Nevada’s Brothels: Legalization Serves The Man

by Bella Mansfield, Esq. on April 22, 2014 · 36 comments

in Labor Law, Prostitution

via Flickr user Craig Walkowicz

via Flickr user Craig Walkowicz

One of the many questions OkCupid users can answer to determine compatibility with potential mates is “Should prostitution be legal?” The answer options are:

  1. Yes, absolutely
  2. Yes, only if it were regulated
  3. I don’t think so
  4. ABSOLUTELY NOT (emphasis theirs)

In my four years of using the site, I’ve noticed that those who choose answer “2” frequently add something in the comments about regulations being necessary to protect workers from harm. Somewhat less frequently someone comments that regulations protect the health and general well-being of the public. My sample size is, of course, limited, but that thinking isn’t all that different from members of the general public who support legalization. Legalization, the thinking goes, would protect the public from the perceived health risks associated with prostitution by mandating testing, provide states with tax money (which relies on the false assumption that sex workers don’t currently pay taxes) and would control when and where sex work could be done. And, if prostitution was legal, sex workers would be safer because they would feel more comfortable utilizing the criminal legal system.

What they forget is that we have an example of legal prostitution in the United States: regulated, licensed brothels in the state of Nevada. While legalization provides benefits to the state, the workers are still treated as second-class citizens. Nevada has been home to brothels since the late 1800s, and the first licensed brothel opened there in 1971. Currently, there is no statute explicitly stating that prostitution is legal, but under state law, counties in Nevada with populations under 400,000 can allow brothels. These brothels are the only places in the United States where one can engage in legal prostitution, and the people doing this work are governed by three different sets of regulations: state laws, county laws and brothel rules.1 While the state laws are easy to access and review, county laws are less so, and brothel rules are not available to the public. The small size of the counties and towns that the brothels are in means that rules frequently change depending on the mood of the sheriff. This form of legalization is a combination of modern business law and Wild West attitudes.

Nevada state laws are the framework under which the counties containing brothels operate. They dictate where brothels (or “houses of ill fame” as the law describes them) can be located, the steps counties must follow in order to have legal brothels, advertising restrictions, and health regulations. They not only establish behavioral and structural regulations, but also include statutes requiring workers to be tested weekly for gonorrhea and chlamydia (through a cervical sample) and monthly for HIV and syphilis (through a blood test). A positive test result for any of these mean that the worker must quit working in a legal brothel. If a worker tests positive for HIV and continues working, they can be charged with a class B felony, and if the brothel owner knows of their test results they are liable if anyone contracts HIV from that worker. While it can vary by county, the fees for the tests are usually paid for by the worker. Condoms are mandatory for oral sex and intercourse. In order to further protect the health of clients, some counties place restrictions on how long a worker can be gone from a brothel before she has to be re-tested or require a chaperone if a worker goes out at night, lest she work independently and choose to not use a condom.

There are also strict laws regarding pandering beyond the typical “pimping” statutes that might come to mind. Living off the proceeds of prostitution is pandering, so workers’ spouses and partners better have their own employment! Providing transportation so that someone can engage in prostitution is also illegal. The transportation statute essentially prohibits anyone from providing a worker with a ride to work, as it finds that anyone transporting a worker with the intent to encourage them in engaging in prostitution is guilty of pandering. This is an interesting contrast to the policies that some brothels have of giving a fee to cab drivers who bring clients to their establishments or providing free limo service to clients coming from Las Vegas. While workers either have to drive themselves to work or find a ride with someone who doesn’t know what they do, clients can arrive in business-sponsored cars. Few things show intent to encourage someone to hire a prostitute more than sending a complimentary limo to whisk them away to a brothel.

State law also restricts advertising for both legal brothels and illegal prostitution. Brothels can only advertise in the counties where prostitution is legal. It’s also illegal to prepare or print an advertisement for illegal prostitution, which means that graphic designers, handbill printers and producers of small newsprint ad catalogs are now included in the category of people who are affected by the prohibition of sex work. The penalty for illegal advertising can include jail time and fees.

via Flickr user DB's travels

via Flickr user DB’s travels

County laws regulate the actual license application process, fees, and zoning for brothels. They also include worker-specific statutes, like those governing work cards. Any employee at a brothel, including bartenders, must have a work card. In Storey County, home of the Mustang Ranch, workers must submit all previous addresses for the last three years, aliases, a criminal background check release, and a medical release form allowing the medical facilities and/or doctors to share her test results with the county. A work card can be denied for myriad reasons, including a conviction for petty theft or shoplifting in the last year or a drug-related misdemeanor conviction within the last three years.

