Barbara G. Brents

Professor, Sociology
Expertise: Political Sociology, Social Policy, Gender, Sex Industry, Sexuality


Barbara Brents has spent more than 25 years studying political sociology, gender and sexuality, urban sociology, and public sociology. Her research focuses on the sex industry as a way to understand the intersections of culture and economics, political debates around sexuality, the relationship between tourism, consumption, and sexuality, and the emotional and bodily labor of selling sex. 

As co-author of the book, The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland (Routledge Press, 2010), Brents examines Nevada's brothels and their connection to contemporary tourism. She is also involved in a variety of organizations and projects to promote healthy sexuality and  advocate for the human rights of sex workers. 

Her research has been featured in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Slate Magazine. Brents is also the author or co-author of publications including “Violence and Legalized Brothel Prostitution in Nevada” in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence; “State Sanctioned Sex: Negotiating Formal and Informal Regulations in Nevada Brothels” in Sociological Perspectives and “Inside Nevada's Brothel System” in Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry

Brents is a founding member of Globalization, Sexuality and the City, an interdisciplinary project and network to encourage the production and dissemination of research on sexuality, culture, and the economics across the globe.


  • Ph.D., Sociology, University of Missouri
  • M.A., Sociology, University of Missouri
  • B.A., Journalism, University of Missouri

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Barbara G. Brents In The News

April 30, 2019
FOSTA-SESTA is shorthand for two congressional bills: the House’s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Senate’s Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017. As the names suggest, they were designed to reduce sex trafficking.
November 30, 2018
Sheri’s Ranch, one of Nevada’s approximately 20 legal brothels, recently released an infographic breaking down the services its 134 sex workers provided over the course of 2017.
November 7, 2018
Lyon County, Nevada contains many remnants of the old west. It spans more than 2,000 sq miles in an area east of Nevada’s small capital, Carson City, and, according to the 2010 census, only contains about 52,000 people. Wild horses still run free through the chilly, desert mountains. But Lyon County may be most known for another throwback to a long-gone era: its brothels. The county contains four legal brothels, including the infamous Moonlight Bunny Ranch, all formerly owned by the recently deceased Dennis Hof. (The brothel now belongs to his long-time partner Madam Suzette, though his will may be contested by his long-estranged family.)
October 24, 2018
Like most people, I am interested in porn. My interests are niche. In short, I’m interested in the geographies of porn.

Articles Featuring Barbara G. Brents

hand holding cell phone with social media apps on screen
ResearchJune 7, 2019
UNLV sociology doctoral students study how two politically polarized activist groups use social media to organize and impact legislation.