Crack-Whores and Pretty Woman: The Media Framing of Sex Workers

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International human rights organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and Amnesty International have advised nations to decriminalize sex work in order to protect the rights and safety of sex workers (“Sex Workers,” 2018; “Sex Workers,” 2014; “Q&A: Policy to Protect the Human Rights of Sex Workers,” 2016). However, policy-makers in the US ignore these recommendations in favor of the full criminalization of sex work (Weitzer, 2010). Media largely influence public perception and policing of sex work, and media framings of sex workers align more with the current policies on sex work in the US than the research conducted and the proposals made by accredited human rights organizations (Nelson, 1997). This study examines newspapers published in California and Texas between 2002 and 2018 to uncover how media frame sex workers. The dominant frames in this dataset, the criminal frame and the victim frame, perpetuate and are reinforced by the US’ stringent sex work policies. The same moral convictions which influenced the criminalization of sex work in the US underlay the dominant frames in the dataset.





Wang, Victoria (2018). Crack-Whores and Pretty Woman: The Media Framing of Sex Workers. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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