In addition to state and county regulations, each brothel has its own set of rules. These rules aren’t available to the public, but there is an in-depth discussion of the rules at the Mustang Ranch in Alexa Albert’s book Brothel.2 Workers there must pay a rooming and food fee, and are required to stay at the brothel for a minimum of two weeks. While staying at the brothel, workers can only leave for medical exams (although there is also an option of seeing a doctor on site) or for special emergencies. Should they need something, like a toothbrush or a box of tampons, they must pay a fee to a house runner who will pick up these items for her. Workers negotiate their own fee with clients, often varying by which sex acts are going to be performed, and they have a 50/50 split with the house. They are also expected to tip the bartender, security workers and other staff. If they leave, they must return by a set curfew. Albert reported in her book that workers could not live or vacation in the town where they worked, but I did not find any Storey County statutes stating such.

The result of this kind of legalization is a system that benefits the state, county governments and brothel owners tremendously. The worker benefits in that she does not risk arrest (or at least not for prostitution, as she can still be arrested for violating a state or county regulation) and there is an assumption of safety. I would be interested to see statistics of rape and coercion in legal brothels versus incidents of the same with independent escorts. My suspicion is that legal brothels are not necessarily markedly safer than doing indoor prostitution illegally.

Legalization, at least under the Nevada model, means submitting to mandated testing and the county having access to those test results. It means paying fees to the county but also to the brothel. It means staying inside for long stretches of time and having restrictions placed on your movement, including during non-work weeks. It means you might be denied a work card if you’ve been convicted of not only violent offenses but also survival crimes, like shoplifting.

This model is not pro-worker, but pro-government, pro-customer and pro-business owner. One hopes that most workers get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections, but it should be the worker’s choice when and how her body is subjected to tests and the results should be between herself and her doctor.3 While Nevada does have a criminal statute making it illegal to knowingly transmit HIV to another person, there are no regulations surrounding the health of those who wish to purchase sex at brothels. The fees, both for work cards and within the brothels, place the county alongside the brothel owner in the role of madam. Workers are asked to trade autonomy over their movements and submit to medical testing for a removed risk of arrest, and the county and brothel owners get to profit in return.

This is not an acceptable alternative to criminalization. On paper, these laws and rules appear to be incredibly restrictive, invasive and to the benefit of the government far more than the worker. It is also a system that may target workers with less resources. Independent workers who have access to screening tools and community can take their chances with working for themselves in cities where prostitution is illegal. Women who don’t have easy access to ways to stay safe might more frequently choose the comfort of knowing that they are engaging in a legal trade, and the state gets the cash reward for providing them with that option.

A more worker-friendly alternative is decriminalization of prostitution and prostitution-related offenses. Decriminalization would remove or significantly reduce criminal penalties, but would not create regulations the way that legalization would. Reducing jail or probation time to a ticket or fine—or eliminating penalties altogether—would still allow the worker to control personal aspects of her business without risking arrest.

Nevada is just one example of how legalization could work, and at best it is a hodgepodge of regulations. If this was the model for legal sex work in the United States—if even just a few of their laws became standard—sex workers would lose much of their independence of movement and communication to laws created by people who don’t know even basic information about the industry, like the fact that sex workers in the U.S. are a safer bet, health-wise, than a one-night stand from a bar. Until there is a model of legalization that focuses on keeping workers safe, decriminalization is the better option.

1. A note about language: there are many people who work in brothels who are not prostitutes. However, for the purposes of this article, when I write “worker” I mean prostitute unless otherwise indicated.

