Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2013

Publication Title

The Journal of Feminist Scholarship


This article analyzes stories and images of sex trafficking in current mainstream US public discourses, including government publications, NGO materials, news media, and popular films. Noting the similarities and differences among these discourses, the first part demonstrates that they often frame sex trafficking using a rescue narrative that reiterates traditional beliefs and values regarding gender, sexuality, and nationality, relying heavily on patriarchal and orientalist tropes. Reflecting this rescue narrative, mainstream public policies focus on criminal justice solutions to trafficking. The second part suggests alternative frameworks that empower rather than rescue trafficked people. The article argues that the dominant criminal justice approach to trafficking—the state rescuing victims and prosecuting traffickers—will not alone end the problem of sex trafficking, but that public policies must address the structural conditions that create populations vulnerable to trafficking and empower those communities to dismantle inequalities that are the root causes of trafficking.


sex trafficking, public discourses, rescue narrative, framing, public policy, feminism




©2013 Carrie N. Baker


Archived as published.



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