The past several decades have welcomed a new voice in the controversial topic of sex work — sex-positive sex workers. They claim their experiences are consensual, positive and pleasurable. They enjoy getting paid for sex and are tired of getting negative attention.
Their mantra? Sex sells, and maybe it should.
“It’s curious to me that the most stigmatized employment for women is also the highest-paid employment for women,” said Barb Brents, professor in the department of sociology at UNLV. “Prostitution can be empowering for certain women — not just financially, but it gives them confidence. I’ve had a lot of women tell me that it’s not the work that is bad; it’s the stigma that it carries.”
Women are often viewed as desirable and sexual creatures. However, acting out on that desire can be seen as shameful in our society, said Christina Parreira, a UNLV Ph.D. student and prostitute known as “Goddess Vienna” at the Alien Cathouse in Amargosa Valley.
Parreira, 30, began working as a legal prostitute after she started researching legal brothels in Nevada. She said she found that the most effective way to study them was to start working there.
“To be honest, I’ve also been interested in the sex industry since I was young,” Parreira said. “When I started watching the HBO television show ‘Cathouse,’ (which documented the professional lives of the workers at the Moonlite BunnyRanch near Carson City) I thought the women were so brave for doing something that spits in the face of society’s norms.”
According to Parreira’s research, she found that women who work at legal brothels are generally happy and the majority of women have orgasms with their clients. In addition, out of the 50 women she interviewed, five said that they’ve experienced violence.
Parreira said she had a close call when a customer paid for oral sex. In the middle of their session, he decided he wanted sex. Instead of going back to the booking room, he tried to pin her down.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to get raped,’ ” Parreira said. “Instead of panicking I said, ‘OK, let me grab some extra lube,’ and as soon as he let me go, I got the hell out of there. The shift mom went in there screaming and kicked him out. The whole house was full of angry hookers ready to get this guy.”
She added that she has also seen financial advantages for counties that have legal brothels. In Nye County, Parreira said the brothels’ license and tourism revenue pays for emergency medical services and helped pay for a clinic.
Parreira, who is married, said she has a supportive husband and is open about her work.
“This work has helped me pay for school and helped me pay for really everything,” Parreira said. “It’s afforded me a better lifestyle without a doubt. People need to know that this is a job just like any other. Yes, some of us had drug problems, and others have been molested, but there are also doctors, lawyers and secretaries that have been molested and do drugs. These stereotypes don’t just exist in sex work.”
Alice Little (real name withheld) is a 26-year-old former sex educator who works at the Sagebrush Ranch near Carson City. She started working at the ranch in November and at 4-foot-8, has prospered as the brothel’s “tiniest” redhead prostitute.
Little said the most unique request that she has received was to dress up as Dot Warner from the television series “Animaniacs,” while the most popular request is the girlfriend experience, which provides clients with a date, cuddles and more.
In the media, brothels are often seen as places for anything lewd and suspicious, but Little says that legal brothels are the opposite. They’re places for politicians, actors, couples and “anyone who needs love.” Those with mental and physical disabilities are welcomed as well.
“We provide a wonderful service to society,” Little said. “I want people to know that this is a career that’s been around since the dawn of time. I genuinely love my job, and I love the people here. I’ve never felt exploited.”
Her job has helped her buy a car, house and save for the future.
Marilyn Rose (real name withheld) also works at the Sagebrush Ranch. The 27-year-old paralegal began working as an illegal prostitute to pay for her college tuition. It started after she kept getting offers by men while working at a law firm.
As an illegal prostitute, Rose faced multiple criminal charges and said she was always on the lookout for pimps, drug addicts and vice detectives. She also had to be wary of violent sex buyers.
She started working in legal brothels almost four years ago and said it has helped pay for her schooling and a home, while keeping safe. She estimates that she makes roughly $10,000 a week.
“I feel completely in charge here,” Rose said. “I make the rules, and I say what does and what doesn’t happen. I decide who I want to see. Sure, the money is great, but it also makes me happy knowing that I can contribute to someone else’s happiness.”
Rose said she has a three-year plan in which she hopes to leave the industry and have enough money to go through law school and eventually open her own law firm.
She added that her best client is a single woman.
While Las Vegas is known for its thriving sex industry, prostitution is illegal in the city. Nevada law allows counties with a population below 700,000 to offer brothel prostitution.
Women range in age, body types, skin tones and professions. Some women are single mothers; others are married women or students. There are also women who have left their full-time careers to make better money, according to Jeremy Lemur, communications representative for Moonlite BunnyRanch.
The state board of health requires sex workers to undergo testing for sexually transmitted infections, and sex workers must also require patrons to use condoms.
As independent contractors at the legal brothels, women set their own hours and rates. They can also choose to turn someone away. In addition, each room inside Dennis Hof’s brothels has a panic button, and the doors do not lock from the inside for the protection of the women.
“There’s a lot of research that points out that prostitution is an important part of the economy and helps provide a stable base for us to grow as a state,” Brents said. “While it’s a very small industry in Nevada, it has helped make the state what it is today. Even our motto, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ rests on this notion. Sex is a pretty big deal here.”
To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy
The Cupcake Girls
The nonprofit provides adult entertainers and sex workers with links to community resources, such as medical and dental care, legal advising, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and more. It takes a neutral stance on the legalization aspect of sex work. Visit thecupcakegirls.org or call 702-879-8195.