Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law by Alison Bass weaves the true stories of sex workers with the latest research on prostitution into a gripping journalistic narrative. The book examines the impact of the sexual revolution. the rise of the Nevada brothels, and the post 9/11 war on sex trafficking. Drawing on recent studies that show lower rates of violence and sexually transmitted diseases in regions where adult prostitution is decriminalized, Bass makes a powerful case for decriminalizing sex work and offers strategies for making prostitution safer for American sex workers and the communities in which they dwell. (Published by UPNE 2015)
“Bass’s extensive interviews and compiled research overwhelmingly reveal that the laws against prostitution… obfuscate the real problem with criminalizing sex work: the harm the laws cause women working in the industry, and the devaluing of women’s choices to secure income by participating in sex work. Regardless of how demeaning some may believe prostitution to be, Getting Screwed’s comprehensive reporting and storytelling will convince readers of at least this much.”
“While expertly interlacing research and statistics with the true stories of sex workers in America, “Getting Screwed” wakes us all to an obscure truth: Most (but distinctly, not all) sex workers join the trade by choice, largely for economic reasons. With gripping narrative, the book reminds readers that sex workers are just as human as anyone else — only working a job deemed shameful and made dangerous by the very policymakers who pledge to protect all constituents.”
“Bass’s writing is clearly supported by careful and thorough research from a wide variety of sources including medical and social science journals and legal documents. She identifies sex rights organizations and other resources that readers can pursue. Anyone who wants to know exactly what the circumstances of sex work in America look like would do well to begin with this comprehensive and reader-friendly book.
“I have spent the past four years interviewing sex workers across the country, along with law enforcement, researchers, human rights advocates and organizations that work with trafficking victims,” Bass says. “The stories I’ve heard clash with the popular narrative of all prostitutes being drug-addicted victims who are forced into the sex trade by abusive pimps and traffickers. Research by respected academics also contradict this narrative and pointed to a very different story: 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.”
A growing body of research also shows that anti-prostitution laws in the United States and other countries only make it more difficult for sex workers to protect themselves – from physical harm and from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Indeed, countries such as the Netherlands and New Zealand that have decriminalized sex work and regulate it to some extent have among the lowest rates of HIV in the world. Decriminalization in those countries has also led to safer working conditions for sex workers and less violence against all women.
In addition to her groundbreaking book, Bass regularly weighs in on breaking news that pertains to sex work on her blog.
About Alison Bass: Alison Bass is an award-winning author, journalist, and professor. A long-time medical and science writer for The Boston Globe, Bass now teaches journalism at the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University. Her previous nonfiction book, Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial, won the National Association of Science Writers’ Science in Society Award in 2009.
Praise for Getting Screwed
“Alison Bass is a master storyteller. In Getting Screwed, she takes us convincingly inside the lives of sex workers. Their stories will make you laugh and maybe even cry, but more important, they will make you angry at the laws which unfairly persecute sex workers. Backed up by extensive research and examination of the facts, the stories of these women are sure to challenge anyone’s views about the sex trade.”
—Karen Osborn, author of The River Road
“Getting Screwed takes us behind the beaded curtain to meet the corporate professionals, mothers, grandmothers, and university students who are the real faces of prostitution in America today. They—and Bass—make convincing arguments for decriminalizing the sex trade and shifting attention to those who exploit the underage, engage in human trafficking, and target prostitutes for abuse and violence. Bass’s gripping, clear-eyed look at a marginalized subculture will make you rethink assumptions about what consenting adults do behind closed doors.”
—Deborah Halber, author of The Skeleton Crew
“Getting Screwed sums up the many ways we get shafted by everyone, every day; by the cops, courts, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, politicians, preachers, prostitution abolitionists, radical feminists, academics, and so many others. For them, we are an endless source of revenue, political power, and academic achievement. Ms. Bass’ book serves up a much different portrait of us—that of hearty individuals who are capable of speaking for ourselves and fighting for our rights. As she thoroughly documents, the laws impede our ability to keep ourselves safe, and do nothing for real victims. It isn’t that we mind being screwed; it’s just that we prefer being paid for it.”
—Norma Jean Almodovar, sex workers activist and author of Cop to Call Girl