Re-evaluate prostitution in Washoe and Clark counties

Read the Las Vegas Sun story here:

Several weeks ago, the Las Vegas Sun ran a piece about George Flint, a brothel and wedding chapel lobbyist for the state of Nevada. The article mainly functioned as a character profile, but it brought up his ambition for a seemingly impossible life goal: legalizing prostitution in Nevada counties with populations over 400,000 people.

While he’s mainly focused on Clark County, repealing the population law would also affect Washoe County, thereby allowing legal, regulated prostitution to set up camp in Reno.

I, for one, think it’s a grand idea.

As the only state currently allowing some form of legalized prostitution in the United States, Nevada is in a unique position to make meaningful change regarding the nature of sex work.

While the industry of prostitution has a long-held reputation of seediness, disease and coercion, there are many valid reasons for a reconsideration of its status as a restricted business, one that could flourish in, and be good for, the major cities of Nevada.

Worldwide, sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing industries of international trade. Women and children in particular are bought and sold to the highest bidder for sexual exploitation, often against their will. Domestically, many illegal sex workers are forced to rely on pimps, and if they find a way out of the business, they are often diagnosed with psychological and/or physical issues as a result of their experiences. Meanwhile, their pimps take the lion’s share of the profits.

I honestly believe that legalizing prostitution could change some of that.

In a highly informative and entertaining journey to the Bunny Ranch last month, I had the opportunity to learn about prostitution as a legitimate business from none other than Dennis Hof himself, along with some of the women who work at the Ranch. Hof is world renowned for his open and progressive views on the sex industry. (He was invited to Oxford University in early 2012 to discuss his work.)

Whereas sexually transmitted diseases are rampant in unregulated prostitution markets, legal prostitutes require weekly checkups for STDs—Hof cites extremely low rates of STDs in Nevada brothels, where HIV is virtually nonexistent—perform visual checks for signs of STDs on customers, and always require the use of condoms. In addition, illegal prostitution operations often exploit children and teenagers, but brothels require their workers to be at least 18 or 21 depending on the county.

While most street prostitution puts most or all of the money and power in the hands of a pimp, prices in brothels are based on one-on-one negotiations between a customer and a prostitute. She will also be able to keep most of the money she earns, with a rent fee owed to the brothel.

Brothels employ a security staff, and many brothels equip their bedrooms with panic buttons just in case. Hof and his ladies all said that security is rarely an issue, and that their number one objective is for everyone to have fun.

The path to legalized prostitution in major Nevada cities will not be an easy one, but the more I consider it, the more I appreciate what it could bring in its wake.

It could be regulated, taxed and increase state revenue. (Currently, Nevada doesn’t tax brothels even though they’ve repeatedly offered to pay taxes.)

Illegal operations would not be able to stand against the competitive rates and comforts that brothels provide. Not to mention, many lonely hearts would find relief without having to drive out of city limits.

What the decision comes down to is whether prostitution should be kept illegal and dangerous or legal and safe; either way, it’s going to happen, and it’s up to Nevada voters and legislators to decide the fate of this business that has great potential for profit and regulated development.