While it feels uncharitable to criticize them for bringing attention to abused women, magazines like Marie Claire (and Glamour, which used to publish Mariane Pearl's sex slavery pieces) do seem to look to sex trafficking as the way to inject some Seriousness in between all the makeup tips and dress-for-your-shape ideas. Like stories about breast cancer or other diseases, they seem designed to give the magazine a certain kind of cred — but unlike disease stories, they're often played for shock rather than pathos. In Marie Claire, Abigail Pesta's "Diary of an Escaped Sex Slave" doesn't stint on descriptions of torture — pimps gouge young sex slaves' eyes out, cover them with insects, and shove hot chilies into their vaginas. There's an argument to be made for showing us all that — disgust can turn to outrage can turn to action — but what about a totally extraneous scene in which Pesta's car runs over a puppy on a Cambodian road? Sometimes the piece seems less about stirring up rage against sex slavery, and more about offering a prefab image of Death and Destruction in a Foreign Land.
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