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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

Barbara G. Brents In The News

Jun 8, 2018

Sex workers and adult film actors spoke out today as Rudy Giuliani doubled down on comments he made about Stormy Daniels, saying she has no "reputation" or "credibility" because of the work she does.

Jun 4, 2018

It may seem surprising in an era of #MeToo and #Times Up, where a national conversation and reckoning is going on with regard to the exploitation of women, but Barbara Brents is bullish on brothels. “Time’s not up for Nevada brothels,” the UNLV professor and sex-industry researcher says. “If anything, the time is now for Nevada brothels.”

May 23, 2018

In Pahrump, Nevada – a desert enclave famous for its “live and let live” spirit – you can openly carry a gun, race sports cars, buy marijuana, own lions, gamble and purchase sex. But there’s a movement under way to rein in the frontier town’s freedom-loving ways.

May 10, 2018

This month, President Donald Trump signed two bills aimed at combating sex trafficking just days after the Department of Justice seized the sex ad website But many sex workers and sex work activists — including those in Las Vegas — are arguing that the implementation of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), and the takedown of Backpage simultaneously endanger consenting sex workers.

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