Nevada Has the Highest Rates of an Illegal Sex Trade in the Nation

Legalized prostitution in Nevada has also led to an increase (not decrease) in the state’s illegal sex trade. In fact, Nevada has the highest rates of an illegal sex trade in the country, adjusted for population—63% higher than the next highest state of New York and double that of Florida.[i]

At least 5,016 individuals are being sold for sex in Nevada every month—not counting those who are in brothels, escort agencies and massage parlors.[ii] For context that means that every month, more people are being bought for sex than the population of Nevada cities such as Silver Springs or West Wendover. This dismantles the myth that legalized prostitution decreases illegal prostitution or sex trafficking.

Further, a recent audit of Nevada legal brothels in Lyon County found that 30% of the women had red flags for being sex trafficking victims.[iii] This is not surprising because across the globe, legalizing prostitution has only fueled sex trafficking. A 2013 study of 150 countries from the London School of Economics found that wherever prostitution was legal, sex-trafficking tended to increase, not decrease.[iv] Why? Because once something is legal, there is increased demand for it.

In addition to this inherent link between prostitution and sex trafficking, we see that the chief hallmark of the sex trade—whether legal or illegal—is a predatory dependence on people with vulnerabilities it can exploit. Individuals in prostitution, like those who have been sexually trafficked, experience a wide-range of “push factors” such as homelessness, poverty, histories of abuse (physical and sexual), and minority status that make them susceptible to sexual exploiters. Nevada’s own Dennis Hof demonstrated this connection well when in 2015 he auctioned off “America’s Next Top Bunny Ranch Virgin,” who happened to be a 20-year-old college student seeking to help her family because their uninsured house burned down.[v]

Given the degree of potential harm, prostitution scarcely seems like an activity that humane society would sanction in any shape or form. Yet, this is what the state of Nevada has done. Despite all the rhetoric about supporting the choices of those in the sex trade, when advocacy groups and governments normalize the sex trade, they choose to allow the vulnerable, desperate, and reckless to become the prey of the greedy, powerful, selfish, and lascivious. They choose to ensure that a pool of persons are always on supply as public, sexual property. They disregard the immeasurable harm to the lives of those used up as fodder in the commercial sex industry.

Thus, instead of continuing its embrace of organized sexual exploitation, NCOSE urges Nevada’s elected officials to adopt prostitution policies that combat demand (highly penalizing and reducing sex buyer behavior) and offer social services and job training opportunities to the women, men, and transgendered individuals engaged in prostitution to help them exit the industry.

Attn: @NevadaSenate, legalized prostitution in Nevada has led to an increase (not decrease) in the state’s illegal sex trade. In fact, NV has the highest rates of an illegal sex trade in the country, adjusted for population. It's time to… Click To Tweet

[i] The Human Trafficking Initiative, “Nevada’s Online Commercial Sex Market” Creighton University,

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Rio Lacanlale, “Audit finds signs of human trafficking at brothels in Nevada county” Review Journal, 2018,

[iv] Cho, Seo-Young and Dreher, Axel and Neumayer, Eric (2013) “Does legalized prostitution increase human trafficking?” World development, 41 . pp. 67-82. ISSN 0305-750X DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2012.05.023

[v] “America’s Next Top Bunny Ranch Virgin, “Bunny Ranch Brothel’s One $$$ Million Dollar ‘America’s Next Top Bunny Ranch Virgin!’” (accessed February 6, 2016).

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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