Submission Date


Document Type



International Relations

Second Department

Modern Languages (French)


Rebecca Evans

Second Adviser

Céline Brossillon

Committee Member

Ann Karreth

Committee Member

Andrew Jones

Department Chair

Rebecca Evans

Department Chair

Matthew Mizenko

Project Description

This research examines the evolution of sex work policy in France from a regulatory regime during the nineteenth century to an abolitionist stance after World War II to the 2016 adoption of the Nordic model penalizing the purchase of sex. I investigate the ongoing debate between preservationists and abolitionists and examine the arguments raised by each side, making the case that abolitionism has adverse consequences for sex workers. I look at the nineteenth century’s regulatory regime of controlling prostitution through a chapter written in French. I then shift into an analysis of the state’s transition to abolitionism over the course of the twentieth century, highlighting the role of a coalition of religious and feminist activists who successfully united on behalf of a common goal: complete abolition of prostitution. I discuss the “law and order” policy at the beginning of the twenty-first century and examine the reasons why it was replaced by the Nordic model in 2016, arguing that this model enjoyed widespread support from the same abolitionist coalition, as opposed to the Dutch model of legalizing voluntary sex work. I conclude this research by arguing that France’s continued abolitionist approach fails to protect or help sex workers, and only by abandoning this framework can France truly claim to help sex workers.