Open Letter to the Biden Administration to support decriminalization from 250 international scientists

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Kamala D. Harris
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden, Vice-President Harris:

We, the undersigned international community of scientists who study sexual commerce, are calling upon the Biden administration to examine and evaluate the United States’ policies regarding sex work, sex trafficking, and the sex trade as part of your important efforts toward criminal justice reform. Given your public commitment to science-driven policy, we are hopeful that this new administration will consider the wealth of empirical data that unequivocally shows
that the criminalization of the consensual exchange of adult sexual services causes severe harms, the burden of which falls mainly on women, people of color, transgender and non-binary workers, people with disabilities, economically marginalized workers and community members, and does not prevent or minimize human trafficking. In fact, the criminalization of sex work increases risk and makes it impossible for those who experience victimization and violence to
safely come forward to seek meaningful help from law enforcement or other agencies. It also perpetuates stigma and prevents sex workers from equal access to institutions such as banking, finance, and housing. The result is systemic inequality and inequitable outcomes. Further, policies such as FOSTA/SESTA have caused deleterious transnational harms to sex workers worldwide while isolating workers and making them more vulnerable. Though enacted with good intention to address the dangers of online sex trafficking, the final version of this legislation and its subsequent enactment have made it harder to identify trafficked women and children (as the Justice Department itself predicted it would), and puts consensual adult workers at severely heightened risk. This legislation essentially forces sex workers underground and into
more risky transactions, making them more vulnerable to exploitation by pimps and other nefarious third parties and put consensual adult workers at severely heightened risk. So, while we agree that sex trafficking is a scourge, thwarting human trafficking must not come at the expense of hard-working Americans laboring in the multi-billion-dollar commercial sex industries.

We recommend that your administration:

• Follow the advice of its scientists and leading advocacy groups such as the ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Sex Worker’s Outreach Project, and the World Health Organization, and decriminalize sex work, while promoting strategic interventions to address global human trafficking in all its forms.
• We call on this new administration to create a commission comprised of leading social scientists, NGOs, grass-roots sex worker-led organizations, and sex workers to work with Congressional leaders to propose new policies that aim to protect and support survivors of trafficking and voluntary sex trade workers.
• Support and advocate for Congressional bill S.3165 SESTA/FOSTA Examination of Secondary Effects for Sex Workers Study Act sponsored by Senators Warren, Sanders, and Wyden currently in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Given that a similar House bill, H.R.5448 SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, has been buried in committee since 12/18/2019, we are calling for serious action on the Senate study bill.
• Support and work with leading scientists and sex worker-led organizations to present findings in a Congressional hearing with an expressed goal of considering the repeal of FOSTA/SESTA.
• Commit to protecting the First Amendment and free speech by opposing the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISEA), sponsored by Senators Merkley and Sasse and introduced on 12/18/2020, and Senate bill S. 3398, The EARN IT Act of 2020, proposed by Senator Graham and introduced 03/05/2020 and in judiciary committee since 07/20/2020. We have devoted our careers to the study of sex work, sexual commerce, trafficking, feminism, and law, and we are anxious to assist our nation in developing and advocating for policies that protect the rights, privacy, and autonomy of workers in the sex trade. Doing so will promote public health and harm reduction while decreasing violence and the powerful social stigma that sex workers face every day in the United States and around the world. This is a social justice and human rights issue, and we urge you to act.


