The best books to help you understand the world’s oldest profession

Why am I passionate about this?

We know that there are markets for “illegal” goods and services, but how do these illegal markets operate? It’s not about who is participating in the market, but about how markets for things that are illegal function. How do you start your illegal business? How do you attract customers? How do you establish a reputation? All of these things are questions that attracted me to the study of male sex work. It is an occupation is thousands of participants. I was excited about the way that male sex work is illegal but also in plain view on the internet.  


I wrote...

Economics, Sexuality, and Male Sex Work

By Trevon D. Logan,

Book cover of Economics, Sexuality, and Male Sex Work

What is my book about?

Male sex work generates sales in excess of one billion dollars annually in the United States. Despite the size of the industry, we know very little about how the market works.

Economics, Sexuality, and Male Sex Work is the first economic analysis of male sex work. Competition, the role of information, pricing strategies, and other economic features of male sex work are analyzed using the most comprehensive data available. Sex work is also social behavior, however, and this book shows how the social aspects of gay sexuality influence the economic properties of the market. Concepts like desire, masculinity, and sexual stereotypes affect how sex workers compete for clients, who practices safer sex, and how sex workers present themselves to clients to differentiate them from the competition.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex

Trevon D. Logan Why did I love this book?

This is the book that revolutionized the way social scientists think about sex work.

We know that sex work is gendered (more women work as sex workers than men) and at the same time women have made significant gains in the formal labor market. This book sought to answer the question of why sex work continued to be so prominent even though “outside options” were growing for women. 

Sex work integrated itself into the industrial system. Modern sex work has adapted to changing business practices and technology. Why? Because there is still a strong demand for the provision of intimate services and human sexual connection.  

By Elizabeth Bernstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Temporarily Yours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite increased economic opportunities for women, sexual commerce has not only thrived in the Western world, it has diversified along technological, spatial, and social lines. For example, contemporary sex workers often meet their clinets through the Internet, offering new kinds of encounters that are a far cry from the quick and impersonal contacts that we normally associate with prostitution. For "Temporarily Yours", sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein walked the streets and went behind closed doors, interviewing sex workers, their clients, and the government officials who regulate the business. Along the way, she discovered a significant transformation that is occurring in the urban…


Book cover of Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality, and AIDS in the Dominican Republic

Trevon D. Logan Why did I love this book?

This is the first book I read about sex tourism, which is a growing part of the market for sex work in developing countries. 

This book focuses on the men who provide services to men who are travelling to the Dominican Republic to engage with sex workers. Most of the men in this book identify as “straight” and have to navigate their personal identity and relationships while earning a living providing this service to other men.

I also really like the way this book discusses the health risks and how sex workers use various strategies to minimize the risk to themselves and their partners in an occupation that places them in the cross-hairs of an international market for sex tourism.

By Mark Padilla,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Caribbean Pleasure Industry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In recent years, the economy of the Caribbean has become almost completely dependent on international tourism. And today one of the chief ways that foreign visitors there seek pleasure is through prostitution. While much has been written on the female sex workers who service these tourists, "Caribbean Pleasure Industry" shifts the focus to the men. Drawing on his ground-breaking ethnographic research in the Dominican Republic, Mark Padilla discovers a complex world where the global political and economic impact of tourism has led to shifting sexual identities, growing economic pressures, and new challenges for HIV prevention. In fluid prose, Padilla analyzes…


Book cover of Tourist Attractions: Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil's Sexual Economy

Trevon D. Logan Why did I love this book?

In my own work on male sex workers in the US, I found that race played a key role in the market—determining prices and popularity, for example. 

While sex tourism can also play on race and ethnicity and their sexual stereotypes, most countries do not have the American system of race. This book was the one that showed me how male sex workers in another country with racial dynamics similar to those in the US. 

But the biggest takeaway from this detailed ethnography is that sex work is work but also acting—sex workers are providing a service that requires them to play specific roles with their clients, and many times these roles are based on sexual/racial tropes.

Playing into racial stereotypes is one-way sex workers remain in the business.

