Barb Brents specializes in political sociology, gender, and sexuality. She has spent more than 25 years studying the political economy of sexuality – that is, the politics, culture, organization, and labor practices surrounding various forms of sexual commerce. She is considered a leading expert on sexual commerce and Nevada’s legal brothels. Interested in situating sexual consumption in larger economic trends her work examines adult industry consumption and sex work as flexible labor, labor impacted by an array of criminal, business, migration, health, and social service regulations.
She is involved in several international collaborative projects with colleagues at UNLV, the UK, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia exploring sexual markets, workers and consumers, and the politics and regulation of sexuality. She is a co-author of two books, Paying for Sex in the Digital Age (with Teela Sanders and Chris Wakefield, Routledge 2020), comparing surveys of sex work clients in the US and UK, and The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland, (with Crystal Jackson and Kathryn Hausbeck, Routledge 2010), examining the history and labor in Nevada’s legal brothels. She has an edited collection under contract, New Directions in Sex Work (with Angela Jones and Bernadette Barton, New York University Press.). Her research has been published in the American Sociological Review, Men & Masculinities, Sexuality Research & Social Policy, Sexualities, Sociological Perspectives, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, and Social Science and Medicine. Past research also has explored intersections of politics, culture, economics, and gender looking at topics such as the politics of terrorism and violence, historical perspectives on business and social policies and social sustainability in Las Vegas.
Brents’ work has appeared in venues such as the New York Times, New York Review of Books, Chronicle of Higher Education, the Conversation and Slate Magazine, and she has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Time, Rolling Stone, The Economist and Business Week among others. Brents received the Nevada Regents Outstanding Graduate Advisor award, the UNLV Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award and the UNLV Alumni Faculty Award. In 2021, she received the William Morris Award for Excellence in Scholarship, the 2014 the UNLV College of Liberal Arts, Donald Schmiedel Lifetime Service Award and the 2015 University of Missouri Noel P. Gist Distinguished Alumni Award. She also served National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union and as the Nevada State ACLU President and is a chapter leader for the Nevada Scholars Strategy Network. In 2022 she became a Yip Fellow at Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge.