Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Thrash, Courtney. 2015. "A Model for Understanding Structure Versus Agency in the Participation of Minors in the Commercial Sex Market." Master's Thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Kirk Dombrowski. University of Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Courtney Thrash


In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act defined any sex worker under the age of eighteen as a victim of sex trafficking and exploitation, while requiring evidence of coercion for those eighteen and over for the same charge. This definition makes explicit a common conception concerning CSEC, namely, that their status as participants in the sex economy rests upon a lack of personal and legal agency. Research on female sex workers often focuses on their victimization, such as childhood sexual abuse and neglect. Conversely, research on male sex workers often ignores their possible victimization and instead emphasizes their drug use, sexual orientation, and HIV/AIDS status and/or risk. Where no method for measuring (relative) agency or constraint has been proposed for this population, rigorous means for comparing or evaluating differences between the agency/constraint of male versus female CSEC remains largely speculative. This analysis offers an attempt at measuring (relative) agency and constraint among a sample of underage sex workers in New York City. Findings indicate that underage male and female sex workers experience similar levels of agency and constraint. Instead, other characteristics or circumstances, such as street status and drug use, are better indicators of differences in agency and constraint.

Advisor: Kirk Dombrowski