Date of Award

Spring 4-19-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Jennifer Johnson

Second Advisor

Kyla Bender Baird


Through the medium of American cinema, this paper explores narratives about sex workers and their perceived deviance. By using the charmed circle and modern scholarship and analysis of the rescue industry around sex trafficking, one central theme was able to be extrapolated and analyzed from the sample of films (Rubin 1984; Tzburczy 2019; Hua 2011). Gayle Rubin's charmed circle and its accompanying text outline the means through which sexuality is socially constructed and give a visual aid to understanding what sexual behavior can be excused by society and which types of sexual behavior must be condemned by society. Story-driven media is a powerful tool for studying social phenomena, as it is both reflective and generative of public opinion and interest (Becker 2007). This study uses a grounded theory approach to analyze a set of empirical data from viewing 30 popular American films that featured sex work and sex workers and systematically identify themes and subthemes that contribute to a larger central narrative about sex work. Then, this paper analyzes the cautionary tale these films tell, identifying sympathetic victims against the backdrop of "disposable" sex workers.

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