Working In Nevada
by Laura Anderson
Many people think that a legal brothel system, similar to the state of Nevada's is the best way to allow prostitution to operate. Speaking as a former Nevada brothel intimate, current self-employed call girl, and sex worker advocate, I would like to inform others of the disadvantage to prostitutes created by this system. From 1986 to 1991, I worked at four different brothels in Northern Nevada. Two of them were large, well known houses. I met other women who had worked the state's brothels extensively, and certain common conditions prevailed which were disadvantageous to us.
By Nevada statute, the only prostitute can legally work is in the brothels. Due to intentional default, the state and brothels retain an unfair advantage in regulating the working women. Under this system, prostitutes give up too much autonomy, control and choice over their work and lives. Because prostitutes are not allowed to work independently, or outside the brothel system, Nevada has essentially institutionalized third party management with no other options. While the brothel owners love this profitable solution, it can be exploitative and is unnecessary. prostitutes are usually quite capable of transacting their own businesses without interference.
Even though the brothels consider prostitutes to be independent contractors (convenient and less costly to them than employee status), the prostitutes do not have the control or freedom that independent contractors or sole proprietors have. If they decide to refuse a customer, management must be provided with what it deems an acceptable reason. Some "customers" should certainly be avoided at all costs. They might be rude, rough, or drunk, want too much for their money, have an attitude problem, or just simply be jerks. I don't think anyone should have to provide sexual services to men like that. Yet, many of the brothels put the burden of proof on the prostitute. She must justify her right to refuse business, even though she loses money herself by doing so. The prostitute is the best judge of who is eligible for her services, and she should be able to decide that without feeling pressured by a third party. Throughout Nevada, the standard percentage kept by the house per transaction is 50%. They all have minimum fees as low as $40 or $50, which a prostitute is not allowed to decline if the customer is acceptable in other regards. The brothels charge additional for room and board and several of them have the prostitutes supplement the house employees income by giving them required tips. This mandatory tipping can start at a minimum of $18 per day in the larger brothels. This is an effective way for the house to minimize its labor costs.
Another problem with the Nevada system is the restrictions imposed on prostitutes' freedom. They are required to live in brothels while they work there. 12 to 14 hour shifts are usually imposed and any plans to leave the premises of these establishments must be approved by management or a prostitute may forfeit her job or money. At most of the brothels I worked at, we weren't allowed to read books while waiting for customers in the parlor. If business was slow, this could mean a long, boring shift and a waste of valuable time.
Mandatory STD testing and sheriff department registration are also required. The houses discourage and in many cases forbid prostitutes to see doctors of their own choosing. My experience with the house doctors has often been rushed, inadequate exams for inflated prices; some even exhibiting a patronizing or sexist attitude! HIV testing is done on a monthly basis even though many health professionals say that testing twice a year is adequate. Condoms became mandatory in brothels in 1986, only after the Department of Public Health applied pressure. Many owners were against mandatory condom use for fear that it would hurt their business. Before 1986, the smarter prostitutes were using them anyway. Their business would suffer as a result because the brothels were not supportive to these prostitutes as they attempted to protect their health. so the customers would try to find customers who would see them without condoms. The people most concerned about the health of the prostitutes are the prostitutes, not the brothel owners, and certainly not the state, which imposes politically motivated and gender biased controls on prostitutes rather than holding customers equally accountable for their own sexual behavior. Registering with the sheriff can be a conundrum, as fingerprints are sent to the FBI. If a woman is known to work as a prostitute, she is subject to various social and economic penalties such as being unable to get health insurance, discrimination in housing or future employment, or accusations of unfit motherhood. In several countries a known prostitute is not allowed to immigrate or her travel is severely restricted.
I am not opposed to brothels per se. They can be a good option, especially for less experienced workers who can benefit from the shared knowledge of other professionals. But when that is the only legitimate way a prostitute can work, she finds herself with no other way to conduct business legally, while the power of third parties over her is lopsidedly strengthened. This naturally leads to exploitative circumstances. Until the needs and desires of prostitutes are fully considered and included in any schemes legitimizing our profession, many of us will choose to work illegally rather than sacrifice values important to us like freedom, privacy, and control over our work, lives and bodies.
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