Dr. Barbara G. Brents, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Angela Jones, State University of New York
Dr. Kate Hausbeck Korgan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University
And the undersigned 250 scientists in the international community of sex work researchers:
Dr. Alex J. Nelson, Appalachian State University
Dr. Patrick R. Grzanka, University of Tennessee
Prof. Hannah Wohl, University of California, Santa Barbara
Prof. Celene Fuller, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Kris Rosentel, Northwestern University
Mx. Meg Osborn, The Graduate Center, CUNY/John Jay College
Ms. Alyssa Lynne, Northwestern University
Mr. Ryan Stillwagon, The University of British Columbia
Dr. Amanda Fehlbaum, Youngstown State University
Mrs. Sheffie Robinson
Amelia Roskin-Frazee, University of California, Irvine
Dr. Elena Shih, Brown University
Gracia Dodds, University of Oregon
Mr. Jake Stone
Dr. Anthony Vega
Ken Hanson, University of Oregon
Dr. Trevor Hoppe, UNC Greensboro
Dr. Christopher Pepin-Neff, University of Sydney
Dr. Brandon Andrew Robinson, University of California, Riverside
Dr. Shelly Ronen, Haverford College
Prof. Alithia Zamantakis
Prof. Teela Sanders, University of Leicester, UK
Mx. Chelle Jones, University of Michigan
Ms. Madison Higbee, Georgia State University
Dr. Andrea D Miller
Dr. Hubert Izienicki, Purdue University Northwest
Dr. Heather Berg, Washington University St. Louis
Ms. Nya Harris, Georgia State University
Dr. Mimi Schippers, Tulane University
Dr. Caroline Heldman, Occidental College
Mr. Tyler Burgese, Temple University
Leanna Greenwood, Georgia State University
Prof. Cati Connell, Boston University
Dr. Denton Callander, Columbia University
Dr. Laurel Westbrook, Grand Valley State University
Prof. Danielle Egan, Connecticut College
Ms. Anna Russian
Ms. Nona Gronert
Dr. Elizabeth Anne Wood, State University of New York
Dr. Kelsy Burke, University of Nebraska Lincoln
Dr. Corinne Schwarz, Oklahoma State University
Dr. Georgiann Davis, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Mx. Monisha Jackson, Georgia State University
Dr. Billie Lister
Dr. Andrea D. Kelley, University of Michigan
Dr. Stacey Hannem, Wilfrid Laurier University
Dr. Francine Tremblay, Concordia University
Patricia M. Barrett, Georgia State University
Laura C. Frizzell, The Ohio State University
Dr. Renee Shelby, Northwestern University
Melanie Turner-Harper, Georgia State University
Dr. Tiantian Zheng, State University of New York
Prof. Gowri Vijayakumar, Brandeis University
Dr. Christine Milrod, Southern California Transgender Counseling
Dr. Cecilia Benoit, University of Victoria
Dr. Georgi Petrunov
Prof. Alison Bass, West Virginia University
Ms. Julie DeWolf, Osgoode Hall Law School
Mr. Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., University of Connecticut
Dr. Juline Koken, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
Prof. Greggor Mattson, Oberlin College
Mr. Kyle Shupe, University of Cincinnati
Dr. Nathan Dawthorne, University of Western Ontario
Dr. Karen Corteen
Dr. Doug Meyer, University of Virginia
Mr. Zach Leggett, University of Sunderland
Mx. Jo Krishnakumar, SOAS, University of London
Dr. Laura Connelly, University of Salford, UK
Mr. Michael Curtis, University of Georgia
Dr. Nicola Mai, University of Newcastle
Dr. Scott Cunningham, Baylor University
Samantha Thies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Prof. Svati P. Shah, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Mr. Carlos Iglesias, University of Manchester
Dr. Scarlett Redman
Dr. Max Morris, Kingston University
Dr. Lillian Taylor Jungleib, University of California, Irvine
Amanda Watson, Queen’s University
Dr. Hayli Millar, University of the Fraser Valley
Dr. Corey Shdaimah, University of Maryland School of Social Work
Dr. Andrea Krüsi, University of British Columbia
Mrs. Alka Murphy, Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity
Dr. Samantha Majic, John Jay College-CUNY
Mithila Chandra, Occidental College
Ms. Gaynor Trueman Bsc, North East Sex Work Forum/Leicester University
