“Ingredients for Chicken Katsu” by LexnGer, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’m trying to assemble my thoughts and feelings into some kind neat package for reading. A fellow activist and sex worker had an even worse experience than I did. I was shocked to read her posts. Frankly, I was hoping I was an anomaly. You know, once an indie always an indie. Or that I’m just a little princess (ex-boyfriends might agree with that one).

Mariko’s horrifying account at least makes me feel I’m not crazy.

Still, I didn’t have problems with the people there. I was welcomed. The problems I ran into were more systematic problems. And I’m well aware I’m the sort of person for whom the walls close in fast. This doesn’t make me the ideal candidate for a lock-down brothel, but I thought I could handle this experience.

I do intend on trying another brothel. Kit Kat, Wild Horse/Mustang Ranch, and Sagebrush seem like candidates. I will be researching before I go. It will probably be the end of September or sometime in October. Probably not soon.

the sex work world tour

To clarify, this was not “research.” Not any recognizable form, at any rate. I got my eureka moment in early July to work around the world in a variety of situations in order to experience sex work at its fullest.

I simply want to know.

I’ve read all the academic sex work books everyone else has. I’m sick of reading observations (and I’ve certainly made plenty of my own). I want to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I want to do what other women do, whether to survive or because they like the job. I want to know what it’s like. To discover universalities, differences and maybe find unity.

No matter what, as I’ve said in my comments – it stops being “research” when it starts being me. Having paid sex isn’t research, it’s sex work. It is reality. It affects me whether I want it to or not. I have memories of the men (and sole woman) from Bella’s and I’ll carry the memories until they fade. I expect the same from the rest of my travels. This is the beginning of a journey of knowledge, but it is not research.

the afterbirth

Word has gotten back to me that I wasn’t a team player and I didn’t try to learn. Well, I’m not a great team player. I haven’t worked for anyone else in years. I tried to be a good team player, but the definition seems to be make money at any cost.

This is where management and worker collide.

The issue in question is my body. My body. Not the owner or manager’s fleshly temple. Mine. I live in it 24/7 and there are lines I will not cross. Some of those lines may flex with time (such as the money/class issue). Some of those lines never will (issues of risk).

Being an indie has given me a lot of strength and it has been sex work I’ve truly enjoyed. This particular brothel experience took away most of that strength. While I enjoyed certain individual men, I did not enjoy the experience as a whole. And since I was living the experience more than time spent with those clients, the overall sense is a deeply negative one.

self-pricing

For years while stripping and escorting, I have looked men in the eye and told them what I felt my time/energy were worth to me. They could like it or leave. I’m very comfortable with that. My short week of working at Bella’s took away that confidence. Hell, that confidence was shot within 48hrs of hitting the floor. There were clients I could’ve gotten good money out of, but I was incapable of demanding more. I was mentally cowed to the point of questioning my own worth.

We all have a price. I’m not going to be coy. My price is for my time/energy, not my soul; and I certainly don’t consider it a price for my body. It’s a price for the whole package but it’s not a strict purchase. I still have me when my clients leave.

When approached as a body for a specific function (sex), I also have a price. At Bella’s, it was lower than I liked and still it was considered exorbitant (judging by reactions). I did not like pricing my body yet this seemed to be required of me and so I did. In order to do that, I had to really look at questions of self-worth. Are all escort’s rates tied into their self-worth? Mine are, at any rate. The self-worth question is a tangled one. It’s not just my niche in the open marketplace (i.e., my image), it also makes a difference if I feel good about myself when I leave my client. Do I feel like I made a fair trade of work for pay? Do I feel cheated? Do I feel like I was a real bargain and he’ll be back again? Do I feel like I didn’t do enough and I was sort of overpaid? Do I feel like this is the best job in the world?

I’ve felt all these things working as an indie escort at a flat rate that never changed (except when touring, when it would go up a small amount to offset travel costs). At Bella’s nearly every interaction with a customer (successfully booked or not) was a tangle of worries about what I was making the house, what I was making, how that compared to what I was used to making, how he viewed me, how I viewed him, what I would do with him privately, my total bookings for the day and other flotsam along those lines.

There were a handful of men where the anxiety disappeared and I was actually able to enjoy my work (and one who was quite the exception – not a care in the world). But this legal and supposedly “safer” work actually produced much more stress than anything I’d felt as an indie.