2. This book was published in 2002. The rules stated here may have changed since the book’s publication.

3. This is an excellent example of how laws that affect sex workers are often part of bigger systemic oppression. Requiring workers to agree to testing and sharing their results in exchange for being allowed to work is the medicalization of the female worker. Laws that require transgender people to have a certain set of surgeries in order to change the gender marker on their birth certificate and programs that offer benefits or money only to female drug users who agree to be sterilized are other examples of removing medical autonomy from marginalized groups in trade for greater access to privilege.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Krueger April 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

While your argument against Nevada style legalization is sound and you are right to oppose it, the fact is that most people are sold on the idea that business needs to be regulated. Fighting for total decriminalization sounds great on paper, but it will be infinitely more difficult to accomplish than legalization. They are finding that out in Colorado now with legalized pot where they accepted the regulation as the cost of making pot legal.

If you wish to be recognized as being a legitimate profession then, when you get your wish, be prepared to be treated as other legitimate businesses are treated. There will be health requirements, financial regulation, inspections, and new taxes.

Of course, most of these regulations are unnecessary because, like all businesses, you already have a powerful incentive to please your customers. Your livelihood, health, and well being depend on it. Unfortunately, regulation is what politicians do, what the media fear mongers promote, and the public expects.

Good luck with your cause. Criminalization of sex work is a national disgrace for a country that calls itself “the land of the free”.

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Lorelei April 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

When I was on OkCupid I listed option 1 and left the box blank. I learned a while ago that I can’t possibly know the best solution, because I’m not involved, I’m not a sex worker. That post reinforced that. The last sentence sums up how I feel.

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Jeremy Lemur April 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm

“One hopes that most workers get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections, but it should be the worker’s choice when and how her body is subjected to tests and the results should be between herself and her doctor.”

What the author is saying is that she prefers a system without standards and accountability. The Nevada model is as strict as it needs to be in order to establish an “industry standard” for sex work that ensures the safety and health of courtesans and customers.

Yes, sex workers in Nevada Brothels have to be tested, and if they have an STD or HIV, they are not permitted to work.

Yes, sex workers must pay fees to get their business license and Sheriff card – they’re independent contractors working at legitimate businesses.

Yes there are county laws, state laws, and, like all workplaces, there are rules. Welcome to being a recognized member of civilized society. We don’t raise our arms in protest when we have to go to the DMV and pay for our car to be registered. We don’t feel violated because the DMV requires our birth certificate to validate our identity – and we don’t think that the vision test required to drive a car should be private information between us and our eye doctor.

Standards are necessary to legitimize a service or privilege.

Nevada Brothels have been operating legally for nearly half a century now. The Nevada model is an excellent example of how prostitution can work in a legalized setting and benefit customers, business owners, and sex workers by providing a safe, healthy, and lucrative environment through the enforcement of time-tested quality and operational standards.

Like all things created by humans, it’s not perfect, but it’s a gigantic step in the right direction for legitimizing the sex work industry.

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Evie April 23, 2014 at 3:48 pm

If you had actually read the article, you’d understand why the Nevada model does NOT benefit actual sex workers, just their customers and anyone who makes a profit off of their labor. So, not much different than the criminalization model everywhere else in the US.

And I’ll get a weekly cervical swab if my customer gets a weekly urethral swab. It’s not real accountability if only one side is held accountable.

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Amanda April 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Everyone who supports the testing model of the NV brothels not only fails to realize that weekly testing isn’t a best practice, but that diseases are brought into brothels via the clients. If anyone should be tested, it should be the clients. (As the author of the article pointed out.) Not to mention, not all diseases that could be tested for are. So what’s the point? Some diseases are okay, others aren’t??? Why test at all?

“Like all things created by humans, it’s not perfect, but it’s a gigantic step in the right direction for legitimizing the sex work industry.”
No, it’s not a step in the right direction. The brothels have been around for 50 years, as you say, and yet the strides made in legitimizing sex work have come from non-brothel sex worker activists. The brothels aren’t fond of sex worker rights and do not want to help legitimize the industry because it means they lose control and lose money.

Far more perfect is the New Zealand model, where independent sex workers are treated as independent women quietly leading their own lives, which is pretty much the same as any single woman on the dating scene. Brothels are treated as businesses and it’s the establishments themselves (and management) which are regulated as a business, not the women’s bodies.

