Added: November 7, 2015 – Last updated: June 4, 2016


Author: Jessica R. Pliley

Title: Policing Sexuality

Subtitle: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI

Place: Cambridge, MA, and London

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Year: 2014

Pages: 293pp.

ISBN-13: 9780674368118 (paper) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: U.S. History | Prosecution: Laws / White-Slave Traffic Act; Prosecution: Police; Types: Forced Prostitution, Sex Trafficking



Amazon (Limited Preview)

EBSCOhost (Restricted Access)

Google Books (Limited Preview)

JSTOR (Restricted Access)


Author: Jessica Pliley, Department of History, Texas State UniversityAuthor's Personal Website,


  Introduction. The Mann Act and Federal Sexual Surveillance (p. 1)
  1 The American Myth of White Slavery (p. 9)
  2 A National White Slavery Squad (p. 32)
  3 Endangered Daughters (p. 60)
  4 Creating a Moral Quarantine (p. 84)
  5 Defining Immoral Purposes (p. 106)
  6 Policing Seduction and Adultery (p. 131)
  7 Coerced Sex and Forced Prostitution (p. 159)
  8 The FBI's Assault on Sex Trafficking (p. 183)
  Conclusion. Can the Country's Moral Borders Be Policed? (p. 207)
  Note on Sources (p. 219)
  Notes (p. 221)
  Acknowledgments (p. 277)
  Index (p. 281)


»America’s first anti–sex trafficking law, the 1910 Mann Act, made it illegal to transport women over state lines for prostitution “or any other immoral purpose.” It was meant to protect women and girls from being seduced or sold into sexual slavery. But, as Jessica Pliley illustrates, its enforcement resulted more often in the policing of women’s sexual behavior, reflecting conservative attitudes toward women’s roles at home and their movements in public. By citing its mandate to halt illicit sexuality, the fledgling Bureau of Investigation gained entry not only into brothels but also into private bedrooms and justified its own expansion.
Policing Sexuality links the crusade against sex trafficking to the rapid growth of the Bureau from a few dozen agents at the time of the Mann Act into a formidable law enforcement organization that cooperated with state and municipal authorities across the nation. In pursuit of offenders, the Bureau often intervened in domestic squabbles on behalf of men intent on monitoring their wives and daughters. Working prostitutes were imprisoned at dramatically increased rates, while their male clients were seldom prosecuted.
In upholding the Mann Act, the FBI reinforced sexually conservative views of the chaste woman and the respectable husband and father. It built its national power and prestige by expanding its legal authority to police Americans’ sexuality and by marginalizing the very women it was charged to protect.« (Source: Harvard University Press)


Adler, Jeffrey S. Journal of Social History: Societies & Cultures (December 10, 2015). – Full Text: Oxford University Press (Restricted Access)

Battisti, Danielle. Journal of the History of Sexuality 25(1) (January 2016): 196-198. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Charles, Douglas M. The Journal of American History 102(2) (September 2015): 583-584. – Full Text: Oxford University Press (Restricted Access)

Hunter, Ronald D. Criminal Justice Review 41(1) (March 2016): 116-117. – Full Text: SAGE Journals (Restricted Access)

Johnson, Marilynn S. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 46(4) (Spring 2016): 611-612. – Full Text: MIT Press (Restricted Access)

Keire, Mara L. The American Historical Review 121(1) (February 2016): 255-256. – Full Text: Oxford University Press (Restricted Access)

Potter, Claire B. The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 9(1) (Winter 2016): 172-174. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Satter, Beryl. Canadian Journal of History - Annales canadiennes d'histoire 51(1) (Spring 2016): 183-185. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access), University of Toronto Press (Restricted Access)

Shapiro, Shelby. American Studies 54(2) (2015): 127-128. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Sharifi, Nafiseh. LSE Review of Books (April 16, 2015). – Full Text: LSE Review of Books (Free Access)

Sorrell, E. Ashley. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 113(4) (Autumn 2015): 768-771. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Weiss, Hennie. Metapsychology Online Reviews (January 13, 2015). – Full Text: Metapsychology Online Reviews (Free Access)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States | Law: Laws regarding of rape / Mann Act | Police: Federal Bureau of Investigation | Prostitution: Forced prostitution, Sexual slavery / White slavery