Anna Szörényi & Penelope Eate (2014) Saving virgins, saving the USA: heteronormative masculinities and the securitisation of trafficking discourse in mainstream narrative film, Social Semiotics, 24:5, 608-622, DOI: 10.1080/10350330.2014.950009
Sex trafficking has become a high-profile, celebrity endorsed issue, attracting much international attention. Accompanying this has been a proliferation of films, including full-length feature films, which address the topic and have done much to influence public perception of the issue. This paper analyses two of these films which were made for the mainstream US market: Trade and Taken. Both films present a conservative and heteronormative perspective revolving around middle-aged North American law enforcement officers rescuing innocent young girls. Hence, these films participate in the general securitisation of trafficking discourse in which the US has been a leader. In spite of their ostensible concern about the exploitation of women, these films present trafficking mostly as an occasion for the redemption and rehabilitation of the beleaguered white American male, appropriating the problem of trafficking in the service of a US-led neo-imperialism bolstered by masculinism and xenophobia, and implicitly problematising women’s independence and justifying the control of their movements and sexuality.