For one legal brothel in Nevada this is where the rubber meets the road.
Its owners received the OK from county officials to allow their establishment to become the first brothel in the U.S. to offer legal prostitution services FROM MEN!!
Nevada is the only state in the U.S. where prostitution is legal – except in Reno and Las Vegas.
Although legalized prostitution is nothing new in the wilderness beyond Las Vegas, pimping out men has been long been against the rules – largely because it was assumed by state officials that the only people interested in paying for such a service would be other men. Can you say homophobic and misogynistic?
Until last month, Nevada’s state regulations demanded that all licenced prostitutes undergo frequent cervical testing – something that was obviously impossible for those without cervixes to do. But after a long and bitter fight, the law has finally been changed, with male prostitutes now able to undergo urethral testing instead.
Hence the Shady Lady Ranch, located between the Nevada dust towns of Beatty and Tonopah, is ready to offer an entirely new ‘menu’ of services, marketed directly at women.
“With so many male revues going on in Las Vegas, we thought it was time to give this a try,” said Bobbi Davis, who owns the brothel along with her husband, Jim.
She believes it's a service whose time has come, and they are now searching for "service oriented" men willing to become Nevada's first legal male sex workers, what her website cheekily calls, "a few good men." They are expected to charge an estimated $300 (£187) per hour for the service of prostidudes – which they have taken to calling the new workers.
“There are a lot of career-minded women out there who are looking for romance but not necessarily a relationship,” she said. “Women want someone to have a nice time with – and just like men they don’t want to have to worry about calling them in the morning.”
The prostidudes, the owners have assured prospective clients, will have all their teeth and be free of tattoos and piercings. They will also be skilled in the physical act of love. How such skills will be verified is unclear; maybe some letters of reference or an audition. Hmmm.
Bobbi Davis added that although most requests for boy-toys have come from women, she won’t discriminate in the unlikely (Uh-hem – say likely) event that some male customers happen to materialize. With Vegas such a short distance away, ya think?
Jim Davis offered the same answer as his wife: They hope to cater to women, not gay men, but if a man asks to see an all-male lineup, they can't discriminate.
However, they also can't make their sex workers do anything against their will, which would of course be against the law. I would presume that the shrewd owners will make sure whom ever they hire as their first prostitude will have no objections – regardless which team their clients play on.
"I personally feel, as do the many other women who have made contact with me since I started this, that this is a service whose time has come," Bobbi Davis wrote in a letter to Nye County officials.
The county board's vote affirmed last month that Davis could offer "shady men" to her clientele. Right now, the sign outside the Shady Lady advertises its usual fare – scantily clad women. But, in as little as two weeks, at least one prostidude will be on its menu, too.
The brothel (actually a small bordello that looks more like a depressing, cheap, trailer-cathouse from the outside) is located 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The Nye County Licensing and Liquor Board signed off on a compliance agreement allowing the practice to take place so long as the male sex workers wear condoms and undergo weekly health tests. Absolutely!
"Now we have to find a guy and get it going," said Jim Davis.
But not everyone is happy. Two licensing board members, Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo and County Commissioner Butch Borasky, voted against the Shady Lady's plans.
"I have issues with it," DeMeo said after the vote. "I don't feel all the health issues have been addressed."
DeMeo is worried that female customers won't – and maybe can't – be subjected to the same sort of pre-sex examinations that men undergo in most of Nevada's legal brothels.
As a practice, DeMeo said, prostitutes wash their customers and check them for signs of disease before getting down to business. Without some similar procedure for female customers, he said it could increase the chances of someone contracting a venereal disease, even with the use of a condom.
"I don't want to see that happen. I don't think anybody else does either," he said.
Rival brothel owner, Dennis Hof, also voiced similar fears that the addition of men to the line-ups could re-introduce AIDS to the Nevada’s oldest profession, after 25 years without a single case!
“My concern is that we continue to maintain that kind of record," said George Flint, a wedding chapel owner and lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Owners Association, which represents the state’s 24 legal houses of ill-repute, which currently employ a total of about 1,000 women.
"This is the first time in the history of the world...that men have been licensed to sell sex," Flint said, his voice rising with emotion. "It's never been done!"
In December, Bobbi Davis persuaded the Nevada State Health Division to grant her what amounts to a special variance to state codes that had defined licensed prostitutes as women, with requirements for the weekly testing of "cervical specimens."
Nye County's compliance agreement is a "mirror image" of the version approved by state health officials, said Ron Kent, the county's chief deputy district attorney.
Under the agreement, latex condoms are mandatory, and all male prostitutes must submit monthly blood samples and weekly "urethral specimens" to ensure they remain disease free.
The approval followed months of rancorous debate among the state's legal brothel community. The industry, in its own peculiar way, is somewhat conservative: Considered an anachronism of bawdy mining camps by some Nevada newcomers, it often balks at change.
