Book Review: Brothel

Book Review:

Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women

By Alexa Albert

In the early 1990s, after three years of letters, medical student Alexa Albert gains access to Mustang Ranch, one of Nevada’s legal brothels. Spurred by allegations that no woman working at the brothels had tested positive for HIV since testing became mandatory in 1986 (and the number that had tested positive for a STD was next to nothing), Albert’s goal was to examine condom use in the brothels.

Albert flew to Nevada and moved into Mustang Ranch for a month to conduct her research. Before long, she was hooked, and her public health study transformed into a long-term study of the brothels – not just the health aspects but the economic and social aspects. What motivated these women to turn to prostitution? How did the women feel about their job? How did the people of Nevada feel about legalized prostitution?

Recommendation: I really enjoyed Brothel. It was well-researched and well-written. It had the perfect balance of personal stories and facts about Nevada’s legal brothels. And while the above questions are very interesting, I was most intrigued with Albert’s personal reflections about prostitution. Her views changed as she got to know the women at the brothel and learned more about the issues. While she remained fundamentally opposed to prostitution throughout her research, she realized that the legal brothels are not a black and white issue. There is merit to prostitution in a legal setting – from the health and safety aspects to the sense of community and family that many of the women gain.

Brothel was a short, quick read but packed with information. I would definitely recommend it!

Grade: A-

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