Prostitution is still perfectly legal in several American cities. These U.S. hooker havens are all clustered in Nevada, in a state that cherishes citizens’ God-given rights to gamble, to carry a gun, to drink 24 hours a day, to smoke weed and to visit a brothel.
Nevada’s lax laws are the reason countless men and their gang of besties run off to Reno or Vegas before their weddings. Before men get tied down to their ol’ ball and chain, they want to motorboat some strippers’ boobies, get a lap dance from a single mother, take too many drugs and have an orgy with seven sex workers at the Love Ranch Brothel.
But of course, Nevada’s hedonistic way of life has inspired enemies. Take for example, Kimberly Mull, the founder of a campaign called No Little Girl. Mull has waged a war to end legal prostitution in the few specks of the U.S. map where sex can still be bought and sold.
For her, sex workers should never be involved in tourists’ fun and games. They should stick to charades and duck-duck-goose.
Mull spoke to Rooster over the phone in the wake of a devastating political election. Dennis Hof, the owner of five legal brothels in Nevada, had just won the Republican primary election for Nevada Assembly District 36. If Hof wins this November’s election, he’ll use his political power to squash any opposition against his whorehouses. Opposition like Mull.
Who will be the winner of the war against legal prostitution in the U.S. Will it be Dennis Hof — a Trump-wannabe and America’s biggest pimp — and his army of sex workers? Or will it be Kimberly Mull — an activist for what’s right and good and fair — and her grassroots followers?
We’ve heard Hof’s side of the story on why he’s likely to succeed. This is Mull’s.
Why do you want to eliminate prostitution in the U.S.?
I was a victim of child sex trafficking and child porn.
Now, I’m in a support group for women who come out of the sex work lifestyle. I'm friends with these women and work as an advocate for these women.
And they say they've been sexually assaulted, strangled, that men are taking condoms off mid-way through sex. They’ve been physically hurt, financially exploited, or taken advantage of as domestic abuse survivors who needed a roof over their head. They were told they’d earn six figures, but they’re actually making $25,000 a year before expenses. They say they came out of the brothel in debt. They say if you turn down a client, they start harassing you about making money because you have to pay room and board.
Even when they're not identifying themselves as being exploited, the situations they explain are exploitative. They have the signs and symptoms of someone who is being victimized.
Don’t you believe women should have the choice to do what they want with their bodies?
The problem is that most women are not choosing to do sex work.
When I say that, people imagine the movie Taken — that a woman is kidnapped and held against her will. What’s actually happening is force, fraud and coercion.
The average age that women start prostituting is 14 years old. In the brothel system, the younger someone is, the more money they go for. Dennis Hof brags about sleeping with someone a minute after she turned 18, and then he put her on the floor to start working.
With legal brothels, you're bringing the demand for illegal sex trafficking to the area. Thinking that demand comes — and people will only buy sex from licensed brothels, from women over age 18, from women who do sex work of their own will — is ridiculous. If they want to pay for sex, they don’t care whether it comes from legal sex work or the illegal sex trade.
Are women being forced into the legal sex industry by pimps?
A good portion of women come into brothels with a pimp or “boyfriend” who takes their money. Others go into it willingly to pay off student debt, then end up getting into drugs or alcohol or addiction in the brothels and end up in the illegal sex trade on the side.
I’ve seen a case where a woman’s pimp worked as a bartender in the brothel so he knew when the girl was working and could take her money. I’ve seen cases where the woman’s got a partner who's saying you can't quit — I can't work because construction is slow or I hurt my back or we gotta pay for the kids. In these cases, the women are not physically beaten and forced, but it is coercive. It’s mental and emotional manipulation to continue doing the work past the point of their wanting to be there.
There are very empowered, smart women who choose to work in brothels. But they are privileged and they are the minority.
It’s difficult for me, personally, to be a victim of sex trafficking in a place where prostitution is legal.
[Kimberly Mull, age 11]
Why is it difficult to be a victim of sex trafficking somewhere that sex work is legal?
For example, I have to pay $1,500 for grad school very soon, or else I’ll get dropped. As someone who’s been sexually exploited at 14, I know there's any easy way to make money. Sex work seems like quick and effective way to get what I need.
But that's not a normal thought process for someone to go through. I would not think this way if i hadn’t had these experiences in the past.
A lot of these women who come out of the brothels are very much the same way. They’ve been doing this since they were young. Days get tough, and the baby needs medicine, or rent is due, or there’s 30 days notice that rent is going up 600 dollars. They get in those situations and think, “I could work one weekend a month. It’s legal. I might get raped or choked out or strangled but the top 20 percent of brothel workers are making really good money and have masters degrees and sure make it look easy.” I can be in and out and fix my problem.
Legal brothels make it 10 times harder not to relapse back into the lifestyle.
So what’s the solution?
Ideally, it would look something like the Nordic Model.
The Nordic Model comes out of Switzerland, and makes it legal to work as a prostitute, but illegal to pay for sex or collect money on someone buying sex (like a pimp).
If someone is selling their body for safety or housing or food, they’re not held responsible for that action because they’re a victim. But the ones exploiting them are criminalized because they are causing harm or using their power over someone else for sexual acts.
The Nordic Model empowers those who are in the sex trade. When they get assaulted or a customer rapes them, they can come forward to police and get medical help. It’s better than “you’re choosing to break the law” or “you’re choosing that dangerous lifestyle in a legal brothel in Nevada.”
Right now, it’s illegal for a woman to go up to a man and say “I’ll give you a blow job for 20 bucks,” but it’s not illegal for man to say “I’ll give you 20 bucks for a blow job.” That law was most likely written by men, but the Nordic Model switches that power dynamic, switches who is recognized as the one who's being exploited.
Doesn’t outlawing prostitution kind of seem like a step away from the Nordic Model?
People in anti-trafficking work believe it would be a harder fight to get to the Nordic Model. It would take a long time to implement it any state, including Nevada.
We’re going to help these women now and then we’re going to help the rest who are being exploited in the illegal sex trade. I have the opportunity right now to end legal prostitution and stop abuse and exploitation, and that’s the opportunity I’m going to take.