Article Title

Working Sex Words


Imagine yourself tasked to speak for a few minutes about legal controls on sex-selling in the United States, or any other country you choose. You need not have thought about the particulars. As someone willing to read a law review article, you have enough to say because sex-selling overlaps with the subject knowledge you already have. Criminal law, contracts, employment law, immigration law, tort law, zoning, commercial law, and intellectual property, among other legal categories, all intersect with this topic. In your brief remarks on how law attempts to mediate the sale and purchase of sex, you have only one modest constraint: Omit a short list of nouns. Describe paid-for sex as a regulated activity without using the words “prostitute” (including “prostitution”), “sex work” (or “sex worker”), “legalization,” “decriminalization,” “john,” “pimp,” “madam,” “trafficking,” and “Nordic model” or “Swedish model.” The premise of the exercise may be familiar from a game marketed under two names, Taboo and Catchphrase. When competing, a member of a team is told a word or phrase and then has to convey its meaning to teammates from whom the word has been hidden. Rules constrain players: The clue-giver is allowed to make any physical gesture and give almost any verbal clue to get his/her team to say the word. But you may NOT:
• Say a word that RHYMES with the word.
• Give the FIRST LETTER of the word.
• Say A PART OF THE WORD in the clue (i.e., shoe for shoe horn).
But why, you may reasonably wonder, would anyone discuss an issue in American legal regulation by copying a game that demands dodging? Evasion is anathema to regulation, an endeavor that references an activity and then tries to give intelligible guidance about what participants in the regulated sector must, must not, and may do. Playing Taboo/Catchphrase about the law of sex-selling and -buying seems unproductive, to say the least.