Barbara Brents Headshot

Barbara Gayle Brents

Professor of Sociology, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Chapter Leader: Nevada SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Barbara

Brents' research focuses on the sexual economy, consumption and the sex industry, sex work law and regulation, and the labor of sex work. Overarching themes in Brents' writings address sexuality, gender and politics in market culture. Brents has been active nationally and internationally in sex work research, the sex worker rights movement, the ACLU and various peace and justice movements.


In the News

Guest on Marketplace Podcast, April 30, 2021.
Opinion: "Dennis Hof: Showman and Sex Industry Modernizer," Barbara Gayle Brents, The Nevada Indpendent, October 23, 2018.
Opinion: "Nevada Brothels Need Reform, Not Prohibition ," Barbara Gayle Brents (with Sara J. Blithe), Reno Gazette Journal, October 1, 2018.
Quoted by in "What’s the Right Way to Legalize Prostitution?," The New York Review, August 7, 2018.
Quoted by Madeline Bishop in "Sex Work, Stigma, and Nuance," Public Health Post, January 30, 2018.
Opinion: "Nevada’s Legal Brothels Make Workers Feel Safer," Barbara Gayle Brents, The New York Times, January 23, 2014.


"The Political Economy of Pleasure" (with Victoria Nelle McMahan-Parra, Mary Underwood Hood, Rachel Howard, Foster Kamanga, Drue Belliveau Sahuc, Roen Sagun, and Antonio Ball), in Routledge Handbook of Sexuality, Gender, Health and Rights, edited by Peter Aggleton, Rob Cover, Carmen H. Logie, Christy E. Newman & Richard Parker (Routledge, 2023).

Explores the concept of pleasure and how it has been shaped by social, historical, and economic contexts. Finds that pleasure has played a key role in the development of modern culture and capitalist political economy, and has been used to reproduce intersecting inequalities in race, class, ability, gender, and sexuality. 

"Exposing Men's Gender Role Attitudes as Porn Superfans" (with Aleta Baldwin, Crystal A. Jackson, and Paul J. Maginn). Sociological Forum 34, no. 2 (2019): 483-500.

Examines results from a survey examining gender role attitudes among attendees at a large pornography convention. Uses bivariate analysis and finds that these porn "superfans" are actually more supportive of gender role equality that men in the US population on two indicators, and similarly supportive on two other measures.

"Neoliberalism’s Market Morality and Heteroflexibility: Protectionist and Free Market Discourses in Debates for Legal Prostitution" Digital Scholarship, no. 13 (2016): 402-416.

Analyzes a debate to close one of Nevada's legal brothels in the early 2000s, before discussions of sex trafficking reframed prostitution debates. Finds that both support and opposition to the legal brothels were based on ideas of gender justice and individualistic, neoliberal notions of free choice, consumer choice, and economic freedom.

"Sociological Perspectives on Sex Work and Human Trafficking" (with Kari Lerum). Sociological Perspectives 59, no. 1 (2016): 17-26.

Reviews the major research findings regarding sex trafficking. Mentions that since the issue is so politicized, much public discussion is based on inaccurate data and poorly drawn conclusions. Discuses how we can rethink the issue to better understand and target policies to fight trafficking in the sex industry.

"The State of Sex Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland" (with Crystal Jackson and Kathryn Hausbeck) (CRC Press, 2010).

Examines the US only system of legal prostitution in the rural brothels in Nevada.