Ballot Initiatives Look to Close Legal Brothels in Nevada

LYONS COUNTY, Nev.—There’s only one state in the Land of the Free that allows legal prostitution: Nevada. And even in Nevada, four counties—Clark (Las Vegas), Washoe (Reno), Douglas (Carson City) and Lincoln (Mormon Peak)—ban it, though it’s legal in the rest. Those counties where it’s legal have a total of 21 brothels, even though some have said that 66 percent more money is spent on illegal prostitution in Reno and Vegas than in the legal brothels in any given year.

The adult industry is well familiar with at least one legal brothel: the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, owned by Dennis Hof, who’s currently running for state assembly in Nye County. Hof’s been a sometime exhibitor at AEE, and several adult actresses have spent some time at the Bunny Ranch, including most notably Sunset Thomas (who was also married to Hof for a time) and Sunny Lane, but in all, there have been dozens. Most sex worker advocates don’t consider brothels to be the ideal way to offer paid sex to the masses, but they’re far better than the current de facto situation everywhere else in the U.S.: illegal and among the most targeted professions by law enforcement. Prostitution has also been the target of the recently passed Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, otherwise known as SESTA/FOSTA, which brought about the elimination of dozens of websites offering “personal services” ads, including Craigslist and

And now, Reno-based attorney Jason Guinasso and activist Kimberly Mull are working with petition gatherers in Nye and Lyons counties to put a measure on the November ballot that would again criminalize legal prostitution in both counties, allegedly to prevent the brothels from trafficking women—which, of course, they don’t do.

“[T]he Nevada model for licensed and regulated prostitution has proven to be a time-tested and remarkably successful social experiment, where, under an umbrella of strict legislation, sex workers operating out of rurally-located brothels thrive harmoniously with their Lyon County neighbors,” writes Christina Parreira on her Bunny Ranch blog. “Now, after all these years, a small group of Lyon County residents have decided that they have a beef with the bordellos.”

The group she’s talking about is Guinasso’s/Mull’s. It’s called “No Little Girl” which is short for “No Little Girl grows up wanting to be a prostitute”—and that’s just the first of the incredibly ignorant statements to be found on the group’s website.

“The group calling itself ‘No Little Girl’ is petitioning to close the legal brothels in Lyon County, and remove the livelihood of hundreds of women who have made an informed choice to work in these establishments,” Parreira states. “On the ‘Issues’ page of this group’s website, they make claims that the legality of brothels does nothing to make women any safer, and that prostitution is inherently violence against women. However, the page cites data that either has been debunked or has nothing to do with legal prostitution.”

For example, No Little Girl states, as to Lyons County, “The economic boom in Northern Nevada has left its mark across several communities with rising real estate values, new business opportunities, and new jobs. Lyon County must capitalize on this momentum and ensure our community is properly poised to attract new businesses and relocating families into our communities. Legalized prostitution is inherently a Nevada phenomenon which doesn’t appeal to those who can bring in these opportunities.”

Or maybe it does.

“The group suggests that large tech companies won’t move to the county and boost the local economy because of the existence of legal brothels, but they neglect to mention that Lance Gilman, owner of the Mustang Ranch brothel, helped bring Tesla to Nevada,” Parreira notes. “The massive Tesla Gigafactory is located seven miles from the Mustang Ranch, proving that tax incentives and smart dealmaking are what bring big name tech companies into an area. Brothels are clearly not a factor in the decision making.”

And then there’s No Little Girl’s claims about women’s safety: “The latest FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report (UCR), which houses the Nevada State crime reports from 2012-2016, shows on average, a person in Lyon County is 57.1% more likely to be a r**e victim than a person in Douglas County; and 1,660% more likely to be a r**e victim than a person in Carson City, even though the populations are almost identical.”

Despite the fact that one should always be cautious when someone argues statistics rather than raw data numbers, over the course of 2012-2016, the time period No Little Girl refers to, there were a total of 81 rapes in Lyons County over that five-year period. Compare that with 119 rapes over that same period in Washoe County, where prostitution is illegal—and let’s remember that these rapes did not take place in brothels.

“On the [No Little Girl] FAQ page, it states that women are often r***d in the legal brothels,” Parreira writes. “This is grossly inaccurate. In my own doctoral research of 53 women working in 5 Nevada brothels, I did not encounter a single woman who had reported being r***d by a client in the brothel, and I was certainly never r***d during my years working in the brothels.”

And speaking of the FAQs, check this one out:

#10: If we close down the brothels, will we see an increase of street prostitution and sex crimes?

“Quite the opposite. Research and data shows that legalizing brothels increases crime and violence against women. Closing the brothel will aid in reducing the market for prostitution.”

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

Trouble is, Lyons and Nye Counties aren’t heavily populated, so in order to get its petitions on the counties’ November ballots, gatherers only need 3,355 signatures from Lyons County residents, and just 1,963 from Nye—not a lot, all things considered, and we’re guessing the “faith-based” No Little Girl can probably get a few in the pews on Sundays. Still, a majority in each county would have to vote in favor of the petition, and we’re guessing that there might be a bit of pushback if the petitions are validated.

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