Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work
[2 volumes]
by Melissa Hope Ditmore
August 2006, 848pp, 7x10
2 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-32968-5
$201, £155, 175€, A276
eBook Available: 978-0-313-08387-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

This major 2-volume set is the first to treat in an inclusive reference what is usually considered a societal failing and the underside of sexuality and economic survival.

The cliche is that prostitution is the oldest profession. Isn’t it time that the subject received a full reference treatment? This major 2-volume set is the first to treat in an inclusive reference what is usually considered a societal failing and the underside of sexuality and economic survival. The A-to-Z encyclopedia offers wide-ranging entries related to prostitution and the sex industry, past and present, both worldwide (mostly in the West) and in the United States. The topic of prostitution has high-interest appeal across disciplines, and the narrative entries illuminate literature, art, law, medicine, economics, politics, women’s studies, religion, sociology, sexuality, film, popular culture, public health, nonfiction, American and world history, business, gender, media, education, crime, race, technology, performing arts, family, social work, social mores, pornography, the military, tourism, child labor, and more. It is targeted to the general reader, who will gain useful insight into the human race through time via its sex industry and prostitution.

An introduction overviews the scope of prostitution from the earliest historical records, including the Bible. User-friendly lists that are alphabetically and topically arranged help the reader find entries of interest, as does the comprehensive index. A chronology proffers significant dates related to the topic. Each entry is signed and has suggestions for further reading. Sample entries: Abolition; Actresses; Augustine, Saint; Barr, Candy; Bible; Camp Followers; Chamberlain-Kahn Bill of 1918; Child Prostitution; Clothing, Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869; Crime; Debby Doesn’t Do It for Free; Dickens, Charles; Devadasi; Entrapment; Fallen Woman Trope; Feminism; Films, Cult; Five Points; Free Love; Geisha; Globalization; Guidebooks; Hip-Hop; HIV/AIDS and the Prostitution Rights Movement; Human Rights; Incest; Internet; Jack the Ripper; Kama Sutra; League of Nations; Lulu; Male Stripping; Mann Act; Mayhew, Henry; Memoirs; Migration and Mobility; Nazi Germany; Poetry; Purity Movements; R&R; Religion; Salvation Army; Scapegoating; Slang; Storyville; Temporary Marriage; Unions; Venice; Window Prostitution.


"This two-volume encyclopedia provides a comprehensive overview of prostitution and related areas of interest. Editor Ditmore serves as research consultant at the Sex Workers Project in New York, and the inclusive, nonjudgmental nature of that organization is reflected in this reference work. Its entries are written in an objective, scholarly tone by professionals and academics; a few contributors are sex workers themselves, according to their biographical information. Readers will find many access points to information, including alphabetical and topical lists of entries, and thorough cross-referencing. Appendixes contain various types of documents....The real strength of this reference work is its breadth: entries cover prostitution's relevance in the arts, gender/sexuality studies, history, legal studies, politics, public health, and sociology, all with a global focus. However, this work will most likely be considered for purchase in support of criminology or women's studies collections....Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above."—Choice, April 1, 2007

"Courtesans, strumpets, harlots, hookers; the colorful vocabulary of the world's oldest profession hasn't garnered the academic treatment accorded lesser subjects-until now. This informative two-volume collection of essays, edited by Ditmore, forms a broad view of prostitution around the world but particularly in the United States. Historical details are abundant, ranging from first-person accounts to entries on ancient Greece, the Bible, and 19th-century New York City. The 341 alphabetically and topically arranged entries, written by an expert panel of contributors, are readable and balanced, with little social commentary. Articles on serious subjects, like soiled doves and rape, contrast with essays on, e.g., Gunsmoke and shoes. Included are a time line, historical accounts, poems, documents, and suggestions for further reading....As an initial attempt to define this topic, the encyclopedia will serve academic libraries well. Public libraries seeking research materials on social issues may find the work less useful, except where collections in human sexuality are particularly strong. Recommended for specialized public and all academic libraries."—Library Journal, November 15, 2006

"A path-breaking encyclopedia... I found this encyclopedia very informative and the two volumes kept me engrossed and mesmerized for weeks together. Every page is so full of new information. Highly recommended for social scientists, social workers, social reformers, workers in the field of community medicine, ... NGOs, gynecologists and obstetricians and even forensic pathologists. In addition, writers, authors, bibliophiles, teachers, professors and educators, and above all a general well-informed layman would enjoy this encyclopedia immensely. The non-technical language used in the encyclopedia makes this encyclopedia accessible to everyone."—Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, June 1, 2007

"[A]n absorbing read, which offers an insight into social behaviour as well as the oldest profession, It would be a useful addition to most academic collections, and support workers in this field may also find this of some interest."—Reference Reviews, June 1, 2007

"Five thousand words, much less the 500 allowed here, are insufficient to review critically and appreciate properly a reference work this exciting, valuable, unique and scrupulously edited....[w]ith equal parts authority and freshness, a dazzling array of intellectual, political, medical, historical and sexual concerns have been covered. Colonialism, AIDS, religion, the Internet, globalization and migration and mobility are each explored in always sober, often lively prose....The editor, contributors and advisory board members are to be congratulated also for having responsibly walked that razors edge of attempting to write and edit fairly about something as protean as sexual networking, something that so vividly reveals tensions between structure and agency, Church and State, labor and capital, exploitation and choice, horror and love."—Feminist Review, April 1, 2007

"If prostitution is indeed the world's oldest profession, a comprehensive reference source covering sex work has been a long time coming. Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work is well worth the wait. It proves to be an excellent starting point for learning about this universally fascinating and controversial topic. This work is very clear in defining its scope and purpose. Becuase it represents one of the first real forays into collecting and condensing the body of research on sex work, it is meant to present an overview that can be built upon by future works. That being said the coverage is expansive....[t]his work is highly recommended for most any public or academic library. In addition to filling a void in the literature, it also strikes a balance between rigorous reseach and readability."—Reference & User Services Quarterly, 00/00/00

"Given the cliche about the worlds oldest profession, it is curious that this is the first encyclopedia to explore prostitution and the many issues it touches. Apparently, its only published antecedent is a 1998 Russian title that is, according to WorldCat, available in just two OCLC member libraries. This new encyclopedia, then, is for all practical purposes sui generis....This encyclopedia provides historical context and contemporary analysis of the complex issues related to prostitution, issues easily reduced to shibboleths. It will fill a void in academic reference collections. In communities where prostitution is a concern, it will provide informative background for public-policy discussions."—Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin, January 15, 2007

". . . the first reference work of its kind, successfully bringing together 341 entries about prostitution worldwide, with a heavy focus on the United States and a user-friendly format and timeline for easy reference. . . . This encyclopedia is an absolutely essential reference work, especially for those academic libraries that support women/gender studies, sociology, human sexuality, psychology, and other related courses of study for undergraduates and beyond."—Feminist Collections, October 27, 2009
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