Getting Screwed

Sex Workers and the Law

Alison Bass

Alison Bass weaves the true stories of sex workers with the latest research on prostitution into a gripping journalistic account of how women (and some men) navigate a culture that routinely accepts the implicit exchange of sex for money, status, or even a good meal, but imposes heavy penalties on those who make such bargains explicit. Along the way, Bass examines why an increasing number of middle-class white women choose to become sex workers and explores how prostitution has become a thriving industry in the twenty-first-century global economy. Situating her book in American history more broadly, she also discusses the impact of the sexual revolution, the rise of the Nevada brothels, and the growing war on sex trafficking after 9/11. Drawing on recent studies that show lower rates of violence and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, in regions where adult prostitution is legal and regulated, Bass makes a powerful case for decriminalizing sex work. Through comparisons of the impact of criminalization vs. decriminalization in other countries, her book offers strategies for making prostitution safer for American sex workers and the communities in which they dwell. This 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—will interest feminists, sociologists, lawyers, health-care professionals, and policy makers. The book also will appeal to anyone with an interest in American history and our society’s evolving attitudes toward sexuality and marriage.

Cloth: $24.95 | E-book: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9781611686340
Pages: 280 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: October 6, 2015


  • She makes a strong case for broad decriminalization with limited regulation while assessing the effectiveness of other solutions in place, including brothel-only legalization in Nevada, the temporary loopholes in Rhode Island law, the criminalization of clients in Sweden and Germany, and Canadian laws that prohibited communication about prostitution but not the act itself. The book provides a solid overview of the legal ramifications of sex work, and builds compassion for those at the heart of the issue.

    Publishers Weekly
  • In her book Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law, Bass surveys the history of laws regulating prostitution in America and abroad. In the past and today, Bass finds, sex workers have been marginalized by stigma that portrays them as immoral, dangerous, even diseased figures. But while the stigma hasn’t changed, the laws have-in many cases, from the point of view of the sex worker, for the worse.

    Pacific Standard
  • Bass . . . shows our current approach to commercial sex in the U.S. is dangerous, disingenuous, and an utter failure. . . . 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.

  • 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.

    The Artery
  • Alison Bass’s book Getting Screwed opens the door on sex workers and their clients in the United States….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.

    Auntie Bellum Magazine

About the Author

Alison Bass

Alison Bass is the author of Brassy Broad, How One Journalist Helped Pave the Way to #MeToo, as well as two critically acclaimed nonfiction books, Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law and Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial, which received the prestigious National Association of Science Writers’ Science in Society Award. The film rights for Side Effects were optioned in 2016.

Bass was a …

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