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Press Release

Understanding Nevada Prostitution

Published on Thu, Dec 27, 2012 (1:17 a.m.)

Although prostitution and Las Vegas seem to go hand-in-hand, many people do not realize that prostitutes are not officially legal within the city limits. Nevada does have legalized prostitution in the form of brothels, but these exist in only the smaller counties; Reno and Las Vegas do not have brothels. Nevertheless, the sexual service industry is alive and well in Las Vegas.

In order to understand why that is and how it's possible, it's necessary to look at the history of prostitution in general, how the sex industry began in Las Vegas and what types of sex workers ply their trade in the city.

Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world, and it has been viewed differently over time and in various civilizations. In ancient Greece, prostitutes were both legal and highly valued. In ancient Rome, sex workers lived within religious temples and offered their services as part of the greater religious context. A special class of Roman prostitute, the hetara, doubled as entertainers, and they were the wealthiest and most powerful women in their society. This is similar to the geisha in Japan, who primarily served as entertainers in addition to providing paid sex.

This long-standing tradition of sex workers providing non-sexual entertainment paved the way for the modern day notion of outcall entertainment. Workers in a Las Vegas escort service provide a number of services beyond the simple exchange of sex for money; indeed, such prostitution is not even part of their official job description, which is how Las Vegas escorts continue to work within the city limits.

When discussing sex work, it's important to distinguish between the different types of services offered by the workers. Generally, sex work can be divided into two categories: street workers and indoor workers. Street workers are prostitutes who actively search for new clients on the street. They may work alone or under a pimp, and they usually offer basic sexual acts without any emotional attachment. On the other hand, so-called indoor workers may be part of an organized brothel, or they may offer their sexual services on the side in addition to exotic entertainment such as dancing or massage.

According to a paper published by George Washington University, the differences between indoor and street workers are significant. Street workers run the risk of becoming victims of violence, and drug use is common. They have little protection and may be part of a corrupt and exploitative system.

Indoor workers, on the other hand, have a much safer and more satisfying job. According to the research from GWU, indoor workers have a low risk of STDs and are rarely targets of abuse or violence. This happens in part because of protections set in place by the industry itself; clients are vetted by gatekeepers and word of mouth between workers. Additionally, most workers have a small pool of regular clients. These returning clients pose a substantially lower risk than new clients found on the street.

Within the indoor entertainment industry, there are three primary models:

-- Brothels. These exist in rural counties in Nevada. There are approximately 30 licensed brothels in Nevada, according to estimates from the Center of Disease Control. Each brothel may employ up to 50 workers, and these workers undergo rigorous health screenings to ensure that they remain disease-free. Most of the women employed in brothels are not originally from Nevada, and many live within the brothel itself.

-- Outcall entertainment. This is a service that will send exotic entertainers to a person's home, hotel, convention or other location. The job descriptions of these entertainers vary; some may be dancers, strippers, call girls or escorts. By the CDC's estimate, there are approximately 1,500 Las Vegas escorts and other outcall entertainment workers within the city and surrounding areas. The majority of these are employed by six major companies, but smaller businesses exist in the city as well.

-- Adult entertainment venues. These vary from strip clubs and sexual exhibitions to massage parlors that offer adult services on the side. Similar clubs and venues exist across the country, but the reputation of Las Vegas may encourage more sexual activity to take place there than in other states.

A relatively small number of prostitutes may also work independently within casinos or hotels. It's important to note, however, that brothels are the only legalized form of prostitution in Nevada. The dancing, massage or companionship offered by a Las Vegas escort service is legal; additional sexual services are not.

Because prostitution is an illegal activity across the country, it's impossible to obtain accurate figures on how many active sex workers may work in any given area. In the case of Las Vegas, the math becomes more difficult because of the distinction between indoor sex workers and street workers. Although there are indoor sex workers in other cities, the industry is not as large outside of Nevada as it is within its borders.

Surprisingly, Las Vegas does not have the highest population of street workers of any state. That honor belongs to Minnesota, where an estimated 8,000 women are prostitutes. There is little evidence to suggest that Nevada in general and Las Vegas in particular has a higher percentage of street prostitutes than any other similarly sized metropolitan area.

The reputation of Las Vegas may be responsible for the popular conception that it has a substantial population of prostitutes. Additionally, it may be commonly assumed that the workers at a Las Vegas escort service will offer sexual services, even if that worker does not in fact offer them. This makes it difficult to distinguish legal sex workers from their illegal counterparts.

