Date on Senior Honors Thesis

5-2017

Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name

B.A.

Department

Political Science

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Sex work; prostitution; medicalization; state regulation; carceral feminism

Abstract

This thesis analyzes the ways that sex work is regulated within the United States, and analyze the ways that regulation is shaped by contemporary feminist discourse. To do so, it analyzes the ways in which sex workers have been and pathologized since the 19th century, and address the ways that these conceptualizations have been incorporated into the legal regulation of sex workers. Finally, this thesis will look to contemporary practices in the state regulation of sex workers, and argue that the relationship between neoliberalism, the carceral state, and what has come to be termed “carceral feminism” operate in conjunction to expand the regulatory capacity of the state. To ground these claims, this thesis applies critical feminist methodology to medical and psychiatric discourses, and the influence that those disciplines have had on legal conceptualizations and regulation of sex workers. This thesis concludes that carceral feminist ideology is functioning to expand the state regulation of sex workers, and that this influence is made possible by the context of neoliberal governance and the carceral state in which carceral feminist logics are operating.

Lay Summary

The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the ways that sex work is regulated within the United States, and analyze the ways that state regulation is shaped by contemporary feminist scholarship and activism. To do so, it analyzes the ways in which sex workers have been and addressed in medicine and psychiatry since the 19th century, and argues that the treatment of sex workers in these disciplines has shaped legal understandings of sex work. Finally, this thesis looks to contemporary practices in the state regulation of sex workers, and argues that the relationship between neoliberalism, the carceral state, and what has come to be termed “carceral feminism” operate in conjunction to expand the regulatory capacity of the state.