In Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law (ForeEdge, 2015), Alison Bass explores prostitution in 21st century America (and parts of the wider world), from posh brothels to city streets and from high-end hotels to jail cells. Weaving together interviews and academic research, Bass—a West Virginia University journalism professor who spent four years talking with sex workers around the country—shows our current approach to commercial sex in the U.S. is dangerous, disingenuous, and an utter failure. Anti-prostitution laws "have done little to stem the thriving industry," she writes, while exacting "a high price on public health and safety."
Bass illustrates how ending prohibition on consensual commercial sex between adults could reduce rates of HIV and violence against women while also better serving those who are coerced or forced into selling sex. Decriminalizing adult prostitution, she argues, would benefit not just sex workers and their clients but society overall.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Legitimizing Sex Work".