Tag Archives: Stigma and Discrimination

Dina Francesca Haynes, The Celebritization of Human Trafficking, in: The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol 653, Issue 1, pp. 25 – 45.


Human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, is not only susceptible to alluring and sensational narratives, it also plays into the celebrity-as-rescuer ideal that receives considerable attention from the media, the public, and policy-makers. While some celebrities develop enough expertise to speak with authority on the topic, many others are neither knowledgeable nor accurate in their efforts to champion antitrafficking causes. Prominent policy-makers allow celebrity activists to influence their opinions and even consult with them for advice regarding public policies. Emblematic of larger, fundamental problems with the dominant discourse, funding allocations, and legislation in current antitrafficking initiatives in the United States and elsewhere, celebrity activism is not significantly advancing the eradication of human trafficking and may even be doing harm by diverting attention from aspects of the problem and solution that sorely require attention.

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Stigma is ubiquitous in sex work and is well documented in studies of sex workers. But rarely have scholars examined the vital question of whether, and if so how, stigma can be reduced or eliminated from any type of sex work (commercial stripping, pornography, prostitution, etc.). After a brief review of the issues related to stigma, this Commentary proposes a set of preconditions for the reduction and, ultimately, elimination of stigma from sex work.

Minichiello, Victor, John Scott, and Cameron Cox. “Commentary: Reversing the Agenda of Sex Work Stigmatization and Criminalization: Signs of a Progressive Society.” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684510. doi:10.1177/1363460716684510.
Chapkis, Wendy. “Commentary: Response to Weitzer ‘Resistance to Sex Work Stigma.’” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684511. doi:10.1177/1363460716684511.
Phoenix, Jo. “A Commentary: Response to Weitzer ‘Resistance to Sex Work Stigma.’” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684512. doi:10.1177/1363460716684512.
Weitzer, Ronald. “Additional Reflections on Sex Work Stigma.” Sexualities, January 18, 2017, 1363460716684513. doi:10.1177/1363460716684513.


Across occupations, people contend with the difficult task of managing time between their work and other aspects of life. Previous research on stigmatized industries has suggested that so-called ‘dirty workers’ experience extreme identity segmentation between these two realms because they tend to cope with their occupational stigma by placing distance between their work and personal lives. Through a qualitative study of Nevada’s legal brothel industry, this article focuses on the prevalence of boundary segmentation as a dominant work–life management practice for dirty workers. Our analysis suggests that work–life boundaries are disciplined by legal mythologies and ambiguities surrounding worker restrictions, occupational ideologies of ‘work now, life later,’ and perceived and experienced effects of community-based stigma. These legal, occupational and community constructs ultimately privilege organizations’ and external communities’ interests, while individual dirty workers carry the weight of stigma.

Research conducted at the New York State Reformatory for Women at Bedford under the direction of founding superintendent Katharine Bement Davis produced some of the most influential data on prostitution in the Progressive Era. While Davis and Bedford have figured prominently in histories of the women’s prison reform movement, historical studies of the social response to prostitution in the Progressive Era, and feminist biographical accounts of women in early twentieth century reform crusades, the relationship between penal reform and the changing social organization of labor has been overlooked. This paper undertakes a critical reexamination of the Bedford data, demonstrating that while Davis advocated a social scientific approach to reform, she systematically displaced the significance of structural factors at two crucial levels: her studies of inmates and her own philosophy and practice of reform. Studies of inmates discounted the role of economic factors for women’s entry into prostitution in favor of explanations that emphasized familial and personal weakness. The institutionalization, training, and parole of inmates functioned not simply to place inmates in domestic service but to effectively disqualify them from other sources of respectable employment. Viewed through the lens of a social organization of labor perspective, a previously neglected dimension of the logic and practice of reform is illuminated.
Sex workers report high rates of unintended pregnancy that are inconsistent with widespread reports of condom use. Greater understanding of the implications of an unintended pregnancy and barriers to contraceptive use is needed to better meet the broader sexual and reproductive health needs of this population. We conducted in-depth interviews with 20 women sex workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Findings reveal that most women are trying to conform to societal norms and protect their reputations. They fear pregnancy would reveal that they are having unsanctioned sex and that they are sex workers. This could lead to ostracism from families and society, resulting in homelessness and abandonment by partners. Pregnancy may affect a sex worker’s ability to work and leave her unable to meet financial obligations. All study participants were using condoms but most acknowledged they could not use them consistently. They had all tried other contraceptive methods, notably injectables and the pill, but some noted experience of side-effects, difficulties in adherence and the desire to use other methods. Understanding the context of sex workers’ lives is an important step in informing stakeholders about the range of services needed to improve their sexual and reproductive health.

Debates over the legitimacy and legality of prostitution have characterized human trafficking discourse for the last two decades. This article identifies the extent to which competing perspectives concerning the legitimacy of prostitution have influenced anti-trafficking policy in Australia and the United States and argues that each nation-state’s approach to domestic sex work has influenced trafficking legislation. The legal status of prostitution in each country and feminist influences on prostitution law reform have had a significant impact on the nature of the legislation adopted.


This article examines the development, framing, and implementation of Proposition 35, the ‘Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.’ The 2012 ballot initiative, described variously as a measure against human slavery, human trafficking, and sex trafficking secured more votes than any other initiative or candidate in a single statewide election in California history. We argue that the measure exemplifies a disjuncture in the articulation of feminist politics against sexual violence, labor exploitation, and criticisms of the carceral state. The rise of the sex trafficker as a ‘spectral’ subject of contemporary political discourse shapes a broader ideological framework that permits a distinct set of political actors and interests to widen their institutional and political authority and to marginalize competing claims about the roots of sexual violence and labor exploitation. Proposition 35, which targets a ‘spectral’ figure abstracted from institutional context and relations of power, expands the carceral state in the name of protecting vulnerable women while also excluding long-standing feminist solutions to sex and gender-based violence.