Ms. Gabriela Molina, UNLV Boyd School of Law
Joana Lilli Hofstetter, Scuola Normale Superiore Florence, Italy
Dr. Jerald L. Mosley, Independent Researcher
Prof. Prabha Kotiswaran, King’s College London
Ms. Jamie O’Quinn, The University of Texas at Austin
Prof. Gillian Abel, University of Otago, New Zealand
PJ Patella-Rey, University of Pittsburgh
Prof. Bernadette Barton, Morehead State University
Dr. Anastacia Elle Ryan, University of Glasgow
Mrs. Thao Nguyen, Boston University
Prof. Dmitri Shalin, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Stacey Vanderhurst, University of Kansas
Prof. Jean-Michel Chaumont, UCLouvain
Prof. Rosalind Kichler, University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Prof. Alison Phipps, University of Sussex
Dr. Amanda A. Stewart, University of Colorado, Boulder
Dr. Lynzi Armstrong, Victoria University of Wellington
Dr. Frances M. Shaver, Concordia University
Catie Storms
Mr. Chris Sagredos, King’s College London
Dr. Sharon S. Oselin, University of California, Riverside
Dr. B. Ethan M. Coston, Virginia Commonwealth University
Dr. Erin O’Brien, Queensland University of Technology
Dr. Sarah Blithe, University of Nevada, Reno
Ms. Peyton Bond, University of Otago
Ms. Ashley Green, University of South Florida
Prof. Elizabeth MacDowell, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Prof. Penny Crofts, University of Technology Sydney
Ms. Eurydice Aroney, Sex Workers Outreach Project, NSW, Australia
Athanasia Platis, Georgia State University
Dr. Alice Orchiston, University of New South Wales, Australia
Mx. Elliot Chudyk, Boston University
Ms. Marjan Wijers, University of Essex
Landon Lauder, Boston University
Mr. Marco Bacio, University of Milan, Italy
Ms. Wendy Lyon, Independent Scholar
Ms. Bettina Bouskila, Concordia and UOttawa University
Ms. Doris Murphy, University College Cork
Dr. Jyoti Puri, Simmons University
Dr. Amanda Morgan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Kate Shannon, University of British Columbia
Dr. Shira Goldenberg, Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity and Simon Fraser University
Dr. Sunny Sinha, Marywood University
Dr. Natalie Ingraham, California State University, East Bay
Dr. Aaron Loehrlein, Onesta Foundation
Dr. Paul J. Maginn, The University of Western Australia
Hallie Lieberman, Georgia Institution of Technology
Dr. Tuulia Law, York University
Dr. Alexandra Lutnick, UC Berkeley
Mr. Jacob W. Richardson, California State University, Bakersfield
Ms. Jessica Van Meir, MPhil Cambridge University
Dr. Yeela Lahav-Raz, Ben-Gurion University
Dr. Charlie Barnao, University of Catanzaro
Dr. Nicola Smith, University of Birmingham
Dr. Egle Cesnulyte, University of Bristol
Ms. Victoria Holt, University of Roehampton
Dr. Magaly Rodrà guez, KU Leuven
Ms. Eva Duncanson, University of Edinburgh
Prof. Sarah Kingston, The University of Central Lancashire
Dr. Angelika Strohmayer, Northumbria University
Dr. Belinda Brooks-Gordon, University of London
Ms. Irena Fercikova Konecna, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe
Dr. Laura Jarvis-King, University of Manchester
Prof. Mark McCormack, University of Roehampton
Dr. Ine Vanwesenbeeck
Dr. Sameena Azhar, Fordham University
Dr. Emily Cooper, University of Central Lancashire
Dr. Heidi Hoefinger, Berkeley College
Dr. Anna Di Ronco, University of Essex
Dr. Simanti Dasgupta, University of Dayton
Ms. Laura Wallace, University of Leeds
Prof. Jane Scoular, University of Strathclyde
Dr. Kate Brown, University of York
Dr. Michelle Carr, Newcastle University (UK)
Prof. Alice M.Miller, Yale University
Mrs. Isabelle Johansson, Lund University; Kristiandstad University
Prof. Chris Bruckert, University of Ottawa
Ms. Kaytlin Bailey, The Oldest Profession Podcast
Alessandra Lanti, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Mx. Zoe Fawcett Freggens, Georgia State University; Ronin Institute
Ms. Helena Berlin
Dr. Ryan Conrad, Carleton University, Ottawa
Prof. Rebecca Pates, Leipzig University
Dr. Jackie West, University of Bristol