Of course, new ideas in a business unique to Nevada (in its legal form) are a touch different. Adding porn stars to brothel lineups rankled some owners. Overturning a ban on brothel advertising, a battle Bobbie Davis and the American Civil Liberties Union helped lead, also stirred up debate. Though neither change shuttered the state's 25 or so bordellos – some would argue the publicity helped – many owners still operate in an off-the-grid manner, wary of being shut down.
Flint has said that allowing male prostitutes could be the industry's Pearl Harbor, hinting that brothels possibly offering gay sex – a choice each prostitute, as an independent contractor, would be free to make – might sour some legislators on the entire brothel system.
Nevada lawmakers are notoriously skittish when discussing the birds and bees. The Legislature, even when severely cash-strapped, has repeatedly declined to tax the brothels (which are banned in Reno and Las Vegas) for fear of, well, further legitimizing the business.
Bobbi and Jim Davis said they merely hope to boost business. Their small outpost near Death Valley, about 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas, offers as many as five women, relies heavily on travelers and has gotten some requests for gigolos.
Jim Davis said his wife has received more than 150 applications from prospective working men, including, "one or two from overseas." About 15 of the applicants seem promising.
"It's going to be a tough thing," he said. "We've got to pick the right guy."
Ideally, he said, they are looking for handsome men who are not too old and not too young. At the minimum, they need men who are ready to, "entertain whatever lady walks in and be able to give her a fine experience," he said.
Jim Davis said his wife will conduct all the job interviews. It will be up to her to choose the man destined to become Nevada's first legal male prostitute.
The only thing Davis knows for sure is who isn't in the running.
"I'm not eligible," he said. "I'm 78 years old. She's not going to pick me."
After announcing their plans this summer, Bobbi Davis and attorney Allen Lichtenstein succeeded where the better-known Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss, had failed. In 2005, Fleiss announced that she was moving to Pahrump, in southern Nye County, in hopes of creating a "stud farm." She opened a Laundromat instead.
Bobbi Davis figures that, even if it's a flop, adding men to her roster is worth trying. She had held off making her decision and hiring until she'd cleared all bureaucratic hurdles.
Clearing that final hurdle two weeks ago was – I have to say it – an anticlimax. The final vote occurred at the meeting of the Nye County Licensing and Liquor Board, which is made up of five county commissioners and DeMeo.
Opponents who promised to take buses to Tonopah, failed to show up. In fact, not one constituent spoke about the proposal. Although DeMeo, Flint and Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, raised their concerns about monitoring the spread of infectious diseases, state health regulators had already cleared the way for male sex workers.
“The ramifications are going to be statewide,” DeMeo said. “We're going to have to deal with it at our other six brothels in Nye County, if they want to offer the same service. We want to make sure we protect customers and make sure the industry is regulated with clarity and understanding.”
"You guys can't scare me," said Commissioner Lorinda Wichman before voting in Davis' favor. "I'm going to try this."
Though the vote was relatively non-confrontational, the discussion beforehand showed how much controversy remains within governmental agencies. For much of Bobbi Davis' speech, officials rested their chins in their hands, lowered their eyes or slumped in their chairs. When the sheriff noted that Davis' statement varied from her letter to commissioners, she read aloud one section with force.
"It seems the biggest hoopla is a great fear in some people's minds that some kind of homosexual activity might go on," Bobbi Davis said. "Why panic I don't understand...it's not my intent to encourage or promote or to turn my business into a 'gay property.'"
DeMeo again wondered whether sex workers could check female customers for signs of disease as easily as men. Davis said yes.
"If you want me to go into the inspection routine, I will," she said.
"Please don't!" said a commissioner, to laughter.
Prostitution has been legal in several remote Nevada counties since 1971, but it remains against the law in Reno and Las Vegas – in spite of protestations from Vegan Mayor, Oscar Goodman. The Moonlite Bunny Ranch was even the subject of an HBO reality television show.
The popularity of the brothels is so consistent that the Nevada government has frequently attempted to levy special ‘entertainment taxes’ on prostitutes to reduce budget deficits, but more conservative legislators have always stopped the action.
Davis said she is making a great deal of effort to ensure that male prostitutes expand the brothel market rather than destroying it. For example, female customers who make the two hour drive to the Shady Lady Ranch from Las Vegas won’t have to mix with male clients who’ve gone there to meet women – instead, they’ll be ushered into a separate, private cabin on the brothel’s grounds.
Meanwhile, sex will be advertised as ‘The Boyfriend Experience,’ with an emphasis on romance.
Flint claims that other establishments have already secretly put men on their pay-rolls with no success, and he continues to believe Bobbi Davis’ efforts to provide women what they want, in the way they want it, will fail.
“Women want to be wined and dined, cajoled and chatted up, maybe have lunch before sex,” he has said. “They can go to a cocktail lounge and have their pick of guys in 10 minutes. They're not going to drive 400 miles round-trip to pay $300 for sex.”