By Gregory Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tourist Attractions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While much attention has been paid in recent years to heterosexual prostitution and sex tourism in Brazil, gay sex tourism has been almost completely overlooked. In Tourist Attractions, Gregory C. Mitchell presents a pioneering ethnography that focuses on the personal lives and identities of male sex workers who occupy a variety of roles in Brazil's sexual economy. Mitchell takes us into the bath houses of Rio de Janeiro, where rent boys cruise for clients, and to the beaches of Salvador da Bahia, where African American gay men seek out hustlers while exploring cultural heritage tourist sites. His ethnography stretches into…


Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution

Trevon D. Logan Why did I love this book?

If you want to know how economists think about sex work (which is, after all, a market transaction) this is the book to go to. 

This is a collected volume, but if you were interested in how economists do work on sex work and what the major findings have been in the process, you would want to read this book.

There are technical issues covered here in terms of data, how research on sex work is different in developed versus developing countries, and the online market for sex work. 

It also contains a great discussion of the public health issues involved and what we know about sex work and its relationship to STIs.  

By Scott Cunningham (editor), Manisha Shah (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Prostitution bears the unique title of being both the "world's oldest profession" and one of the least understood occupations. Unlike most of the crime and family literature, prostitution appears to be have all the features of traditional markets: prices, supply and demand considerations, variety in the organizational structure, and policy relevance. Despite this, economists have largely ignored prostitution in their research and writings. This has been changing,
however, over the last twenty years as greater access to data has enabled economists to build better theories and gain a better understanding of the organization of sex market.

The Oxford Hanbook of…


Book cover of Male Sex Work and Society

Trevon D. Logan Why did I love this book?

This book is the one that attempts to show, from a variety of angles, how Male sex work operates primarily in Western society, but more importantly takes a deliberately global vision of the process. 

Male sex work operates along cultural and social definitions of gender and sexuality, in addition to culturally defined subjects like work, risk, and sexual transactions. This collected volume covers both the long history (from ancient times) as well as the current spatial dimensions of male sex work. 

I really like this book because it drives home the point that you need to think carefully about the time and place before beginning a social science or public health approach to male sex work. 

By Victor Minichiello, John Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Male Sex Work and Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new collection explores for the first time male sex work from a rich array of perspectives and disciplines. It aims to help enrich the ways in which we view both male sex work as a field of commerce and male sex workers themselves. Leading contributors examine the field both historically and cross-culturally from fields including public health, sociology, psychology, social services, history, filmography, economics, mental health, criminal justice, geography, and migration studies, and more. Synthesizing introductions by the editors help the reader understand the implications of the findings and conclusions for scholars, practitioners, students, and members of the interested/concerned…


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The Others

By Evette Davis,

Book cover of The Others

Evette Davis Author Of Woman King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve worked in journalism, politics, and public policy for 30-plus years and watched as the extreme voices gained the most traction on either side of a debate. On social media, these minority views often dominate the discussion. 48 States is a stand-alone novel highlighting the problems of extremist viewpoints in a civil society. I also have another book series that features a political consultant who discovers she's a witch and joins a secret society that uses magic to manipulate elections to protect humanity. Bottom line: if I can’t fix political discourse for a living, I can write science fiction novels that contemplate how to do it.

Evette's book list on dystopian stories for the bada** feminist in us all

What is my book about?

True Blood meets Supernatural in the kickoff of this urban paranormal fantasy series from an acclaimed author. Readers enter a dystopian San Francisco filled with empaths and vampires embroiled in political unrest—and Book 1 is just the beginning.

Much as she wishes otherwise, superstar political consultant Olivia Shepherd was born a powerful empath. It’s a legacy she walked away from long ago—but when she wakes up one morning to find Elsa, a tenacious time-walker, standing in her kitchen, she realizes she can no longer ignore her gifts. She is quickly plunged into the hidden world of powerful “Others” and drafted…

The Others

By Evette Davis,

What is this book about?

True Blood meets Supernatural in the kickoff of this urban paranormal fantasy series from an acclaimed author. Readers enter a dystopian San Francisco filled with empaths and vampires embroiled in political unrest—and Book 1 is just the beginning.

Much as she wishes otherwise, superstar political consultant Olivia Shepherd was born a powerful empath. It’s a legacy she walked away from long ago—but when she wakes up one morning to find Elsa, a tenacious time-walker, standing in her kitchen, she realizes she can no longer ignore her gifts. She is quickly plunged into the hidden world of powerful “Others” and drafted…


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