Images are the brood of desire. - George Eliot
What seems like a straightforward news article can often reveal hidden depths when examined critically by an informed mind; the biases, knowledge gaps and outright lies of both the author and the interviewees then stand out in sharp relief, like a computer-enhanced photo of the Earth taken from a satellite. Many of you probably saw this item about the decline of Nevada brothels, but let’s apply some image enhancement to the picture:
…As state legislators ponder levying an 8% sales tax on brothels and other live entertainment, the director of the Nevada Brothel Association says that a bad economy and an abundance of illegal prostitutes is already killing off the business. “When I started as the lobbyist for the industry in 1985, we had 37 brothels in the state,” [said] George Flint…“Now we have just 18, and 12 to 14 of them are not doing very well”…Since the recession…many women [have gone] into business for themselves so as to avoid handing over 50 percent of their fee to brothel owners.
There’s so much more to see in this short paragraph than meets the uninformed and uncritical eye; let’s take it in order of appearance. First, it’s interesting that brothel owners are complaining about plans to tax them when they themselves agitated in favor of it for years, because they recognize that once a government becomes used to income from an industry it will generally work to build up that industry in order to increase revenues. So I suspect Flint’s complaint is just poor-mouthing intended to set up some request for concessions to the brothel industry or a crackdown on independent operators; despite his claim that it’s the economy which has hurt the brothels, the fact of the matter is that it’s a combination of the internet and women’s social progress. Since 1985, the average American woman’s opportunity cost has risen due to increased education and removal of impediments to employment, and it has been demonstrated that women of higher opportunity cost prefer to work illegally rather than submitting to the relatively exploitative conditions in Nevada brothels. The internet then made it much easier for women to make that choice, and so they have; only a hopeless lawhead could fail to understand that arbitrary “legality” is very far down the list of factors used by the typical woman when considering her means of survival.
As a result…prices for sex have fallen. “Instead of paying $400…these guys can now go out and get the same service for a third of the money,” Flint said.
This is an outright lie, as any man who has ever hired an escort in Vegas will tell you. I don’t know if even the streetwalkers there can be hired for $130, much less an escort, and to pretend that’s the “same service” one receives from a brothel is more like something one might expect to hear from a prohibitionist (in close proximity to phrases like “selling her body” and “prostituted woman”).
State officials estimate that there are some 30,000 sex workers just in Las Vegas…“Look in the phone book, there are what, 100 pages for nude dancers who’ll come to your hotel room?” Flint said. “The big hotels have their own girls. The strip clubs have upstairs rooms. You have a variety of different levels of prostitution in Vegas.” With those many layers, the city has no shortage of problems, from violent pimps to the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. “Since 1987, we’ve never had a single woman test positive for HIV who worked in a brothel,” Flint said.
I probably don’t need to remind you that whores are not a significant vector for any STI anywhere in the developed world, but you may not realize that the invasive, degrading weekly disease checks required by Nevada law are one of the reasons so many women prefer to work independently or for escort service owners who treat them like adults capable of taking care of their own health. I’ve also previously addressed the “violent pimp” propaganda and explained how politicians and brothel owners spread it in order to maintain public support for the status quo, but of course that’s not how they spin it:
A PPP poll conducted in 2012 found that 66% of Nevada residents believed that brothels should be legal across the state. Few politicians, however, have shown the political will to take on the issue. “My constituents are not ready for it,” former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman…[said] in 2011. ”They are always ready to have a good discussion because they are smart people, but they are not ready to legalize prostitution because they have moral objections.”
We’ll pause for a few moments here so everyone can finish laughing at the idea that the majority of Las Vegas residents have “moral objections” to vice businesses, and to give y’all time to clean the coffee off of your monitor screens.
Barring a sudden economic turnaround or what he sees as an unlikely political awakening, Flint sees continued trouble for the brothel industry. “I’m an optimistic guy, but I’m not optimistic that this business will bounce back very quickly,” Flint said.
This is the only wholly truthful statement Flint made in the whole article. As an officially-sanctioned but ersatz replacement for escorts, the brothel industry is doomed; its only hope is gentrification, the transformation of brothels into attractive resorts to which men can take their friends, clients or open-minded wives, places which can offer an experience not available in a hotel room or even a typical incall. When in the 1970s and ‘80s strip clubs went from being seedy dives to upscale gentlemen’s clubs, everyone benefitted except the prohibitionists (who had to invent the myth of “negative secondary effects” to shore up their “sin and degradation” catechism); the same thing will happen as Americans lose their ignorance-spawned fear of bordellos. Here’s some free advice, Nevada brothel owners: stop getting in bed with the prohibitionists and instead work toward decriminalization and eradicating stigma. Then you can invest in turning your businesses into showplaces and possibly even franchise operations, and you’ll make more money than you ever did catering to guys who were just too scared to call “illegal” hookers to come to them.