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“Carceral Feminism in Sex Work, Legislative Influence, and Anti-Trafficking Discourse,” Ayami Hatanaka
The term “sex work” was coined by sex worker activist and artist Carol Leigh in response to the use of words such as “prostitute” and “sex use industry.” Leigh has also made efforts to push against the criminalization of sex workers through anti-trafficking policies and organizing. This paper takes up Leigh’s formation of sex work to understand how notions of labor, carceral feminism, and legislative discourse come together to enact policy that criminalizes sex workers, especially under the umbrella of a “strange alliance” between evangelical Christians and radical feminists. Additionally, this project attempts to trace the ways the US legal sphere is guided by carceral feminist assumptions in anti-trafficking discourse and imposes the logics of carceral feminism on marginalized populations. I tentatively propose that the framework of carceral feminism is one through which the “strange alliance” offers productive approaches to liberal change that can be differentiated from the violent structure of global capitalism.
Photograph by Ayami Hatanaka.