Upholding Racist Heteronormativity: The Anti-Blackness of Prostitution Neo-Abolitionism in the United States


  • Crystal Jackson




This article will address the present-day racist implications of anti-prostitution “modern day slavery” efforts, referred to in the literature as prostitution neo-abolitionism, specific to the United States. An intersectional feminist triangulation of U.S. sex worker rights ideology, prostitution neo-abolitionism, and racial justice abolitionism reveals how race and gender are coded implicitly and explicitly in U.S. socio-legal efforts. In the U.S., “abolitionism” is commonly understood as a racial justice movement that includes demands to abolish policing and the prison industrial complex (PIC). This ideological triangulation illuminates how prostitution neo-abolitionism in the U.S. uniquely co-opts historical anti-slavery movement language—a movement that was inherently anti-racist— to push for increased legal punishments and increased policing. This is in direct opposition to PIC abolitionists who have identified the system of mass incarceration as “the New Jim Crow” in the United States (Alexander, 2012), and who challenge racial profiling and continued police brutality against Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian people, particularly those who are transgender and gender non-conforming, and those who are (profiled as) immigrants and sex workers.