Dr. Tamara O’Doherty, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Liz Canfield, Virginia Commonwealth University
Dr. Nadine Gloss, University of Leeds
Ms. Tayler Hackett, University Of Liverpool
Mrs. Lisette Mepschen
Dr. Wendy Chapkis, University of Southern Maine
Dr. Theresa Anasti, Oakland University
Dr. Mindy S. Bradley, University of Arkansas
Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, University of California, Santa Barbara
Dr. Emma Mishel, New York University
Dr. Jacek M. Kurczewski, Univ. of Warsaw
Dr. Yeon Jung Yu, Western Washington University
Cierra Raine Sorin, University of California, Santa Barbara
Dr. Rose Broad, University of Manchester
Dr. Isabel Crowhurst, University of Essex
Dr. Joep Rottier
Ms. Therese Bernier, University of Toronto
Dr. Cristina Khan, Stony Brook University
Dr. Crystal A. Jackson, John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York
Dr. Jennifer Musto, Wellesley College
Dr. Natalie Hammond, Manchester Metropolitan University
Ms. Ella Phillips, University of Birmingham
Mx. Sarah Steele, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dr. Alicia W. Peters, University of New England
Dr. Lauren Casey
Dr. S. L. Crawley, University of South Florida
Stephanie Kaylor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Prof. Anna Wlad, UCSB
Erica MacDonald, University of Connecticut
Mx. Heath Pennington, UC Santa Barbara
Dr. PG Macioti, Kingston University
Dr. Niina Vuolajarvu, The New School of Social Research
Dr. Maren Scull, University of Colorado Denver
Prof. Denise Brennan, Georgetown University
Mary Underwood, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Feona Attwood, Editor, Sexualities and Porn Studies Journal
Dr. Rosie Campbell, University of York
Dr. Cesare Di Feliciantonio, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr. Bronwyn McBride, Simon Fraser University
Ms. Emily J. O’Brien, University of California Santa Barbara
Ms. Jennie Pearson, Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity
Dr. Mary Robertson, Seattle University
Dr. Jenny Heineman, University of Nebraska, Omaha
Dr. Jennifer Whitmer, California State University, Stanislaus
Dr. Zoey Jones, Carleton University
Dr. Diya Bose, William & Mary
Dr. Martin Zebracki, University of Leeds
Ms. Meg D. Lonergan, Carleton University
Mx. Chris Wakefield, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Victor Minichiello, Queensland University of Technology
Dr. Jill McCracken, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Prof. Ann McGinley, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Prof. Greg Prieto, University of San Diego
Ms. Emily M Driscoll, UNLV Boyd School of Law
Ms. Dianna Sauceda-Chirinos, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law
Dr. Elena Zambelli, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Dr. Mary Laing, Northumbria University (UK)
Dr. Ummni Khan, Carleton University
Dr. Alyson K. Spurgas, Trinity College
Mx. Anthony James Williams, UCLA
Prof. Mikael Jansson, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research
Kathryn Ariella Pataki, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Tinashe Dune, Western Sydney University
Giovanna Gilges, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Dr. Sharon E Preves, Hamline University
Dr. Mira Fey, Haute école de travail social, Geneva
Dr. Emma McKenna, University of Ottawa
Dr. Kari Lerum, University of Washington Bothell
Prof. Basil Donovan, Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney
Prof. Maggie O’Neill, University College Cork
Dr. Mathilde Darley, CNRS, France
Ms. Nina Olney, Urban Sexuality Lab, Drexel University
Dr. Zahra Stardust, Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society Harvard University
Mr. Micah Greenleaf, Germantown Academy
Ms. Mariah Menanno, Drexel University
Prof. Olav Velthuis, University of Amsterdam
Emilija Jokubauskaite, University of Amsterdam
Ms. jessennya hernandez, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Hanne Stegeman, University of Amsterdam
Ms. Sophie Pezzutto, Australian National University
Haley Roeser, University of California, Los Angeles