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Movement to Criminalize Sex Work in the United States

NCJ Number
Journal of Law and Society Volume: 37 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2010 Pages: 61-84
Ronald Weitzer
Date Published
March 2010
24 pages
This article examines the moral movement to criminalize the sex trade in the United States and its impact on legal norms and government policies.
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. It argues that the moral crusade, and its government allies, is responding to the growth of the sex industry in recent years and to fears of its normalization in American society. (Published Abstract)


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