About Barb Brents

Barb Brents is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a co-author of Paying for Sex in the Digital Age (Routledge Press 2020) and The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland (Routledge Press, 2010).

Sexuality, Gender & Politics in Market Culture

Barb Brents has spent more than 25 years using a political economy lens to study politics, sex and gender in market culture. She is considered one of the world’s leading academic experts, on the sex industry and Nevada’s legal brothels. Her works apply 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.

As a Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Nevada, LasBarb Brents Lecture Vegas, since 1988, she has served as the Department’s Graduate Coordinator, for a number of years, and works with faculty in the Sexuality and Gender Studies Department, the Boyd School of Law, and a variety of other departments in the College of Liberal Arts.

Brents’ research and teaching interests include political sociology, gender and sexuality, urban sociology, and public sociology. She teaches undergraduate classes on ‘Principles of Sociology’ (online on WebCampus), ‘Sociology of Gender’, ‘Sex and Social Arrangements’, and graduate-level seminars, in ‘Political Sociology’ and ‘The Sociology of Sexuality’.

Barb Brents holds a PhD in Sociology, from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, from the Missouri Journalism School.

Research & Publication

Barb Brents research focuses on the sexual economy: the politics, culture, organization, markets, consumption and labor practices, surrounding various forms of sexual commerce. With a broader theoretical interest in the intersections of culture and economics, her publications, blogs and editorials include: the politics of sexuality, consumption, tourism and sexuality; and the emotional and bodily labor of selling sex, on topics, including Nevada’s legal brothel industry, the pornography industry and kink organizations.

Barb Brents Tech and Sex Work LecturePast research has also explored intersections of politics, culture, economics, and gender, looking at topics, such as the politics of terrorism and violence, business and social policies, and social sustainability in Las Vegas.

Most recently, Barb Brents has been the author and/or co-author of books and 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.

She is involved in a number of collaborative projects with colleagues at UNLV, in the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada and Australia, exploring sexual commerce and consumption, and the politics and regulation of sexuality.

Her research has been published in scholarly peer-reviewed journals, including the American Sociological Review, Men and Masculinities, Sexualities, Sociological Perspectives, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, and Social Science and Medicine.

She has, furthermore, worked with undergraduate and graduate students, on causes as diverse as sex worker rights, peace and justice, civil liberties, the environment, and a variety of women’s issues.


Brents has received the Nevada Regents Outstanding Graduate Advisor award, the UNLV Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award, and the UNLV Alumni Faculty Award. In 2014, she was conferred the UNLV College of Liberal Arts, Donald Schmiedel Lifetime Service Award, and was the recipient of the 2015 University of Missouri, Noel P. Gist Distinguished Alumni Award. Barb Brents was, furthermore, recognized by the Las Vegas Centennial Committee and Southern Nevada Women’s Political Caucus, and as one of only 256 women honored on the ‘Wall of Women’, for having made a difference in 100 years of Las Vegas history. She has also served on the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was the Nevada State ACLU President.

Barb Brents receiving Regents Academic Advisor Award

Brents receiving Regents Academic Advisor Award

Public Sociology

Barb Brents SpeakerAs a vocation, Barb Brents adds the voice of evidence-based research on sex work, wherever she can, by assisting local and national non-profits, and state legislatures, advocating for sexual and social justice.

She is also involved in a variety of organizations and projects, to promote evidence-based reforms to prostitution law, promote healthy sexuality and advocate for sex worker human rights.

Being an expert in her field, Brents has been interviewed by The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Daily Beast, Marketplace, Forbes, Business Week, The New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Slate Magazine.