Back to self-worth…I discovered when I retired how much my self-image was tied into my job and my income. It still is. I imagine this is true for people who have a serious work ethic. When almost every potential customer looks me in the eye and decides I’m not worth what I know I’m worth – let’s just say I don’t have a cast-iron ego.

I consider sex work part of the service industry. As such, one of my main goals has always been to leave my clients happy. I feel good about myself and happy about my job. At Bella’s, I knew I had the social and sexual skills to make these men happy – if they’d just let me. But few of them were willing to do that. Not only did it impede my money-making, it led to a deep loss of job satisfaction and tremendous frustration at being reduced.

Reduced to what? I’m not sure; only that rarely could Amanda the Escort fully blossom.

Reduction to a purely sexual being doesn’t bother me. I can do that. I did that with a couple of guys and it was the experience I expected from a brothel. Different from escort work, more intense. Not bad. I haven’t put my finger on the reduction I’m referring to. I’m not even sure I experienced it while stripping because sex and demeaning negotiation wasn’t part of it. All I know is something was being eaten away. I was becoming less than whole. I have a feeling that once the process was completed, I would probably be a good team player.

negotiation

I’ve never been much of a haggler. Ask anyone who’s gone to a flea market with me. I think it’s offensive to both parties. More so when we’re discussing personal service – like sex work. I knew I’d have to get over this aversion to successfully work in a brothel. I still have a lot to learn.

But at Bella’s negotiation begins and ends with agreeing to whatever price he has in his pocket. The more experienced girls can bargain up. Us newbies are fully expected to bargain down – give him what he wants and the house gets its 50% of that.

Since it’s my body, time and energy that’s involved, I have issues.

What I was supposed to do with these $100 guys is promise them just this once to have sex with them for 10 minutes, take their money and tell the bartender/clocker to set it for 6 or 7 minutes. I know girls did this because it’s pretty easy to clock someone going in and out of their rooms and it’s easy to figure out who is doing what management suggests.

The idea was to either upsell him when the short time is up or he’d fall in love with me in those few minutes, come back and spend more.

As far as I can tell, the men simply came back and expected everyone to have sex with them for $100. Remember, that’s actually $50 for me and those “10 minutes” actually takes up a good 30 minutes of my real time. There are street girls who won’t have sex for a mere $100. I can’t blame them. It’s not worth removing my panties for.

I was told that because it was legal, it was cheaper. What kind of bullshit math is that? Legal is way more expensive for the worker. And why does “legal” equate to street prices? They are proud of not being “street” but to me (street-inexperienced), there was not enormous difference. In fact, a savvy street girl would probably make more money and certainly have more freedom.

But I was going to be a good girl. The final straw really came Friday morning as I sat on my bed looking at my first lineup guy of the day. I was going to do the $100 sex/time-cheat experiment. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing. I was going to pretend to like this guy who isn’t all that excited about me. I was going to take his money, tell him lies, cheat his time and have sex with him for a price I didn’t consider worth it in order to manipulate him into spending more money. In truth, he was going to take what he got and walk away. I saw that. And I saw if I did this one, the next would be easier and I could do a whole day of this to make my board. $1000 and I’d make my board and the house would praise me. That’s 10 men. A total of five hours of work (30 minutes per guy).

To someone stuck behind a desk five hours doesn’t sound like much. Think instead about having sex with your boss or the Xerox repairman for five hours, 10 minutes at a time. It’s work.

I couldn’t do it. That’s when I knew for sure I was done. I took his hand and escorted him back to the bar with a smile.

ps

As of today, Bella’s still owes me $1600, minus four days of board ($140) and a bottle of Astroglide ($?). Repeated calls/texts have not had the desired effect. I’m thinking since this is a legal brothel to get some legal counsel involved.

pps — 8/29/08

I got a note from Shaunia detailing the amount I should get. I miscalculated how many days of room/board I owe, the total was actually five ($175), not four. The Astroglide was $10, as I expected. Since I was late in responding to the email, I still have not received my money.

Her email also included some personal comments about this blog (some girls read it and were upset) and commentary reminiscent of the notes I sporadically receive from my recent ex-boyfriend. Does this indicate the type of relationship she has with the girls? I find it interesting and disturbing.

ppps — 9/9/08

Received money orders for my balance due. However, the tip my one client left was not counted (surprise surprise). They say it didn’t go through. His credit card company registered the full charge. Hmm…

40 thoughts on “notes from a free-range chicken

  1. Amanda, I’m very interested in the sex work world tour, in fact its very in-line with thoughts I’ve been having recently that I think are particularly Saturn Returns related for me.

