The Daily Antheneum - online
WVU professor, author to discuss new book, ‘Getting Screwed’
Reed College of Media Professor Alison Bass first came across the world of sex work while teaching at Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She was helping a student who was having trouble with a profile assignment when the student blurted out the subject in question - an activist in the community—was a female sex worker.
Intrigued, Bass discovered the woman, "Jillian," was a middle-class woman from an Orthodox Jewish background.
Jillian had not been forced into the sex business, though. Instead, she decided on sex work to have more time to pursue her passion of volunteering at an alternative treatment mental health center.
Her story became the inspiration for Bass’ book, "Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law."
"(Jillian) really opened up a window to me to the world of sex work in the 21st century," Bass said. "She introduced me to other sex workers, and I realized that what they were talking about totally clashed with the popular narrative of prostitutes all being drug-addicted women who are forced into the trade by pimps or traffickers."
In the United States, a majority of sex workers over 18 years of age are choosing to be a part of the business. It is not a result of human trafficking, Bass said.
Bass’ research found that criminal laws against prostitution actually make sex work more dangerous for sex workers because it’s harder for them to practice safe sex, avoid HIV and protect themselves against violent predators on the streets.
"In countries where it’s decriminalized - New Zealand and the Netherlands, most of Europe actually - they have lower HIV rates because it’s easier to negotiate with clients for safe sex, sex with condoms, (and then) sex workers and clients don’t have to worry about getting arrested," she said.
At 7 p.m. tongiht, Bass will discuss "Getting Screwed"and facilitate a question-and-answer session at 7 p.m. in room 130 of Colson Hall. She will discuss the history of prostitution, as well as talk about policy issues involved with sex work.
After the Q & A session, Bass will read an excerpt from her book, which explores true stories of modern sex workers in the U.S., assesses the latest prostitution research and argues for the legalization of prostitution.
"There’s a lot of discrimination and marginalization of sex workers… To me, the mission of journalism is, as Joseph Pulitzer once said, ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted,’" Bass said. "I often like to write about things for people who are marginalized…"
Bass came to WVU in 2012. She now teaches multimedia bureau reporting for capstone classes, an investigative journalism class and health and science journalism.
Before coming to WVU, she worked on contract at Mount Holyoke College, an all-girls college that, at the time, was having issues recruiting and retaining students.
Bass left Mount Holyoke to avoid worries over renewing her contract.
"I didn’t want to depend on renewing my contract every year," she said. "This job (at WVU) came up, and I have a brother who lives here, my parents lived here. I grew up in Pennsylvania, so coming here made a lot of sense. It’s been great. It’s a great institution."
Bass is also the author of "Side Effects: A Prosecutor, A Whistleblower, and A Best Selling Antidepressant on Trial."
She has written for The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, the Miami Herald, Psychology Today, The Village Voice and other newspapers and magazines across the country.
Bass has won the Top Media Award from the National Health Association and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
"I like to tell the truth," she said. "
"I would no more be a Master than a slave. It does not conform to my idea of Democracy." Abraham Lincoln 1856.