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

Western Independent
November 19, 2020
“I just thought it was a quick nude here or there,” Mary nervously laughs.
May 11, 2020
For many businesses, coronavirus has been a disaster. Amidst stay-at-home orders and a faltering economy, spending is plummeting and tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. The unprecedented circumstances, however, has led one industry to thrive. A surge in demand for digital sex work means that cam girls are finding that their services are increasingly being sought out as even the most intimate and physical parts of our lives move online.
The Daily Beast
May 4, 2020
When Nevada began shutting down in early March to help control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s legal brothels stayed open. As late as March 17, a day before Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses closed, the Nevada Brothel Association (NBA) issued guidelines on how to keep operating—safely.
May 1, 2020
Before Maya was a sex worker, she worked in retail. She hated it — long hours on her feet, difficult customers and low pay. Once, while she was making $10 an hour as a sales associate at a women’s clothing store, she had to supervise a group of undocumented immigrants her manager hired to deep clean the entire store.

Articles Featuring Barbara G. Brents

People preparing to cut ribbon on new Fertitta Complex
Campus NewsNovember 1, 2019
A collection of local, national, and international news stories highlighting the people and programs of UNLV.
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.