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Jeremy Lemur April 23, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Hi Amanda,

Regarding your comment:

“Far more perfect is the New Zealand model, where independent sex workers are treated as independent women quietly leading their own lives, which is pretty much the same as any single woman on the dating scene. Brothels are treated as businesses…”

See, this is the thing that gets me. You ARE NOT single women on the dating scene. You ARE service providers performing a spectacular service to a paying client. YOU, Amanda, ARE a business when functioning as a prostitute.

Yes, brothels are treated as businesses, because that’s what they are: businesses where the business of sex work performed by independent women legally takes place.

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Robin D Robin D April 23, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Brothels are businesses. Amanda or whoever would be a freelancer or in New Zealand, if incall, a “Small Owner Operated Brothel,” which, yeah, would mean she is not subject to all of the same laws, though still subject to some. Dating scene was probably the wrong phrase but different laws do apply to businesses with employees (I know they are classified as independent contractors in Nevada but this is illegal under federal labor law and the brothels would lose a lawsuit like the strip clubs do). Nobody in New Zealand is forced to be tested. They also do not have to register with the police though brothel operators must be registered at an administrative law level. Brothels are subject to zoning and advertising bylaws. This works really well! Really, really well. Way less invasive and way more effective than the system in Nevada. There are health regulations – for sex workers and clients to use and promote safe sex, which is as it should be, not mandated testing. The financial regulations and taxes are the same as before. Which, it’s also true in the US that sex workers are subject to those regulations already, as they are enforced separately from the prostitution laws.

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Amanda April 25, 2014 at 9:03 am

Thank you for clarifying the finer points Robin!

Robin D Robin D April 25, 2014 at 1:45 pm

You’re welcome Amanda! I think the biggest point is no forced testing…and no evidence of transmissions, either. Also of note that street work is not outlawed but is also subject to zoning I think – sometimes this pushes sex workers into less safe (e.g. more industrial) areas, but I think I remember that maybe this worked better than that in NZ?

Scarlet Heart April 23, 2014 at 11:32 pm

This guy: “I’m not in the sex industry, but I’m going to tell you all what’s best for you because being a man my opinion is superior to all your lived experiences put together!”

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Jeremy Lemur April 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I work on staff, full time, at a legal Nevada brothel, obviously not as a prostitute. My opinion (man or not) has a some validity as a person who devotes every day of his life to the sex work industry.

Scarlet, your comment about me being a man is indicative of the worst aspects of this usually excellent site.

Amanda April 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

Jeremy — Don’t tell me what I am, let me determine that for myself. Having sex with a client is no different (from a disease-transmission perspective) than having sex with a civilian. Money doesn’t prevent or cause disease. Testing doesn’t prevent a disease, neither does working for an establishment vs working on my own. Safer sex practices can prevent disease and I don’t need to work for a pimp to be able to put on a condom.

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marissa April 25, 2014 at 1:45 am

Preach! Why can’t most laypeople see the simplicity and common sense of it all? Random anonymous bar hookups, even Tinder, Grinderr etc are MORE sketchy than meeting a John who gives his credit card/traceable phone number, or goes through the various screening hurdles of internet escorting.

John Punter April 22, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Obviously brothels are a stupid idea. Forcing a sex worker to have a pimp is beyond dumb. Best case, a pimp provides security, something that sex workers should get from police and/or professional body guards. Sex workers can hire promoters if they need and want them. I don’t think, typically, there is anything illegal about, say, doing taxes or reading palms from a place that’s zoned as a residence. If someone did sex work from a residence, the usually zoning ordinances about signs, customer parking, etc. should handle that just fine.

I suppose you could make a case for a law against paid, unprotected sex. But trying to protect people from their own stupidity always seems to end up being a wasted effort, however good the intentions.

