CMN 3105: Reading #8 Nov 11th 2013
The Social Construction of Sex Trafficking: Ideology and Institutionalization of a
This article examines the crusades construction of the problem by identifying its central claims, and tracing
the instutionalization of theses claims in state policy in the United States.
Moral crusades are one of the forces responsible for transforming such conditions ino problems. These
movements define a particular condition as an unqualified evil and see their mission as a righteous
enterprise whose goals are both symbolic (attempting to redraw or bolster normative boundaries and moral
standards) and instrumental (providing relief to victims punishing evil doers)
Typically rely on horror stories an “atrocity tales” about victims.
A key feature of many moral crusades is that the imputed scale of a problem ( ex the number of victims) far
exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence.
These groups played a predominant role in some municipal campaigns to ban pornography, headed by
Attorney General Edwin Meese.
Members of these conservative religions and feminist groups hold opposing views on other social issues,
such as abortion and same sex marriage, but they largely agree on prostitution and pornography.
Another leader describes the benefits of this alliance: having faith based groups come in with a fresh
perspective and a biblical mandate has made a big difference in that abolitionist feminists would not be
getting attention internationally otherwise.
Abolitionist feminist refers to those who argue that the sex industry should be entirely eliminated because of
its objectification and oppressive treatment of women, considered to be inherent in sex for sale.
Among the groups that stand opposed to the current antiprostitution campaign are the Network of Sex
Work projects (a coalition of forty international groups), the Sex Workers Outreach Project, the Global
Alliance Against trafficking in women and the Sex Workers Project in New York.
Core claims: Moral crusades often make general grand and unverifiable claims about the nature and prevalence of a
particular social evil.
(1) an ideology that simply decrees that prostitution is immoral, a threat to marriage and the family, or
oppressive to women
(2) studies conducted by activists.
Claim 1: Prostitution is evil by definition.
Commercial sex industry is a humanrights abuse
Like pornography, they view prostitution as sexual deviance as a cause of moral decay and as a threat to
marriage because it breaks the link between sex, love and reproduction. As the founder of Evangelicals for
Social Action stated, the campaign against prostitution and sex trafficking certainly fits with an evangelical
concern for sexual integrity. Sex is to be reserved for a marriage relationship where there is a lifelong
covenant between man and a woman.
When sex becomes commerce, the moral fabric of our culture is deeply damaged.
Claim 2: violence is omnipresent in prostitution and sex trafficking. It is not simply that violent incidents
occur; instead, prostitution is a form of violence
as discussed further below, antiprostitution activists have consistently tried to erase the distinction between
coercive trafficking and voluntary migration and insist that victimization is the hallmark of all trafficking and
Thus the frequent assertion that victimization is pervasive iolates the fundamental scientific canon, namely
that generalizations cannot be based on unrepresentative examples.
From this small and skewed sample the authors draw numerous, sweeping conclusions about victimization.
Claim 3: Customers and traffickers are the personification of evil.
As in other moral crusades, the perpetrators are presented as “folk devils” Customers are labeled as sexual
predators that brutalize womena dn traffickers are vilified as predators, rapists and kidnappers involved in
organized crime and sexual slavery.