Major Papers


sex work, policy, bipartisanship, feminist, gender equality, discourse analysis


FOSTA-SESTA is an anti-trafficking bill that was passed in April 2018. The bill which amends the Communications Decency Act redefined the discussion of anti-trafficking in the United States due to the controversy surrounding this bill. Concerns from sex workers and feminist activists highlighted that FOSTA-SESTA would endanger sex workers by eliminating the commercial sex websites they used and force them back onto the streets. Despite these critiques drawing attention to the lack of consideration for sex workers’ safety in this bill, FOSTA-SESTA received bipartisan support and passed with a vote of 97-2.

Bipartisan support for legislation is an uncommon sight in the US political sphere and this factor is worthy of consideration when looking at how this bill with so much public backlash received almost unanimous support in the House. This paper looks at the influence of religiosity and moral framing as an explanation as to why FOSTA-SESTA was met with bipartisan support. Since morality politics has played a role in influencing other gendered issues in the US, such as abortion, this study intends to illuminate how morality places a role in anti-trafficking debates in the US.

By using a feminist discourse theory analysis, findings show that moral framing was heavily used during Congressional statements and Legislative debates. The findings show the influence of religious morality on anti-trafficking debates, as well as the use of victimizing language, were a strategic political language tool that shifted the issue of sex trafficking from a gendered issue to a gender-neutral issue.

Primary Advisor

Dr. Cheryl Collier

Program Reader

Dr. Stephen Brooks

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year