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Scarlet Heart April 23, 2014 at 12:41 am

I have heard nothing but negative things about the Nevada brothels. As someone who does both brothel and independent escort work I feel lucky to be in Australia, where the only rules for working in a parlour (for the most part)are going for an interview, telling the manager what shifts you want and turning up, working, then going home. It differs slightly from state to state – like in Victoria where it is more regulated – but generally it is quite relaxed in comparison to the utter bullshit you have to go through to work in Nevada. It would not surprise me if a lot of the girls who work at those brothels take their clients for private bookings, risk of arrest be damned.
Unfortunately many non-sws I know think the key is legalisation, it seems to be the prevailing attitude of the community. :/

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Amanda April 23, 2014 at 10:05 am

I’ve been using the NV brothel model as a reason why legalization doesn’t work because it doesn’t truly benefit the worker. Sure, there are girls who can make tons of money in it, but most don’t. I had a very negative experience in a legal brothel. All the reasons you list, and then some, are why legalization doesn’t work. Plus, I had the joys of having my prostitution registration come up anytime a NV cop ran my license. You can imagine how much fun it is to sit on the side of the road, wondering if you’re lucky enough to get a cool cop who has seen it all before — or not.

Yes, rape and coercion happens in the brothels. I heard some stories, I experienced a small bit of coercion from the house. Every room has a panic button. Brothels are not the safe-zone everyone makes them out to be — though it really depends on the brothel. On the other hand, the violence isn’t nearly as high as it is for independent workers — if you take a look at the overall numbers and not at specific individuals or brothels.

Yet another problem with the brothel system you never touched on is the independent contractor status accorded to the women working there who are actually treated exactly like employees. This allows the brothels to continue to rip the women off, without providing compensation such as insurance, worker’s comp or other legal niceties. Being “legal” doesn’t confer any truly beneficial “legal” status in the workplace, something which is very, very lopsided. Brothels certainly don’t seem to conform to any sort of OSHA standards — which leads back around to the fact that rape and screwing around with a girl’s money can happen in some brothels but not others.

The brothel system as it currently stands is very broken and only benefits the owners and the state. Why would anyone want to work for pimps like that?

Dave — you’re one of those men who think you’re oh-so-well-meaning and so much smarter than us by telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing for ourselves. We’ve heard your argument before, countless times. I don’t know what you’ve been doing to advance sex worker rights, but we’ll pursue decrim if that’s how we want the laws we live under structured, thank you very much.

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Evie April 23, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Re: independent contractors being treated like employees. Absolutely, and it’s the same situation in American strip clubs. Some are better than others, but I’ve never worked in a club that treated me like anything but an employee. My current place gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of schedule but we still have to pay that house fee, and late fees, tip outs for CRs, etc, are decided on the whims of whoever is managing that night, and how they feel about you. Strippers are also at risk for arrest, in my state an undercover cop can buy a lap dance, say you “offered or implied” sex for money, and his word is enough to get you charged with solicitation.

Working inside legally may lower your risk of certain types of violence and abuse but you are still incredibly vulnerable and easy to exploit.

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Amanda April 24, 2014 at 9:02 am

I’d love if brothel workers sued the brothels or tried to unionize, but the pimps running the brothels have done a very good job of squelching any initiative for better working conditions or recognition of their legal status as employees.

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Robin D Robin D April 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Right?!!??? Actually neither is politically feasible in Colorado right now, so any change is going to have to be change that we MAKE politically feasible. In 2011, 32% thought it should be legal and 56% illegal, about the opposite of the numbers around marijuana. This holds true across party lines. They legally require an escort license too, already, but also can arrest you for prostitution. Some of us realize that you have to play the long game and chip away at criminalization from the bottom up. Also, that regulations should apply to businesses, not workers, and shouldn’t be more onerous than regular zoning laws and so on. Though I think the Nevada brothels have the right idea with the mandatory condom use (but not the testing). Curfews, shutting workers in, none of that is stuff that would be legal for any other business. Classifying employees as independent contractors like they do already isn’t, under labor law. But like the strip clubs they probably prefer the risk of a lawsuit in the current climate because it’s cheaper for them in aggregate. Should we have extra taxes? Would that help politically? Sure, maybe. But a ballot measure like Amendment 64 sure as shit isn’t going to be sufficient in any kind of near term.

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Robin D Robin D April 23, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Also, yeah – demands without contributing anything, that’s suuure familiar. Go start your own organizations or campaign. Hell get a measure on the ballot! It won’t pass, but it would get publicity and a chance to make the case for rights.

