Legalizing Prostitution

From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business

288 pages

23 b/w illustrations

December, 2011

ISBN: 9780814794630



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Ronald Weitzer is Professor of Sociology at George Washington University and author or editor of many books, including Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry, Second Edition.

All books by Ronald Weitzer

While sex work has long been controversial, it has become even more contested over the past decade as laws, policies, and enforcement practices have become more repressive in many nations, partly as a result of the ascendancy of interest groups committed to the total abolition of the sex industry. At the same time, however, several other nations have recently decriminalized prostitution.
Legalizing Prostitution maps out the current terrain. Using America as a backdrop, Weitzer draws on extensive field research in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany to illustrate alternatives to American-style criminalization of sex workers. These cases are then used to develop a roster of “best practices” that can serve as a model for other nations considering legalization. Legalizing Prostitution provides a theoretically grounded comparative analysis of political dynamics, policy outcomes, and red-light landscapes in nations where prostitution has been legalized and regulated by the government, presenting a rich and novel portrait of the multifaceted world of legal sex for sale.


  • "Weitzer, criminologist and professor of sociology at George Washington University, provides an erudite overview of sex work and detailed case studies of three cities with red-light districts: Antwerp, Belgium; Frankfurt, Germany; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "One of the more intelligent, measured and comprehensive looks at alternatives to criminalizing the trade."


  • "[This book] offers an authoritative and scholarly glance into the subject of prostitution. Weitzer manages to address the politics of prostitution without delving deep enough into the morality of the issue to confuse the subject... I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of sex work as well as those interested in land use planning concepts."

    Urban Times

  • "While there are other recent books on prostitution policy, Weitzer’s book combines cogent ideas with interesting original research material... Verdict: A valuable book for criminal justice policymakers and for serious students of prostitution and crime."

    Library Journal

  • "Thorough and perceptive study."


  • "The book is well balanced and includes discussions the author has had with many different authorities, with prostitutes, brothel owners and the police (to name a few). Weitzer also does a good job describing the surroundings that he sees and the book makes for an interesting read....The book...would make for great discussions concerning whether or not prostitution (in its various forms) should be illegal, legal, or decriminalized." 

    —Elin Weiss, Metapsychology