What happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas: It might become an academic study. UNLV sociologist Barbara G. Brents described the legal brothels there as “a workable model” in an article which appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education on September 23, 2011.
She told the Chronicle’s Peter Schmidt they made up “‘one of many possible solutions to concerns about the exploitation of women in sex work,’ even if she also believes that some of their labor practices need to be overhauled.”
For example, Brents and the co-authors of her study “also accuse some brothel owners of taking advantage of the state’s independent contractor laws to deny women a fair share of their gross earnings, and of discriminating against entire populations that lack a legal venue for engaging in sex work, such as men and the transgendered,” Schmidt reports.
Ironically, Brents and Company actually stumbled upon something which women’s studies scholars actually debate with each other. “Ms. Brents and two UNLV colleagues who joined her in her research have sought to shift the academic discussion of prostitution from a highly polarized debate over its merits and evils to a pragmatic consideration of how to improve the lives of women involved in such work,” Schmidt writes.
It turns out that they are not complete trailblazers in this form of academic research. “Although many scholars have conducted research on illegal prostitution, few have published in-depth, peer-reviewed studies of legal prostitution,” Schmidt relates.
Yet and still, the ladies from UNLV may be in the vanguard of a trend. “Among the others, Richard Weitzer, a professor of sociology at George Washington University, described the red-light districts of some European cities as orderly, clean, and safe for the women who work in them, in rooms attached to storefronts,” Schmidt writes. “He argued that much current thinking about prostitution is based on an ‘oppression paradigm’ that is ‘not evidence-based.’”
As for Brents, some of her students offer interesting insights on her academic interest. “Very interesting course with suprising guest speakers,” one student wrote on ratemyprofessors.com. Another anonymous reviewer provided more detail: “we had guest speakers that were strippers,**** stars, feminists, or authors.”
Most, but not all of the students who submitted reviews appreciated Brents. One who didn’t wrote, “She misses the point ALL the time. Yet she has convinced herself that she has a brilliant, nimble intellect for her ability to justify her Postmodernism with her Marxism with her advocacy and enthusiasm for brothel employees.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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