Mona Lisa, a 38 year-old prostitute, is a sex addict. She began working at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Lyon Country, Nev. three years ago on a mission to make lots of money and to stay protected as a sex worker. She told her story of her experiences as a prostitute and how her career was a success by learning to “fake-it”.
“We make a lot of money,” Mona Lisa said. “I love my job, we are very well taken care of here and for me it is easy because I love having sex.”
Nevada remains the only state in the United States of America where prostitution is legal within designated counties. Politicians have argued whether the oldest profession should remain legal or whether it should be permanently removed.
Legality issues stem from whether removing the legal part of the industry would cause an increase in crime and street prostitution. Legal prostitution manages to stay separate to illegal street prostitution, which survives off of crime and drug abuse.
“No way would the ladies in legal brothels turn to street prostitution if it were to be ruled illegal.” Said Commander Todd Renwick from the University of Nevada, Reno Police Department. “Those girls are good at what they do and they would find other means to make their money, like opening up erotic massage parlors.”
Brothels like The Bunny Ranch have become a tourist attraction in Nevada with booming rates averaging at $100 an hour. The success began with its hit HBO series Cat House which goes inside the lives of The Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof and his top working ladies.
“We can leave the brothel when we want, we are fed well and it is very safe- we are checked for STD’s weekly and condoms are mandatory.” said Mona Lisa. “Life here is good. Most of us weren’t making enough money before or have student loans and needed to start making real money. Most of our families don’t know what we are doing but we can keep our lives private here.”
Many members of Reno are used to the hundred-year-old business and barely give it a second thought as taxis drive around town promoting trips to the brothels. Storey County where the famously advertised Mustang Ranch is located is only seven miles east of Reno.
“Legal brothels don’t bleed into your community.” Todd Renwick said. “It’s not like they set up and there’s a white picket fence across the street.”
Prostitution, as an accepted industry, provides jobs for thousands of workers as well as pay hundred of thousands in taxes and fees. The state has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, if it were to be ruled illegal many women could potentially become jobless and worsen the already repressed issue.
“A large part of the county’s revenue comes from the brothels.” said Renwick “If it was illegal, they would lose all of that revenue.”
Senator Harry Reid advocates against prostitution saying that because of the industry it made businesses second-guess moving to Nevada and dampens the already economically depressed state. Several other Nevada locals argue against the industry along side Reid. Christian groups believe it is wrong that it remains legal and supports sinful behavior.
“I am anti-prostitution.” said Jessica Sutton, a UNR student and member of Awaken INC a local Christian based nonprofit against human trafficking. “Although legal brothels are controlled, it still affects crime and significantly sex trafficking in Nevada.”
Local feminist, Caitlin Thomas and member of the UNR female sexuality organization FemSex, tends to disagree and continues to defend prostitution, pointing out that its all a personal choice. She believes sex workers within the popular brothels appear to enjoy their work and see no problem with it.
“As long as it stays organized, the women will always be protected.” said Caitlin, 23, a previous stripper of three years. “The brothels are so well controlled and safe. It is a real business.”
Prostitutes like Mona Lisa are not worried. Brothels continue to sell sex and pay their dues allowing them their careers to continue safely. Laws cast will change Nevada for better or worse but will undeniably make an impact economically and socially. Maybe “faking-it” isn’t so bad after all.