The State Of Sex

In a study of Nevada’s brothels, The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland (Routledge 2010) situates the nation’s only legal brothel industry, in the political economy of contemporary tourism. Nevada is part of the ‘new American heartland’, as its pastimes, people and politics have become more central to the nation. The rise of a service and leisure economy, over the past 60 years, has propelled sexuality into the heart of contemporary markets. Yet, neoliberal laws, in the United States, promote business, but limit sexual commerce.

How have Nevada’s legal brothels survived, while the rest of the country criminalizes prostitution? How do brothels operate? Who works in them? This book brings social theory on globalizing economies, politics, leisure consumption, and emotional labor, in interactive service work, together with research on contemporary prostitution and sexual commerce. The authors employ an innovative, multi-method sociological approach, combining historical analysis of how the brothels came to be, with over a decade’s worth of ethnographic research, on the current state of the industry.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: The State of Sex
Chapter 2. Contexts of Sexual Commerce
Chapter 3. The Making of Nevada Prostitution
Chapter 4. The Business of Selling Sex
Chapter 5. Paths to Brothel Work
Chapter 6. Brothel Labor: Making Fantasies
Chapter 7. Conclusion: Learning from Nevada

Brent Speaking on 'State of Sex' book
Brent Speaking on ‘State of Sex’ book at ‘Planned Parenthood Event

Reviews

The State of Sex is the most comprehensive analysis of the Nevada brothel industry ever written, and a must-have for scholars of sex work….Impeccably detailed is their depiction of the actual work of brothel women in a way that recalls Robin Leidner’s (1993) Fast Food, Fast Talk.

 ~Greggor Mattson, Oberlin College, Journal of Sex Research

Of the structure of the book, the authors explain, “This book brings social theory on globalizing economies, politics, leisure consumption, and emotional labor in interactive service work together with research on contemporary prostitution and sexual commerce” (p. 1). The deep understanding of the authors of each of the subject areas mentioned above is readily apparent; and the intricate interweaving of the themes, amazing.

~Edward J. Schauer, International Criminal Justice Review

Overall, this is an important contribution to the study of sexuality and the global political economy, and will be of interest to any reader who wants to learn about the sex industry in the US as well as the changing meanings of sex and work in today’s world.  Highly recommended.” 

~H.Y. Choo, University of Wisconsin Madison, Choice Reviews Online

The State of Sex constitutes a welcome addition to contemporary sociological treatments of commercial sex, and a much needed examination of Nevada’s burgeoening leisure industry.

~Elizabeth Bernstein, Columbia University Contemporary Sociology

The State of Sex tells the fascinating story of how a state whose economy is based on tourism made sex another legal recreation for sale in the leisure industry, and how brothel owners and the women who work there manage and market this commodity.  In a book that ranges from the global economy to identity management when emotional connection is part of a paid sexual experience, the authors tell a story of how the service industry is changing all of us.

~Nicola Beisel, Northwestern University

This book brings together rich empirical data that builds new sociological theory to help explain the state of commercial sex in the global leisure consumer society.  The voices of sex workers from the Nevada brothels make this book an essential for anyone reading about or studying the sex industries.” 

~Teela Sanders, University of Leeds, UK

Very little is known about legal and government-regulated prostitution.  This landmark study sheds light on this world of legal sex work and indicates that legalization can pay dividends for all concerned — workers, customers and local communities that benefit materially from the legal brothels.  The State of Sex explodes several myths about prostitution in general and legal prostitution in particular.

~Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University

It seems that far too often the women involved in sex work are used as pawns (by both sides) in the political debates about legalizing prostitution. This book, at the very least, gives some voice to the women for whom this is a very personal, and not political, issue.”  OR “What makes this book interesting is the act of stripping—not by the women in question, but by the authors, who have removed much of the titillation that usually accompanies discussions about legalized prostitution. As fascinating as HBO’s reality show Cathouse may be (spotlighting the women of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch), the authors succeed in this book by exploring the basic dignity of those working in brothels.

~Jende Andrew Huang, The Humanist Magazine

The State of Sex is a decade-long, collaborative, and multi-method study of Nevada’s legal brothels–and it was worth the wait.  The thick descriptive style should appeal to experts and lay readers alike as the authors take us on a journey through the everyday operations of a brothel, an exploration of the experiences and concerns of the workers inside, and into the details of negotiations between customers and prostitutes.

~Katherine Frank, Anthropology, College of the Atlantic

This book is a strong contribution to sociology and our understanding of sex work and the sex industry. The authors’ extensive fieldwork captures an intricate snapshot of the Nevada legal brothel industry…undergraduate students along and the sex worker community will benefit from this book.

~Carly Chillmon, University of California, Santa Barbara