    I can’t believe Bella’s still owes you that much money. While I’m glad to have read your and Mariko’s accounts of Bella’s brothel life before I too got sucked in to the allure of adventure, experimentation and money, I’m so sorry its at this enormous price to both of you. Thank you for posting and warning the rest of us.

    Please email me privately….I’d love to talk with you more about your tour and more…

  2. Ian,

    I found a lawyer who will draft a letter. That should be sent by the end of this week.

    Sadie,

    Bella’s owes me money because payday is on Monday and I left on Friday. I just couldn’t work/wait through the weekend. Shaunia said she wasn’t in town to close out my books. Though I made the best decision for ME, it was not the best decision for my wallet.

    XX

  3. There’s so much cool stuff packed into this post I’m kind of surprised you’ve got it hidden behind a “fold” where too many people won’t click to follow. Nor, sometimes, will Google or other indexers.

    I say that because I can’t be the only person who, upon reading you, remembers that its not what we don’t know that hurts others, it’s what we know that’s just not true.

    Anyway, section by section this is a cool, cool, post, Amanda.

    figleaf

  4. Oh. My. God. I am so sorry to hear about your and Mariko’s awful experiences. Thank you so much for sharing them with all of us, I’m so glad I got to see what the reality is like, not just the moneymaking dream. The desciptions of being trapped, depending on drunken bar staff, felt particularly claustrophobic for me. Thank GOD I never followed through on my excited work-visa ideas I was full of after hearing Bella’s presentation! Being in a strange country, in that situation, earning every half the price with the exchange rate.. jeez man!

    I will be very excited to hear more of your international sex work tour though, and wishing you all the best of luck for it, it makes for fascinating reading.

    Sending lots of best wishes from England xxx

  5. I find it fascinating that the legal work ended up disheartening you so much more so than the, um, quasi-legal(? lol) work.

    BTW, I interviewed a woman who worked at the Mustang for my honors project for undergrad school. If you’d like, I can put you in contact with her – perhaps she might be able to speak with you honestly about what you might experience there.

  6. Figleaf,

    I deliberately put the best part of my posts behind the fold. I only want readers who are interested. And I’m just being difficult.

    Glad you liked it!

    Violetta,

    I’m glad you didn’t do this either! But I might find a brothel that works for me. I don’t know. I WILL report though. I do plan on hitting England so I’ll get to see you!

    Lots of love.

    Alexa,

    Legal in the US means regulated to hell and little worker rights. Sort of knew that going in and this proved it. Waiting to see if every brothel takes advantage of the law in this way.

    Yes, would love to be in touch with your friend. Email me!

    XX

  7. Sounds like it was a dreadful experience but good in the sense of life exeperience.

    You got to see, first hand, what it felt like to be an indentured servant, but you were totally free to leave at any time. You got to see first hand what being in this particular brothel was like and you get to take this with you in your work as a self defined activist. You got perfect opportunity to revisit feelings of worth which will make you even stronger within yourself in the long run. Lots of juicy stuff there.

    And I, for one, am so very happy you are out of there and on the road.

  8. Amanda-
    I am hopeful that your next new adventure in sex work will be far more gratifying for you than this one was. I am so sorry your experience was so bad, but I’m glad you didn’t compromise yourself and got out when you knew it was the right thing for your inner peace. You are a beautiful and wonderfully intelligent woman and you deserve to recieve the high standards you set for yourself.

    P.S. On a purely selfish note, your 10 days at Bella made for a wonderful read.

  9. Self Worth, Sex Work and Money…

    Imagine when the house (aka abusive pimp) REFUNDS the customer your MONEY! Everytime I don’t get paid for sex work, I feel sexually assaulted. Imagine when they tell you you better give this guy an $80 party, which is a bit less than the $100 party that you are writing about..

    I am *amazed* that you would be willing to try another brothel…I am scared out of it, in fact, this whole Bella’s experience was so traumatic I might have to take a break from sex work for a few months just to recoup from it.

