Prostitution and Sex Work

by Melissa Hope Ditmore


Prostitution is a taboo subject that nevertheless permeates American culture in literature, cinema, and music. It has been a cyclical topic of public debate reflecting changing attitudes toward male and female promiscuity, the role of women in society, attitudes toward poverty and class, and most recently, the recurrent theme of "sex trafficking."

Print Flyer
Cover image for Prostitution and Sex Work

December 2010


Pages 201
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/Society

A fascinating overview of prostitution and sex work in the United States, from the Colonial era to today, examines the issue as it affects men, women, and transgender individuals of all races and classes.

Prostitution and Sex Work is the first book since 1921 to offer a historic overview of this controversial topic—and what our views on it say about American society. Exploring key people, places, and events, the guide includes descriptions of the myriad variations of the sale of sex and of the venues where prostitution occurs, as well as recurring themes such as panics about sexually transmitted diseases and the ever-present issue of violence in the sex trade.

After reviewing the history of prostitution and sex work over the past 400 years, the book offers detailed information about the legal context of prostitution in America during the last century. It focuses particularly on the period since prostitution was criminalized during a panic over "white slavery" in the early 20th century, drawing parallels with current "sex trafficking" topics. An appendix of materials produced by sex workers is especially informative for those wishing to truly understand both sides of the issue.


  • Appendices of primary source documents include lyrics and poetry, legal texts, and excerpts from reports produced by sex work projects
  • A chronology of significant legal cases, passage of laws, and events pertaining to prostitution and sex work from the Colonial era to the present
  • A comprehensive bibliography of significant scholarship from history, sociology, and anthropology


  • Covers topics that are under-addressed and/or hard to find in many other academic works, including prostitution by men and transgender individuals in the Colonial era and the prostitutes' strike in Hawaii during World War II
  • Offers an overview of the roots and recent achievements and activities of the sex workers' rights movement in America
  • Gathers and analyzes important scholarship on prostitution and sex work in one convenient volume, providing readers with a consolidated source of unbiased information
Author Info

Melissa Hope Ditmore, PhD, is a postdoctoral research fellow at National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. and Public Health Solutions in New York City, NY. Dr. Ditmore edited Greenwood's Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work.



"Ditmore's nonjudgmental approach to her topic will encourage students to adopt a similar tone in their own writing, and her bibliographical notes and extensive appendixes provide many jumping-off points for further research. Libraries that lack the earlier encyclopedia will be well served by this volume, which is both more affordable and better suited to a general collection. Summing Up: Recommended."Choice

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