Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date



This paper examines “Dear John”, a public information campaign that ran from 2006–2008 in Atlanta, GA, to ask what narrative it conveys about commercial sex and those who engage in it, in order to understand the gendered (and other) discursive constructions it produces, reflects, and complicates about these activities and subjects. Drawing from both policy and sex work/trafficking scholarship, this paper argues that Dear John used symbolic images and direct and consequential text to convey a “male demand” narrative, which holds that men’s demand for sexual services harms girls and young women and will not be tolerated. Yet, in so doing, Dear John also reinforced particularly gendered characterizations of individuals who trade sex, while de-emphasizing other factors that increase young peoples’ vulnerabilities to and within sex work. The paper concludes by discussing Dear John’s outcomes and significance for scholars concerned with sex work, policy, and social change.


This article was originally published in Social Sciences, available at doi:10.3390/socsci6040138

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.