New foundation begun

Steve Funk is a Reno radio and music personality, journalist, blogger and community activist.

“Keep your head below the sagebrush if you don’t want to get it shot off,” was the advice her predecessor gave Bella Cummins when she bought the Hacienda Ranch brothel in 1981, and she took it to heart.

In the decades since, her nature and work ethic drove her to success in Nevada’s legal sex industry, or as she prefers to address it, the “sensual services” industry. “After all,” she says, “it’s never always about the act, is it?”

Now, with a lifetime of experience, she sees things a bit differently and is dedicated to making a difference. “I can’t give back, because the past is the past,” she says, “but I can give forward, for the future of these ladies and this necessary industry.” This is the realization that led her to form the Onesta Foundation, a non-profit advocating for best practices, better understanding and worker empowerment. She continues:

“I’ve realized that, as human beings, we have failed to embrace the only reason to be in a body, with the opportunity to safely express sexuality. I am in a position to speak to this. … I’ve experienced every cycle in this unique industry. Now, it’s time for me to stand up … to help the public understand that outdated stereotypes reinforce stigma and marginalize choices made, and the good work done, by strong, proud, independent, resourceful and intelligent women.”

Nevada, laudably and uniquely among the 50 states, has been willing to tackle big cultural lifts and address very human, but difficult to discuss, activities such as gambling, divorce, marijuana and sex, and in 1971, began regulating brothels. Almost 50 years later Bella Cummins sees this as the time to revisit and revise those regulations, at both state and local levels, and “bring light to the shadows” that continue to darken public perception.

The original Onesta, in Venice in the 1500s, regulated sex work to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for sensual activity while elevating workers and the avocation of courtesanship with education and culture. This example inspired Bella Cummins and the Onesta Foundation.

The foundation sees this moment as crucial. Onesta means honesty, integrity, virtue and transparency. Research shows that sensual services and purveyors bring net gain to our culture. It’s time to modify perception and regulatory structure that cast legal workers and enterprises in a separate, less protected class from others.

The Onesta Foundation mission is to provide awareness, education and advocacy for a safe, healthy and transparent sensual services industry in Nevada. More information is available at Nevadans are encouraged to follow Facebook and Instagram to stay abreast of activities.

“I have this vision of women really being empowered, being a part of something and doing work in the sex industry they can be proud of. All of this should never be done by women alone. Much is to be done by men,” Ms. Cummins insists, “We should move forward with a collective consciousness in the Onesta tradition of fairness, honesty and virtue for a better Nevada.”