Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Kosieradzki, Jeanne P.


As one of the oldest professions, prostitution has had a continual presence in the United States. This once tolerated activity became a public affront at the turn of the twentieth century. Failed attempts at regulation and changes in societal views then advanced the criminalization of prostitution throughout the United States: it was made completely illegal in all states with the exclusion of thirteen counties in Nevada.

At the same time, awareness of sex trafficking increased and laws attempted to protect individuals who were being transported by force, deceit, and threat of force for purposes of sex slavery. While states have recognized the existence of this involuntary servitude through sex trafficking, victims often remain unnoticed. Indeed, the simple category of sex trafficking is unable to subsume all prostitution victims. Persons who enter prostitution do so for various reasons. Some were former victims of trafficking. While they no longer are under threat, these individuals continue to sell themselves. Many are involved in a relationship with a controlling pimp. Others enter due to socioeconomic circumstances and have no better option. Do prostitution and sex trafficking laws protect these victims or do new laws need to be created?

Alternative sentencing models provide prostitutes with help and resources needed to break away from a life of prostitution. Despite the emergence of this alternative approach in select states, other states fail to show signs of adopting these methods. Although a given procedure may help a victim elude prison and is a better option, victims of pressurized prostitution may still go unnoticed.

Amidst changing laws, the overlap of prostitution and sex trafficking requires consideration. This research consists of a nation-wide examination and evaluation of the laws surrounding prostitution and sex trafficking in the United States. It will show how each state is handling these victims of prostitution.








Departmental Honors Project

Included in

Legal History Commons