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The Movement to Criminalize Sex Work in the United States

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Abstract:

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.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2010.00495.x

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, George Washington University, Washington DC 20052, United States of America., Email: weitzer@gwu.edu

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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