Stemming the Tide: Social Norms and Child Sex Trafficking

126 Dickinson Law Review 135 (2021)

Albany Law School Research Paper Forthcoming

58 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

Date Written: September 4, 2021


Despite decades of attempts to eradicate the industry, child sex trafficking continues to flourish. Arguably, there is debate about whether adults willingly choose sex work, yet there are no arguments supporting the notion that children make any such choice. When children are bought and sold for sexual purposes, it is child sex trafficking.

Academic legal research has focused comprehensively on the identification of child victims and the prosecution of child traffickers, yet there has not been as salient a focus on reducing the market of buyers of trafficked children. It is the reduction of demand where theories of re-norming and social norms could be applied to the issue of child sex trafficking. By vitiating the notion that buying children for sex is in any way acceptable, the demand for child trafficking will diminish.

The Nordic model has had moderate success in stemming sex buyer demand, and I borrow from it to propose further minimizing the demand for children. The Nordic model sets forth an approach by which the buyers of sex are specifically penalized, while those who are themselves purchased are not punished.

This Article is the next segment in a more comprehensive series about applying social norms theories to decrease negative behavior. Other segments have explored decreasing intimate partner violence, reforming a toxic sports culture, minimizing a rape culture, and discouraging corporal punishment against children. This Article will specifically analyze social norms as they apply to child sex trafficking.

Keywords: social norms, child sex trafficking, child exploitation, human trafficking, Nordic model, demand

JEL Classification: k

Suggested Citation

Breger, Melissa L., Stemming the Tide: Social Norms and Child Sex Trafficking (September 4, 2021). 126 Dickinson Law Review 135 (2021) , Albany Law School Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Melissa L. Breger (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-445-2311 (Phone)

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