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Kora April 24, 2014 at 3:23 am

I work at a brothel, and this article is filled with inaccuracies. It also should not pretend to speak for all sex workers. It certainly doesn’t speak for me. The brothel doesn’t serve “the man,” it serves my wallet and my safety and security. I am for full decrim, full stop. HOWEVER, I really wish that independent escorts would stop shitting on brothel workers. You are no better or worse than us, and believe it or not, some sex workers (such as myself who have been on both sides of the fence, indie versus brothel work) PREFER brothel work. Indie work isn’t for everyone. Brothel work isn’t for everyone. How about advocating for the rights and choices of ALL sex workers, rather than just the ones in your inner circle?

I really wish other sex workers would stop speaking for each other. Does the author even work at a brothel? Doubtful. Did she even interview any actual brothel workers?

This is just more of the same crap that this site churns out. Why am I even surprised?

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Caty Simon Caty Simon April 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

Hey, it wasn’t Tits and Sass’ intention to shit on brothel workers, just brothel owners. If you feel we fucked it up, please, please submit a piece to us about your own experience! We’ve been looking for an insider to write about their work, but the people who were going to do it withdrew their submissions for fear of backlash they felt would follow them talking about their negative experience. My e-mail is simon.caty@gmail.com, and I’d really love it if you wrote a counterpoint piece, or anything you like.

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Kora April 24, 2014 at 3:41 am

“The brothel system as it currently stands is very broken and only benefits the owners and the state. Why would anyone want to work for pimps like that?”

Wow- demeaning much? Once again, this site seems to be dedicated to shitting on sex workers who don’t do it the way the Marxist Feminist Tits and Sass crowd wants it done. Newsflash- your voices are no more or less important than other sex workers, including those who work in brothels.

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Robin D Robin D April 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm

You should take Caty up on her offer to write a counterpoint about your own experience (though obviously some of this varies brothel-to-brothel). I know one woman with a positive brothel experience and a whole bunch of horror stories from others… Anyway I don’t think most people are opposed to brothel work in general, but would prefer a brothel system more like those in New Zealand and New South Wales.

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Amanda April 25, 2014 at 9:17 am

I did work for a brothel for a very brief period of time and it was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. I’ve known a number of sex workers who do and do not like working in the brothels. Some of them have worked independently and some never have.

The system as it currently stands is very broken and needs serious reform with the input of the workers. I’ve never advocated for ending the brothels because I recognize it’s a valid choice for many workers, especially in a criminalized country. That doesn’t mean the system couldn’t be improved. After all, it’s a legal system and therefore should be easier to improve than efforts to decriminalize, right?

Giving half my money off the top to someone else is working for a pimp, IMO. Paying room and board is no different than touring independently but there is no sensible reason for the brothel to take half my earnings other than it was a system created by men living off the earnings of sex workers. Not to mention I get zero legal employee benefits for this money when, by all rights, I should be counted as an employee. The system rips off the women working in it and no, I don’t think it’s right — my sympathy is for the women. I guess that makes me a Marxist?

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John Punter April 26, 2014 at 1:12 am

There is nothing inherently bad about a sex worker having a pimp. It’s just that most pimps focus on taking advantage of the fact that sex workers are outcasts, rather than really earning their keep with security and promotion services. In that sense, NV brothels have a resemblance to pimps. The brothels extract more money than they need to, a create onerous working conditions, because they know sex workers have so few options.

The point is not that there is anything wrong with feeling that NV brothels are the least bad among the current bad options for sex workers. The point of the article is that consenting adults should just be able to have at it. Brothels don’t meet the standard for the proper approach to government regulation in a free society. The standard being that people should be able to use there own judgement, unless there is factual evidence that government-imposed limitations are needed.

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Caty Simon Caty Simon April 26, 2014 at 6:16 am

There’s nothing wrong with a sex worker having an EMPLOYER or an EMPLOYEE, both roles which the different sorts of people called “pimps” have filled. Sex workers should be able to be employed or employ, just like any other worker and/or small business owner. But as you say, one of the reasons people filling those roles for sex workers have been called “pimps” is that the labor contracts many sex workers have with both licit and illicit employers have been grossly unfair.

