cloudyn.png
Thursday April 15th, 2021 6:51AM

Pandemic makes prostitution taboo in Nevada's legal brothels

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Before the coronavirus pandemic, tourist-dependent Nevada had a notorious attraction: It was the only place in America where someone could legally pay for sex.

These days, even in the state known for sin, the business is taboo.

Legal brothels have been shuttered for nearly a year, leaving sex workers to offer less-lucrative alternatives like online dates or nonsexual escort services. Those in the industry say many of the licensed prostitutes, who work as independent contractors, have struggled to qualify for unemployment benefits since closures began last March and some have opted to take their work into the shadows, offering sex illegally.

While the business of legal bordellos may seem incompatible with social distancing, sex workers and brothel owners say that’s not the case. Like other close-contact industries such as massage therapy and dental services, they contend brothels should be allowed to reopen with protective measures.

“We could easily do work at arm’s length, just the same as they do within the massage parlors, which are open in the state of Nevada,” sex worker Alice Little said. “You can go to a dentist and have him put his hands in your mouth. You can go to a tattoo parlor and get your face tattooed right now. You can get piercings put in your face. You’re certainly not masked for any of those things."

So far, Nevada officials haven't agreed.

A state task force that makes recommendations on coronavirus restrictions hasn't responded to pleas from brothel owners seeking a way to reopen. And a lawsuit Little filed against Gov. Steve Sisolak last year fizzled.

The Democratic governor recently said brothels, along with other adult entertainment like nightclubs and strip clubs, would stay closed at least through May 1. After that, the state may let counties decide whether to allow those businesses to open, as long as COVID-19 infections aren't surging.

Nevada, like many states, saw a spike of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the winter holidays, but since mid-January, those numbers have been steadily declining.

Prostitution is only legal in Nevada's estimated 20 licensed brothels, whose sex workers undergo regular tests for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS and obtain required work cards from local law enforcement after passing an FBI background check.

A throwback to the state’s days as a Wild West mining territory, brothels were illegal but tolerated in some areas until Nevada legalized them in 1971.

They’re only allowed to operate in counties with populations of less than 700,000 people. Brothels and prostitution are illegal in the counties that include Las Vegas and Reno, but some brothels are a half-hour to an hour away. Some offer free limo rides from the casino-heavy cities.

Little, who was working at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel in the capital of Carson City, says she has lost 95% of her income amid the closures. She said she’s been providing virtual dates, webcam experiences and creating X-rated content through subscriber site OnlyFans, among other ventures.

“At this point, I am able to survive. I am able to pay my bills. I’m able to put food on the table, but I have had to dip into my savings," Little said.

Other brothel workers who are not comfortable linking their faces to online sex work have had a harder time pivoting to virtual services, she said. Finding a job outside the stigmatized sex industry also can be tough, Little said, because background checks can reveal the work authorization cards prostitutes must have in brothels.

Allissa Starr, who was working at Sheri’s Ranch brothel in Pahrump, about an hour outside Las Vegas, said some women she worked with are illegally offering sex for money despite virus concerns.

“They’re just doing what they can,” she said.

Starr, like Little, started offering virtual dates, where she might share a glass of wine, dinner and conversation with clients. Starr said she eventually got assistance under the federal pandemic unemployment program for gig workers, but it was about 10% of what she had been making and is set to run out soon.

Starr said she's able to cover her bills but can no longer put thousands in savings. She moved to Pittsburgh to live closer to family and save on rent. She's starting a self-care business but said if Nevada’s brothels reopen, she’d come back to work one week a month.

“It’s a way to easily provide money for me and my family, and it’s a way to provide security,” Starr said.

Reopening the brothels, Starr said, is “a personal risk, just like traveling. If you wear your mask, if the girls got COVID tests before they came to the ranch, I think it could be done safely.”

Mustang Ranch, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Reno, appears to be the only brothel still offering some kind of companionship, taking advantage of an escort license it's had for about two decades. The license allows customers to hire women for nonsexual companionship.

Owner Lance Gilman said temperatures are taken, masks are worn and customers must come to the ranch and say where they’ll go on a date, typically a restaurant or casino.

Gilman said it’s a much-reduced operation — usually, about 30 women were available for hire 24/7. Only three or four women are working as escorts because many of them are uncomfortable leaving the security of the property for a date, he said.

Mustang Ranch submitted a proposed plan to state officials that suggests reopening for contactless dates in private rooms, with masks and gloves worn by workers.

"In this industry, much, if not the majority, of the courtesan-customer interaction does not involve physical contact even during normal business operations,” the proposal says.

State officials haven't approved the plan.

Asked how the brothel could ensure sex workers and customers have no physical contact behind closed doors, Gilman said there’s no way to make such a guarantee: “All you can do is rely upon the credibility and the ethics of the commitments that are made.”

“Human nature is human nature,” he said.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP Business, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Pandemic makes prostitution taboo in Nevada's legal brothels
Before the coronavirus pandemic, tourist-dependent Nevada had a notorious attraction: It was the only place in America where someone could legally pay for sex
11:28AM ( 3 minutes ago )
Enrollment at US community colleges plummets amid pandemic
Enrollment at U.S. community colleges has plunged 10% from fall 2019 to fall 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic
11:06AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Impeachment vote becomes defining moment for GOP senator
Seven Republican senators voted to convict Donald Trump at his impeachment trial, but it was North Carolina’s Richard Burr who was the most unexpected “guilty” vote
10:55AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Two Democratic governors see stars dimmed by virus woes
At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, two Democratic governors on opposite ends of the country were hailed as heroes for their leadership in a crisis
9:45AM ( 1 hour ago )
What's safe after COVID-19 vaccination? Don't shed masks yet
As more people get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, what's safe for them to do
9:19AM ( 2 hours ago )
Hand-holding but no hugs: UK OKs some nursing home visits
The British government has announced a small step out of the nation’s lockdown — allowing nursing home residents to have a single friend or family member visit them indoors
6:36AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Health
The Latest: UK announces small step out of lockdown
The British government has announced a small step out of lockdown -- allowing nursing home residents to have a single friend or family member visit them indoors
9:24AM ( 2 hours ago )
US sanctions over pipeline from Russia deemed lacking by GOP
The Biden administration has added a layer of sanctions to a Russian vessel and the shipowner for their work on a new gas pipeline from Russia that is strongly opposed in the U.S. and eastern Europe
11:00PM ( 12 hours ago )
Judge rejects Rep. Devin Nunes defamation suit against CNN
A Manhattan judge has thrown out a defamation lawsuit U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes brought against CNN
9:10PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Business
Enrollment at US community colleges plummets amid pandemic
Enrollment at U.S. community colleges has plunged 10% from fall 2019 to fall 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic
11:06AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Impeachment vote becomes defining moment for GOP senator
Seven Republican senators voted to convict Donald Trump at his impeachment trial, but it was North Carolina’s Richard Burr who was the most unexpected “guilty” vote
10:55AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Biden declares major disaster in Texas as federal aid flows
The extreme winter weather that left residents of Texas and other Southern states shivering through an unseasonal cold spell is testing President Joe Biden's disaster management skills
10:51AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Warmer temps bring relief as cold-weary South starts cleanup
Warmer temperatures are spreading across the southern United States, bringing some relief to a winter weary region
10:46AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Europe applauds Biden's approach, stresses cooperation
U.S. President Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy address since taking office has brought relief to many European capitals
10:33AM ( 58 minutes ago )