Don't Get Busted For Solicitation

Prostitution in the United States

- Unfavorable Legal Situation

Nevada is one of only two U.S. states that allow some legal prostitution; in most of its counties, brothels are legalized and heavily regulated. In Rhode Island, the act of sex for money is not illegal, but street solicitation and operation of a brothel are.

Legal situation

Under Nevada state law, any county with a population of less than 400,000 is allowed to license brothels if it so chooses. As of 2007, Clark County (which contains Las Vegas) and Washoe County (which contains Reno) are the only counties with population above 400,000. Incorporated towns and cities in counties that allow prostitution may regulate the trade further or prohibit it altogether.

As of July 2004, brothels are illegal under county or municipal law in Carson City (which encompasses the entire county), Douglas County, and Lincoln County. Eureka County neither permits nor prohibits licensed brothels and does not have any. The other 11 counties permit licensed brothels in certain specified areas or cities.

The precise licensing requirements vary from county to county. License fees for brothels range from an annual $100,000 in Storey County to an annual $200 in Lander County. Licensed prostitutes must be at least 21 years old, except in Storey County and Lyon County, where the legal age is 18.

State law requires that registered brothel prostitutes be checked weekly for several sexually transmitted diseases and monthly for HIV; furthermore, condoms are mandatory for all oral sex and sexual intercourse. Brothel owners may be held liable if customers become infected with HIV after a prostitute has tested positive for the virus (NRS 041.1397).

Nevada has laws against engaging in prostitution outside of licensed brothels, against encouraging others to become prostitutes, and against living off the proceeds of a prostitute.

For many years Brothels have been restricted from advertising their services in counties where brothel prostitution is illegal, however the state law restricting such activity has recently been overturned.

Legal brothels

About 30 legal brothels existed in the state in January 2004, employing about 300 female prostitutes at any given time. All but the smallest ones operate as follows: as the customer is buzzed in and sits down in the parlor, the available women appear in a line-up and introduce themselves. If the customer chooses a woman, the price negotiations take place in the woman's room, which are often overheard by management. The house normally gets half of the negotiated amount. If the customer arrives by cab, the driver will receive some 20% of whatever the customer spends; this is subtracted from the woman's earnings. Typical prices start at US100 and average about $300 for half an hour of intercourse and oral sex. The prostitutes almost never kiss on the mouth. Brothels do not have preset prices, the only known exception being Shady Lady brothel on Route 95, approximately 30 miles north of Beatty. Generally, the closer a brothel is to Las Vegas, the higher the prices. Thus Sheri's Ranch and Chicken Ranch, both located in Pahrump, are on the whole more expensive than other brothels. Sheri's Ranch is the larger of the two, and may have upwards of 20 prostitutes on its premises at any given time. It is also the more expensive of the two, and generally the most expensive legal brothel in Nevada.

Brothel prostitutes work as independent contractors and thus do not receive any unemployment, retirement or health benefits. They are responsible for paying their own taxes, which many neglect, since it is mainly a cash business. The women typically work for a period of several weeks, during which time they live in the brothel and hardly ever leave it. They then take some time off. It has been argued that the tight control that brothels exert over the working conditions precludes the women from legally being classified as independent contractors.

Since 1986, when mandatory testing began, not a single brothel prostitute has ever tested positive for HIV. The mandatory condom law was passed in 1988. A study conducted in 1995 in two brothels found that condom use in the brothels was consistent and sexually transmitted diseases were accordingly absent. The study also found that few of the prostitutes used condoms in their private lives.

Illegal prostitution

Prostitution outside licensed brothels is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The big casino towns of Reno and Las Vegas have worked to expand their tourism base by attracting families to the hotels and casinos. Accordingly, the state legislature has made prostitution illegal in both Clark and Washoe Counties and law enforcement agencies have tried to eliminate the once rampant street prostitution. Nevertheless, prostitutes continue to work in casinos, where they wait in bars and attempt to make contact with males.

Escort services offering sexual services euphemistically as 'entertainment' or 'companionship' are ubiquitous, with about 140 pages of the Las Vegas yellow pages devoted to "entertainers". Similar ads are present in newspaper boxes all along Las Vegas Boulevard. From the Strip to downtown Fremont Street at most bus stops and many street lights, a large collection of free flyers offering escort services with semi-nude pictures are available (see photo above). Moreover, smaller hand sized flyers are dispensed to tourists and others along the Las Vegas Strip, often right in front of the most high end hotels and casinos, by hired workers; these flyers also graphically depict female 'personal' entertainers or escort services. Despite the attempt to make Las Vegas more family-friendly, such advertising for these services are protected by the First Amendment and goes on undisturbed by police or hotel security.

Also, some gentlemen's clubs on the Strip offer VIP rooms, which claims to put the client in a private room with the dancer, and the client is given permission to do what they want with the dancer. More often than not, this offer is a scam, where the dancer proceeds to entice the client to spend money on expensive drinks, stringing him along. This continues as long as the customer keeps buying. Should the customer become impatient and demanding, insist on sex or refuse to buy more drinks, the girl will excuse herself and have bouncers forcibly eject the customer from the club. Because of his complicity in attempting to solicit the services of a prostitute, the customer has no legal recourse without incriminating or at least embarrassing himself.