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Amanda April 26, 2014 at 9:55 am

Caty and John — Both excellent points. I have no problem with support staff hired by the choice of the sex worker. Witness the many screening and marketing assistants now online. There are agencies that I wouldn’t have minded working for because they’ve gotten such good feedback from the women working for them, but they are rare.There’s only one US brothel I have heard good things about from a sex worker I trust.

The “pimp” remark I make about brothels is because management seems determined to make money at any cost, regardless of the well-being of their employee; and they work as hard as possible to scrape as much off their employees as they can. The attitude isn’t treating the women like true employees or even like human beings, hence “pimp.”

I understand that creating an underground economy by criminalizing prostitution leaves the door wide open for exploitation. Seeing the same exploitation, state-sanctioned and legalized, is reprehensible on many levels. Change is needed. If it’s supposed to be the “best” option, then make it the best option.

John Punter April 29, 2014 at 12:57 am

I wouldn’t disagree with you. What I posted previously was offensive to Kora, as someone who chose to work at an NV brothel because it was the best option available. There may be sex workers who give money to someone they feel they are getting some kind of support from, but it’s more complicated than any “standard” business relationship. I would want to listen to why they choose to do that before forming any definite opinion.

It’s a problem how society can’t accept sex work as just another way of making a buck, a reasonable choice for some people. But we don’t want any new shaming creeping in place of the old. The plan of many sex workers is to work 100 days or less a year, pay their bills, and have a few splurges. Not crazy or dumb, just maybe encourage them to think a bit about the eventual “exit strategy”. It’s more worrisome when it seems like someone is using someone else. Could it be there are non-violent pimps out there, who are filling a need with similarities to the need sex workers sometimes fill for lonely johns? Of course, they would not be pimps if “pimp” has no non-pejorative sense.

I think there are a lot of problems with sex workers being employees. For example, someone I’ve been seeing a lot of lately hates being touched on the sides of her head. It’s just in the nature of it that you have to be the one making the rules.

Olivia Howard April 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

There are many things inherently bad and wrong about pimps. I’m defining pimps as someone that is exploitative lives off of the backs of women not legitimate agency owners that take 20% or less and handle all the screening, advertising through the agency owner’s client list and the internet. The distinction is important. Women that work for an agency are free to leave any time and are not treated as chattel and otherwise controlled by a pimp. These women working at these so-called brothels are being exploited, restricted, controlled and stolen from by the brothel owners, and, more importantly, it’s sanctioned by the local governments. It’s disgusting and appalling.

Indy women do not need “security” or “promotion”. All an independent escort needs is access to the internet and a phone and they can perform these supposed pimp “services”. Most screening is done to ensure the client isn’t law enforcement not to determine if they are dangerous. Good screening techniques can be found in online books (Amanda Brook’s “The Internet Escort’s Handbook 1: The Foundation” is an excellent example) and in blogs like mine (www.hookerincorporated). Women can promote themselves by advertising on local review boards, Eros.com, Preferred411.com, My Red Book.com and The Erotic Review.com. There is literally NO reason any woman to pay anyone for alleged protection or to act as a promoter unless they choose to pay an agency owner a reasonable fee for a legitimate service.

The WHOLE point is that there is something socially and morally wrong with the Nevada brothels laws and regulations. It’s thinking like this that allows women to be basically held captive and submit to medical examinations that may or may not be given with good will. There is literally NO reason at all for government sanctioned business like these to exist. Prostitution should be decriminalized and that’s the end of it. It’s no one’s business what a woman does with her body. The important issue is that people aren’t exploited and are allowed to earn a living as they see fit, and that’s not happening in these brothels or anywhere in the US.

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Clare April 29, 2014 at 5:35 am

So when it comes to sex works, Tits and Sass is espousing the libertarian view of “no regulation” at all? Good to know.

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Caty Simon Caty Simon April 29, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Decriminalization, actually. The New Zealand system. Look it up. Not “no regulation at all,” and certainly not nec. libertarian in spirit, but similar regulations as other businesses, not draconian government overregulation specifically for the sex industry.

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