In-person consensual sex work, or prostitution, is criminalized and stigmatized throughout much of the United States and the world. Sex workers, pro-sex work advocacy organizations, and researchers have suggested that decriminalization of in-person consensual sex work has significant public health and economic benefits for sex workers and society more broadly. This paper addresses the issue of sex work legislation, with a primary focus on the United States and the state of Illinois. First, an overview of sex work, individuals involved with sex work, and differences between and conflations with human trafficking are discussed. The paper then focuses on five common forms of sex work legislation (partial criminalization, full criminalization, Swedish/Nordic model, legalization, decriminalization) and examples of each across various countries, followed by an overview of relevant United States federal and Illinois state legislation. Data from existing national polls from the 1970s to 2020 were also examined to explore public attitudes regarding sex work legislation. Finally, public health implications, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and recommendations for future research and policy are discussed. This research provides a foundation for a better understanding of the implications of sex work legislation and suggests that decriminalization of sex work may provide significant health and economic benefits to sex workers and the general public alike in Illinois and the rest of the United States.
Goldbach, Chloe. "The (De)Criminalization of Consensual Sex Work: Implications for Illinois and the United States." (Summer 2022).