable, telling her it’s normal to exchange her body for pay.
This propaganda rips her from understanding her value. It robs her of the healthy expectation that she, along with others, should respect her body.
Our social responsibility
I don’t expect Vogue to share my values. But I do expect them to be socially responsible to the audience they claim to be suited for. It’s not uncommon for them to paint sex as whimsical, dismissing the pain and consequences that accompany casual sexual experiences.
Sarah and I educated our kids about sex at a far younger age than I was comfortable with. But with publications like Teen Vogue disguising themselves as youth friendly, we have to take responsibility for our children’s sexual education. And get with the times.
Be candid, be open, teach your kids about sex in the beautiful context in which it was created, before someone else can be so irresponsible with such an important issue.
Use your voice. Don’t shy away from telling Vogue that you’re not okay with them marketing their brand to youth, while pushing explicit and extreme sexual content.
When you see something irresponsible, stop being afraid to say something. There are real people behind these publications, so speak the truth in love. Be respectful and exercise thoughtfulness, but don’t be afraid to hold them accountable.
Copyright © 2019 Matt Hammitt. All rights reserved.
Matt Hammitt is Grammy nominated musical artist, speaker, and author. His book Lead Me: Finding Courage to Fight for Your Marriage, Children and Faith, releases February 2020. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @matthammitt. And online at Matthammitt.com.