Barbara G. Brents

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


Barb Brents has spent more than 25 years studying politics, sex and gender. She is considered one of the world’s leading academic experts on the sex industry and Nevada’s legal brothels. Her numerous books and publications use research on sexual commerce to understand the politics of sexuality; the intersections of culture and economics; sexual markets and consumption, and the emotional and bodily labor of selling sex.

Her most recent co-authored book, Paying for Sex in the Digital Age: US and UK Perspectives (Routledge Press, 2020), provides one of the first comprehensive, cross-cultural examinations of the dynamic market for sexual services, an evidence-based look at the multiple factors related to purchasing patterns and demand among clients who have used the internet

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.

She is also involved in a variety of organizations and collaborative research projects to promote evidence-based reform to the criminal legal system and prostitution law, promote healthy sexuality, and advocate for sex workers’ human rights.

Her research has been featured in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Rolling Stone, the Daily Beast, Marketplace, Forbes and Business Week. She is also the author or co-author of publications including "Are Men Who Pay for Sex Sexist? Comparing Client Attitudes on Gender Role Equality in Different Prostitution Markets” in Men and Masculinities, “Violence and Legalized Brothel Prostitution in Nevada” in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence," “The Mainstreaming of the Sex industry: Economic Inclusion and Social Ambivalence” in the Journal of Law & Society and "EXPOsing Men’s Gender-Role Attitudes as Porn Superfans" in Sociological Forum.


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

Search For Other Experts On

relationships, social issues

Barbara G. Brents In The News

Morehead State Public Radio: WMKY 90.3
March is Women’s History Month, and several events are being held to commemorate the topic. Dr. Bernadette Barton is a professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at MSU. She said patriarchy works to minimize women’s contributions to the social world by erasing that history.
The EU Parliament is calling on states to punish sex buyers instead of sex workers in the future. But there are different opinions as to whether this is the right path.
City Cast Las Vegas
For over 50 years, Nevada has been the only U.S. state with legalized prostitution — but it’s only allowed in brothels, and even then, only in a few rural counties. A small grassroots effort is underway this summer to expand legal brothels to Douglas and Churchill Counties — but why not Clark County? How did Sin City opt out of this particular “sin”? Today, co-host Dayvid Figler chats with UNLV sociology professor Barb Brents, a leading expert on sexual commerce, about how we got here, and if (and how) Clark County could get brothels, too.
The Nevada Independent
Sex work and the laws around it can be complex, nuanced and prone to misconceptions — including in Nevada, the only state in the union where prostitution is legal, but only in certain circumstances. Lawmakers, advocates and researchers are often at odds over the best ways to prevent sex trafficking and sexual violence.

Articles Featuring Barbara G. Brents

Spooky season at UNLV (Becca Schwartz\UNLV).
Campus News | November 1, 2023

A collection of news stories focused on research, expert insights, and academic achievement.

Students at Pida Plaza on the first day of classes (Josh Hawkins, UNLV).
Campus News | September 1, 2023

A roundup of prominent news stories highlighting university pride, research, and community collaboration.

Student playing Jenga
Campus News | September 7, 2021

A collection of news stories highlighting community and perseverance at UNLV.

Graduates bumping fists
Campus News | June 8, 2021

A collection of news stories highlighting celebration, health, and progress at UNLV.