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The Movement to Criminalize Sex Work in the United States

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Until recently, prostitution was not a prominent public issue in the United States. Law and public policy were relatively settled. The past decade, however, has witnessed a growing debate over the sex trade and the growth of an organized campaign committed to expanding criminalization. A powerful moral crusade has been successful in reshaping American government policy toward sex work – enhancing penalties for existing offences and creating new crimes. Crusade organizations have advocated a strict abolitionist orientation toward all forms of commercialized sex, which are increasingly conflated with sex trafficking. This paper examines the impact of this movement on legal norms and government policies. I argue that the moral crusade, and its government allies, are responding to the growth of the sex industry in recent years and to fears of its normalization in American society.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, George Washington University, Washington DC 20052, United States of America., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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