Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Sociology


Sociology and Anthropology

Faculty Advisor(s)

Amy Orr

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology


Human trafficking, or trafficking in persons (TIP), is a crime where people profit from the exploitation of others through some form of labor (Polaris, 2015). In the U.S., the three most common forms of TIP are sex trafficking, domestic trafficking and agricultural trafficking (Human Rights Center, 2007). This study specifically focuses on the system of domestic sex trafficking and uses gender theory to explain its perpetuation. In order to explore how individuals’ gendered identities affect sex trafficking, and to explore how these identities affect the perpetuation of this crime, four survivors of sex trafficking and one law enforcement official were interviewed. Based on the interviews, it is evident that gendered identities and individuals’ gendered interactions greatly affect the internalities of sex trafficking. Gender as a multi-leveled structure that affects human behavior was evident in all narratives, which ultimately shed light on how this industry is perpetuated. Additionally, all of the participants reported having been affected by the power structures created by masculine identities in sex trafficking, which indicates that hegemonic masculinity is at play with regard to this industry. These masculine power structures fit well within the multi-leveled gender model, and they show how this model within sex trafficking is controlled by masculine identities. The narratives also provided insight into other unexpected phenomena within sex trafficking that are affected by gender, such as evidence of hegemonic masculinity within the anti-trafficking movement, and how traffickers employ capitalist ideals within this system to control women.