Objectification of Trafficked Women and the General Public: An Ontological Humanization?

  • Laura Dryjanska Biola University
Keywords: objectification of women, dehumanization, social representation, human trafficking


This paper focuses on how objectification of women in prostitution in the context
of the discussion of human trafficking with the general public can be counteracted
by ontological humanization. Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual
exploitation is based on dehumanization that stems from objectification. A subtle
form of dehumanization may occur during the process of representing a person in
prostitution, not only by pimps and clients, but also by the general public. It
constitutes a hot topic in the public sphere, as demonstrated by the recent
screenings in Rome of “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls”, a full-length documentary
that overcomes stereotypical dichotomist views on prostitution in the context of
human trafficking. This paper features the possible transformation of social
representations that might have taken place among the viewers as a result of
watching and discussing the documentary. It proposes the construct of ontological
humanization as a semantic-anthropological way to reduce dehumanization. Such
humanization may occur as a result of interaction with a documentary that pursues
a strong axiological involvement in the topic, promoting the abolitionist perspective on the relationship of this phenomenon with prostitution, seen as the exploitation of vulnerability.

Author Biography

Laura Dryjanska, Biola University

LAURA DRYJANSKA has completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Sapienza University of
Rome and she is currently an Assistant Professor at Biola University, teaching social psychology,
industrial/organizational psychology and human trafficking. Her research interests include social
representations, place-identity, migration, and intergenerational solidarity.