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No safe harbor: Radical feminism, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the digression of sex work in the United States

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In April of 2018, the U.S. Government passed a new internet law- Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which many have argued has contributed to a surge in online censorship around sex work and supposedly, sex trafficking. While FOSTA/SESTA has been celebrated as a win for anti-trafficking activists, sex workers are already experiencing a loss of community, income, and resources, as well as an increase in violence. Using a third-wave feminist lens, this paper follows the eight-year campaign leading to FOSTA/SESTA’s inception and argues that this law is the most recent example of the U.S. Government’s conflation of sex work and sex trafficking, as well as an appropriation of radical feminist rhetoric as a means of reducing sex workers’ visibility. This paper provides an analysis of FOSTA/SESTA and argues that it is a largely flawed, regressive ‘solution’ to sex-trafficking that will only serve to push the industry even further underground, and in doing so, increases risk for those working as sex workers.
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