The Encyclopedia of Prostitution & Sex Work

Published by Greenwood Press

Edited by Dr Melissa Ditmore


Selected Reviews

If prostitution is indeed the world's oldest profession, a comprehensive reference source covering sex work has been a long time coming. Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work is well worth the wait. It proves to be an excellent starting point for learning about this universally fascinating and controversial topic. This work is very clear in defining its scope and purpose. Because it represents one of the first real forays into collecting and condensing the body of research on sex work, it is meant to present an overview that can be built upon by future works. That being said the coverage is expansive ... [t]his work is highly recommended for most any public or academic library. In addition to filling a void in the literature, it also strikes a balance between rigorous research and readability.

Reference & User Services Quarterly

This two-volume encyclopedia provides a comprehensive overview of prostitution and related areas of interest. Editor Ditmore serves as research consultant at the Sex Workers Project in New York, and the inclusive, nonjudgmental nature of that organization is reflected in this reference work. Its entries are written in an objective, scholarly tone by professionals and academics; a few contributors are sex workers themselves, according to their biographical information. Readers will find many access points to information, including alphabetical and topical lists of entries, and thorough cross-referencing. Appendixes contain various types of documents ... The real strength of this reference work is its breadth: entries cover prostitution's relevance in the arts, gender/sexuality studies, history, legal studies, politics, public health, and sociology, all with a global focus. However, this work will most likely be considered for purchase in support of criminology or women's studies collections ... Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.


Courtesans, strumpets, harlots, hookers; the colorful vocabulary of the world's oldest profession hasn't garnered the academic treatment accorded lesser subjects - until now. This informative two-volume collection of essays, edited by Ditmore, forms a broad view of prostitution around the world but particularly in the United States. Historical details are abundant, ranging from first-person accounts to entries on ancient Greece, the Bible, and 19th-century New York City. The 341 alphabetically and topically arranged entries, written by an expert panel of contributors, are readable and balanced, with little social commentary. Articles on serious subjects, like "soiled doves" and rape, contrast with essays on, e.g., Gunsmoke and shoes. Included are a time line, historical accounts, poems, documents, and suggestions for further reading ... As an initial attempt to define this topic, the encyclopedia will serve academic libraries well. Public libraries seeking research materials on social issues may find the work less useful, except where collections in human sexuality are particularly strong. Recommended for specialized public and all academic libraries.

Library Journal

Given the cliche about "the worlds oldest profession," it is curious that this is the first encyclopedia to explore prostitution and the many issues it touches. Apparently, its only published antecedent is a 1998 Russian title that is, according to WorldCat, available in just two OCLC member libraries. This new encyclopedia, then, is for all practical purposes sui generis ... This encyclopedia provides historical context and contemporary analysis of the complex issues related to prostitution, issues easily reduced to shibboleths. It will fill a void in academic reference collections. In communities where prostitution is a concern, it will provide informative background for public-policy discussions.

Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin