Nevada county gives brothel OK to hire male sex workers


TONOPAH, Nev. — Brothel owner Bobbi Davis got the go-ahead Tuesday to hire what her Web site cheekily calls “a few good men.”

Her Shady Lady Ranch is searching for “service-oriented” guys willing to become Nevada’s first legal male sex workers.

“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,” Davis said in a letter to Nye County officials.

A county board’s vote Tuesday affirming that Davis
could offer “shady men” to her clientele 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 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.

George Flint, the longtime lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Association, has said allowing male prostitutes could be the industry’s “Pearl Harbor.”
He’s hinted 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.

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, legitimizing the business.

“This is the first time in the history of the world
… that men have been licensed to sell sex,” Flint said Tuesday, his
voice rising. “It’s never been done!”

Davis and her husband, Jim, merely hope to boost business. Their small outpost near Death Valley, some 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas, offers up to five women, relies heavily on travelers and has gotten some requests for gigolos.

After announcing her plans this summer, she and attorney Allen Lichtenstein succeeded where the more well-known Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss, had failed. In 2005, Fleiss announced she was moving to Pahrump, in southern Nye County, in hopes of creating a “stud farm.” She opened a Laundromat instead.

Davis figures that, even if it’s a flop, adding men
to her roster is worth trying. She’s been inundated with more than 100
applications, she said, though she’s held off on hiring until she’d
jumped all bureaucratic hurdles.

The final one: Tuesday’s meeting of the Nye County Licensing and Liquor Board, which is made up of five county commissioners and Sheriff Tony DeMeo, who had been openly skeptical of Davis’ plan.

Opponents who promised to take busses to Tonopah, however, failed to show up. Not one constituent spoke about the proposal. But DeMeo, Flint and Dennis Hof,
owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, raised concerns about monitoring the
spread of infectious diseases, though state health regulators had
already cleared the way for male sex workers.

“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. For much
of 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,” she
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 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.

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