The actual services offered by Las Vegas escorts vary. Because the services are not strictly legal, they are not widely advertised. It's also difficult to obtain exact numbers on how many transactions may take place. Services are predominately offered in person and advertised through word-of-mouth among clients. Nevertheless, there are websites where customers can discuss their preferences and experiences; these sites allow a glimpse at the type of offerings provided by a Las Vegas escort service.

The exchange of intercourse for money is not the only service offered by professional prostitutes, and it may not be the most popular for clients. Many legal services provided by Las Vegas escorts may still result in sexual satisfaction. For example, lap dances or strip teases are legal services provided by professional entertainers. Some entertainers may also offer fetish services that do not include sexual intimacy, such as light bondage or spanking.

Outcall entertainment professionals may also sometimes provide intimacy and companionship to their clients. This differs significantly from street prostitution and is perhaps one reason why violence toward these workers is fairly rare. Clients can receive what's frequently called "the girlfriend experience," which includes intimate acts like cuddling and foreplay. Conversation, kissing, gifts and other activities may also occur, which blurs the line between paid sex acts and dating.

While many of the services offered by paid Las Vegas escorts may occupy a legal gray area, the exchange of sexual intercourse for money is certainly illegal outside of the licensed brothels in rural Nevada counties. These transactions do still occur, however, although their frequency is debatable. There are an average of 4,000 arrests made in Clark county each year for prostitution, but a large number of those are street workers, not indoor workers. It's reasonable to assume that a substantial number of Las Vegas escorts engage in illegal sexual activity with clients at least some of the time.

In his book The Economics of Sin: Rational Choice or No Choice at All author Samuel Cameron discusses the history and economics of prostitution. He notes that even in communities where prostitution is fully legalized, illegal activity may still occur.

For example, a worker may be able to fetch a higher price by agreeing to perform services without a condom, which would violate the rules of a brothel. A worker might also fail to pass a health inspection and thus be forced to work illegally. Other illegal practices, like tax evasion, also exist in the sex industry.

In the case of a Las Vegas escort service, an escort or call girl may decide to offer services as a way to obtain more money for a job. According to the CDC, the average Las Vegas escort service will charge between $250 and $450 per hour. Of this, the call girl herself will only earn a small percentage; some work purely for tips. This pay structure makes it appealing to offer additional services in exchange for higher tips. It also makes it easy for sex workers to offer these services under the table with little risk of being apprehended.

Even ignoring the issue of prostitution, a substantial part of Nevada's economy is directly tied to adult entertainment. Liquor sales and gambling are major sources of income throughout the state, especially in Las Vegas and Reno. Las Vegas is also home to a large number of adult-themed clubs, including strip clubs and kink-specific fetish clubs.

In addition to these in-person sex industries, Nevada is also home to a substantial pornography hub. Both film and digital productions are made in the area on a frequent basis, and Las Vegas alone has 20 different adult toy stores.

Rural counties in Nevada benefit the most from the sex trade due to the high tax revenue from brothels. Thanks to brothel licensing, liquor licensing and other types of taxes, rural Nevada counties earn tens to hundreds of thousands in tax revenue from brothels each year.

Without the prolific sex culture and industry throughout Nevada, the local economy would suffer. Some evidence also suggests that the legalization of sex work helps to reduce the incidence of illegal work, which in turn has a positive benefit toward society as a whole.

During the Bush administration of the 2000s, laws surrounding prostitution became stricter. Coupled with an attack on other aspects of the sex industry, such as pornography, these legal changes and philosophical ideologies shaped the way that sex work is discussed in popular discourse. According to the prevailing philosophy, sex workers are oppressed and victimized; they require intervention or even rescue from outside parties.

While this view may be accurate for a group of prostitutes, especially those working the streets, studies have shown that it is not true of all sex workers. Indeed, some indoor prostitutes report high job satisfaction and substantial earnings. For some people, working within the sex industry is empowering.

If sex work is inevitable, which history seems to suggest, then it is wise to focus on ways to promote the health, safety and well-being of everyone involved. Evidence suggests that the best way to do that is to provide a legal framework for sex workers to practice their trade. Nevada's brothels are the safest place to buy sex in the country, according to sociologist Barbara Brent, and the outcall entertainment industry of Las Vegas provides a valuable model for the standards of professional sex workers in the country.

Outcall entertainment is unlikely to lose its popularity in Las Vegas any time soon. As long as Las Vegas is known as "sin city," tourists will be interested in exploring their vices within its borders. A substantial amount of Nevada's economy is driven by adult entertainment, and the demand for paid sex has been high throughout human history. Nevertheless, some changes may be made in the future to help protect the safety and interests of sex workers while improving the experience for clients and escorts alike.


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