Citizens Organize to Turn Off the Red Light on Prostitution in Nevada
Citizens against Brothels in Nye County (C.A.B.I.N-C), the No Little Girl campaign, and the End Trafficking and Prostitution (ETAP PAC) have banded together to place referendums on upcoming election ballots to repeal legal prostitution in Nevada’s Nye and Lyon counties. Organizers are working to collect the necessary signatures to submit the referendum to the Nye County Clerk by the June 19 deadline. The referendum to end legal brothels in Lyon County was filed in April, and the County Commissioners will have a hearing on June 7 to consider language for the ballot question—and for good reason.
Nevada is the only state in the U.S. which allows legal prostitution. Its legality is determined on a county-by-county basis, based on the county’s size. Only counties with a population under 700,000 people are permitted to open regulated brothels—ironically, disqualifying Las Vegas from “legally” participating in the sex trade.
Currently, seven counties have legal prostitution. Four brothels operate in Lyon County: The Love Ranch, Moonlite BunnyRanch, Sagebrush Ranch, and Kit Kat Guest Ranch. Another four brothels are located in Nye County: The Love Ranch South, Alien Cathouse, Chicken Ranch, and Sheri’s Ranch. As owner of The Love Ranch South, Dennis Hof, told reporter Julie Bindel: “I’m selling sex like McDonalds is selling burgers.” Ranches, cats, aliens, bunnies and burgers: the women on offer in Nye County brothels are categorized as animals and objects rather than the human beings they are.
Brothel owners, like Dennis Hof, and the PR agents they hire, would have the public believe that legalizing prostitution lowers the rates of illegal prostitution, sexual violence, and sex trafficking—all of which is a fantasy. Nevada’s commercial sex market is by far the largest of any state. A report by Creighton University’s Human Trafficking Initiative found that at least 5,016 individuals are sold for sex in an average month in Nevada. The commercial sex market of Nevada is 63% greater than the next largest state of New York, and more than twice as large as in California. Legal prostitution also appears to have done nothing to stem the illicit sex trade. According to an article reporting on Dr. Melissa Farley’s two year investigation of brothels and prostitution in Nevada, the illegal prostitution industry in Nevada is nine times greater than the state’s legal prostitution industry.
“Legalizing this industry does not result in the closing down of illegal sex establishments,” says Farley, “it merely gives them further permission to exist.”
Moreover, according to an FBI Uniform Crime Report, counties in Nevada that allow brothels (Lyon, Nye, Lander, Elko, White Pine, Mineral and Storey) have a rate of sexual assault 26 times higher than their neighboring counties that don’t allow brothels.
To make matters worse, more than 13% of prostituted persons in Nevada are advertised as being under the age of 21. It is evident that age is an important quality to sex buyers in Nevada by the higher prices put on younger females. This places a target on each child within the state. Denise Berumen, Lyon County community member and mother, first became passionate about fighting against the brothels in her county after her 17-year-old daughter was approached by a local brothel owner. Legal brothels affect the communities and counties in which they reside and endanger families at large.
Pahrump, Nevada, community member Rob Fairbairn reported, “We are excited to finally get this issue out into the hands of our citizens and before our County Commissioners. It is time for us to stand up against the exploitation of women in our community and speak up against the ordinance. Nowhere else in the country do people sit back and watch as women are exploited and the county takes a cut.”
Mr. Fairbairn is an example of the many men and women of Nye and Lyon counties who are seeing through the lies of the commercial sex industry. Legal prostitution neither lowers illegal prostitution nor safeguards the prostituted persons. Farley found that brothel owners usually pocketed more than half of the women’s earnings while the women lived in prison-like conditions within the brothels; they were not allowed to leave, take a day off, etc. Although most women currently in prostitution would publicly glamorize “sex work,” many women admitted to Farley that they had experienced physical and sexual abuse from their buyers and pimps. Behind closed doors, one woman working in a brothel put it this way: “No one really enjoys getting sold. It’s like you sign a contract to be raped.”
More than 80% of the 45 women Farley interviewed as a part of her investigation into the Nevada’s sexual exploitation market said that they wanted to leave prostitution. Yet, the resources available for women to exit the prostitution marketplace are limited to nonexistent. Recognizing this, some groups are working to create such resources in Nevada and beyond (some of which can be found here), but, as Farley reminds us, “When prostitution is considered a legal job instead of a human rights violation, why should the state offer services for escape?”
The “No Little Girl” campaign is dedicated to changing this. The campaign emerged from the End Trafficking and Prostitution (ETAP PAC); a 501(c)4 organization committed to support “efforts to end sex-trafficking and prostitution in Nevada through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation.” By focusing on strengthening communities, improving economic options, and ensuring support for the women within brothels, No Little Girl is determined and ready to abolish prostitution in Nevada –one county at a time.
We applaud the No Little Girl campaign and the concerned citizens in Nye and Lyon Counties who are working to turn off the red light in Nevada. To learn more about the harms of prostitution visit NCOSE’s Bright Light on the Red Light.