Summary and book reviews of Brothel by Alexa Albert

Brothel

Mustang Ranch and Its Women

By Alexa Albert

Brothel
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  • Hardcover: May 2001,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2002,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

When Harvard medical student Alexa Albert conducted a public-health study at the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada, the only state in the union where prostitution is legal, neither she nor the brothel could have predicted the end result. Having worked with homeless prostitutes in Times Square, Albert was intimate with the human devastation caused by the sex trade, and curious to see if Nevada's brothels offered a less harmful model for a business that will always be with us. The Mustang Ranch has never before given an outsider such access, but fear of AIDS was hurting the business, and the Ranch was eager to get publicity for its rigorous standards of sexual hygiene. Albert was drawn into the lives of the women of the Mustang Ranch, and what began as a public-health project evolved into something more intimate and ambitious, a six-year study of the brothel ecosystem, its lessons and significance.

The women of the Mustang Ranch poured their stories out to Albert: how they came to be there, their surprisingly deep sense of craft and vocation, how they reconciled their profession with life on the outside. Dr. Albert went as far into this world as it is possible to go -- some will say too far -- including sitting in on sessions with customers, and the result is a book that puts an unforgettable face on America's maligned and caricatured subculture.

Chapter I: The Opening

The postmark read "Reno Nevada, 24 Dec 1992." I stared at the envelope for a long moment before opening it. Reno? My mind was blank. Then it came to me: the brothel. For three and a half years, off and on, I had tried to convince a man named George Flint, executive director of the Nevada Brothel Association, to grant me permission to conduct a research study inside Nevada's legal brothels, the only licensed houses of prostitution in America. My letters and telephone calls had been for naught; Flint stood firm that the brothel industry wasn't available for a researcher's examination. "Brothel people are very private people," he had told me. "They don't like people nosing around."

It had become a ritual to send him a card every year reminding him of my project. I had long ago stopped entertaining any serious hope that he would agree, so I was in a slight daze when I tore open the envelope and read: "Your holiday card arrived earlier today. ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

An unrevealing glimpse of daily life in the sex trade. There's some news here, particularly on how sex workers can help prevent the spread of disease. But there's not much depth, and readers are likely to respond to Albert's report from the field with a shrug.

Publishers Weekly

Albert convincingly dispels myths about this mysterious world and provides a strong defense for the legalization of prostitution - this engrossing, plainly told account should attract considerable attention.

Library Journal

Although Albert is clearly sympathetic to the plight of these women, she is careful to present a balanced account of what it means to be a prostitute in a legalized brothel. The tone is engaging, and some sections are a little raunchy. Written for a popular audience, this is highly recommended for sociology, women's studies, and cultural history collections.

Author Blurb M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D.
This well-written, non-judgmental, informative book helps to replace ignorance with understanding concerning the lives and attitudes of women involved in legal prostitution, as well as their customers. It could serve as a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and form the basis of both moral and legal discussions about prostitution in the future.

Reader Reviews
Michael Roberts

Exploitation at its worst
The book starts describing the research that Albert uses to gain access to the brothel. A book about the spread of AIDS or the use of condoms would have been very interesting. However, the book quickly devolves into a book so voyeuristic it makes ...   Read More

Sasha

girl interviewed
I think she did a wonderful job with the info that was provided. Way to go Lexi. I remember you. Thanks for treating us like everyday people.

April

I couldn't put the book down. It gives you a new look at the sex trade occupation.

Matthew

Not only is the book highly engaging and readable, it sets one's mind reeling with implications. This book ranks with Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" as two of the best pieces of investigative journalism in the past two years.

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