Do U.S. anti-prostitution laws encourage exploitation and
violence against women?
Author Alison Bass

Author Alison Bass

Would it surprise you to know that laws criminalizing prostitution are not only largely ineffective in curbing the sex trade, but are creating an atmosphere that encourages the exploitation of sex workers and violence against all women?

In her new book (Oct. 2015), Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law, Professor and Journalist Alison Bass provides a riveting assessment of how U.S. anti-prostitution laws harm the public health and safety of sex workers and other citizens—and affect larger societal attitudes toward women. The book weaves the true stories of sex workers from all walks of life together with extensive research to make a compelling argument for decriminalizing adult prostitution. Bass’ book will interest feminists, sociologists, lawyers, health-care professionals, and policy makers, as well as those with an interest in American history and our society’s evolving attitudes toward sexuality and marriage.

Alison Bass is an award-winning journalist and an Assistant Professor of Journalism at West Virginia University. She is also the author of Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial, the true story of two women who exposed the deception behind the making of a blockbuster drug.  Bass was a long-time medical writer for The Boston Globe, and her articles and essays have also appeared in The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, The Village Voice, Psychology Today and other newspapers and magazines around the country. Learn more about…

Getting Screwed

Latest Updates

Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law is generating interest among the artsy, progressive crowd

My book, Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law, seems to be generating interest among the artsy, progressive crowd, judging by the attendance at recent talks I’ve given and the nice review of the book on WBUR radio’s ARTery site.  On Nov. 3, nearly 100 people came to Red Emma’s, a progressive bookstore and vegan eatery in Baltimore, to hear me talk about the book and why sex work should be decriminalized in the United States. C-Span even showed up to film the talk and lively Q&A for its Book TV series. And this past Monday night, about 40 people crowded into the back room of Books Inc. in San Francisco’s trendy Castro district to hear me and sex worker rights activist Maxine Doogan (whom I profile in the book) speak. Doogan talked about the potentially groundbreaking lawsuit her sex worker rights group has filed, challenging California’s anti-prostitution laws. After we spoke, the audience, which included a number of sex workers — this was the Castro, after all — asked some great questions and I signed a few more books. A similar crowd turned out two weeks ago for my talk at Bluestockings, a progressive feminist bookstore on the Lower East Side. At this event, which attracted around 50 people, I was joined by Julie Moya, a Manhattan madam whom I also profile in my book.  Moya turned up with a beautiful bouquet of flowers to thank me for my efforts to clear away the widespread misconceptions about sex work in the United States. It was an astonishing act of generosity given that she is the one who deserves... read more

Why can’t the mainstream media get their facts straight in writing about the sex trade?

When it comes to the coverage of sex work or trafficking, the mainstream media often seems to forget a basic journalistic principle — the need to get their facts straight. Here are two recent examples from supposedly top-notch purveyors of journalism. This week, the New Yorker ran a long piece about long-time feminist Gloria Steinem, which focused on Steinem’s non-stop travel on behalf of feminist organizations around the globe. It was mildly interesting but I cringed when I read this sentence: “In America, sex trafficking is said to be as high today as in any other country.” Not only is that not true, according to all the studies I’ve read, but the writer doesn’t even stop to provide supporting data for that statement. She merely moves on as if her readers are too dumb to notice the lack of evidence for such a sweeping generalization. As I discovered in researching my book, Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law, anti-trafficking groups have spread grossly inaccurate and inflated statistics about the number of women and children being trafficked for paid sex in the United States. There is little good data out there on the true numbers in large part because even the U.S. State Department conflates prostitution by choice with trafficking. However, one study of indoor sex workers in New York City by the Urban Justice Center found that only 8 percent of the study’s respondents were trafficked into the sex trade. In addition, sex trafficking in the United States is less than of a problem than in many Asian, African and European countries, according to law enforcement and researchers who... read more

Sales for my new book off to a brisk start

My book tour seems to be off to a good start. Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law sold out on Amazon three days after its official release Oct. 6 and only today has the online retailer finally caught up with the demand. On Oct. 12, about 50 people showed up at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA to hear me and another author talk about our respective books (the common theme being violence against women and what we need to do to change entrenched cultural attitudes about women’s sexuality. As I argued, decriminalizing sex work would help decrease violence against all women and greatly improve sex workers’ health and safety). The following evening, I spoke to an equally enthusiastic crowd of friends and former colleagues at Newtonville Books in my old hometown. On Monday, I seem to have packed the house again at Bluestockings, a feminist bookstore on the Lower East Side. Julie Moya, a sex worker and former madam whom I profile in my book, joined me for a lively evening with lots of great questions from the audience. In two weeks, I’m off to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore for back-to-back book talks at Kramer Books and Red Emma’s. For more on these media events, please click here. In the meantime, I’d love to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the friends and well-wishers who have come to my book talks thus far and are buying the book either there or online. Muchas... read more