  10. Amanda,

    Given the way you were treated, it sounds an awful lot like you were an employee rather than an independent contractor. Maybe the labor department should look at this. At least as an employee, they would have had to pay SS and benefits. That’s not enough to make up for the poor treatment you got, but at least it is a little more fair.

    Take care,

    David

  11. Amanda, I’ve e-mailed her to get her permission, and as soon as I hear from her, I’ll put you in contact with her.

    BTW, I have a post on my blog about my thoughts on decriminalization vs. legalization, and my ideas about how I’d do it. I’d enjoy your comments and thoughts on it if/ when you get the chance.

  12. Amanda,

    I was truly shocked by the journal postings of your experience at Bella’s. I was really surprised due to the fact that I met and got to know Bella (or at least I thought I did) at the DA conference and the image she tried to present was one of a spiritual sex worker of sorts. She even mentioned planning a trip to see Dr. Wayne Dyer w/ Ram Daas (a speaking engagement I would give almost anything to go see in Maui this Oct) and we discussed our affinity for the study of “A Course in Miracles”.

    But after reading a line in your latest blog account of the horrible experience…..” I was going to take his money, tell him lies, cheat his time and have sex with him for a price I didn’t consider worth it in order to manipulate him into spending more money.”…..I am wondering what kind of spiritual student would ask her employees to engage in this kind of business?

    I don’t think this is very spiritual or particularly ethical in my opinion. I am with you that I would rather work for myself and offer a fair price for an honest exchange. I think I can truly say that most, if not 90%, of my gentlemen callers feel like I have given the best or close to the best of myself and have left feeling really good. I think that is why I get a good number of call-backs…I must be doing something right.

    I do hope you find a better experience as I would really like to see a legal form of sex work be an honest and profitable one for both the worker and the client.

    Best to you !!!

    Emma : )

  13. Gillette,

    It was very good in terms of life experience. I did learn many new things about myself and I’m glad I did.

    In theory, I could set my own rates. In theory, I could leave anytime I wanted. Actual practice meant I had to follow what everyone else in the house was already doing and I had to sacrifice the money I’d already earned in order to leave when I wanted. Maybe indentured servant? Maybe something else entirely. I don’t know.

    I hope the experience made me stronger.

    Shoshana,

    Thanks for the support! I’m very glad you sat down and read it all. You and I both know I’ll find a more positive experience somewhere.

    Mariko,

    I would like to try another brothel or two and experience variety in the system. I’m hoping there is variety. Other sex workers need to know and I think I need to reassure myself it’s possible for the system to work.

    Your experiences were beyond horrible. I can’t blame you for needing a lot of time to heal.

    David,

    I’ve no doubt I was an employee. Don’t know that the Nevada labor department is going to care much, though. It might take a class action lawsuit — similiar to what strippers have done — to make any real changes.

    That, or get a sex worker-run brothel in Nevada.

    Alexa,

    Thank you!

    Emma,

    There is nothing spiritual about having $50 sex for 7 minutes with a trucker who doesn’t think you’re even worth that. Okay, maybe some people could find something spiritual in it. I’m not yet that enlightened, given the circumstances.

    Don’t know that Bella has actually worked in her own brothel under her own rules with her own clientele.

    The stuff on her site about love is not engendered within the brothel. It’s all about not letting “money” walk out the door, whether that requires the girl to do things she doesn’t want to do or manipulating/lying to the man.

    I’m not sure about Bella’s motivations in contacting sex worker activists. Her words say one thing, her actions and place of employment say another.

    We shall see if there is a current place of legal sex work that is fair to the worker.

    XX

  14. I’m not sure about Bella’s motivations in contacting sex worker activists. Her words say one thing, her actions and place of employment say another.
    This is what I am wondering about.
    Maybe I’m betraying my ignorance here, but it seems to me that any boss would have to think very highly of their merits as an employer to go to a place full of labor rights activists and organizers to do their recruiting, especially in an industry where that kind of thing isn’t the norm.

  15. Djini —

    My guess: She just didn’t understand what she was getting into.

    SerpentLibertine (see Day 10 comment) wrote on her own website;

    …a woman named Bella who attended the Desiree conference. Though Bella has run her brothel, Bella’s, for over twenty years, she was completely unaware of the sex worker rights movement until someone told her about the conference a few weeks beforehand. While it was a big step for Bella to attend and soak in the new community she (seemed) to embrace, she apparently hasn’t taken back much of that to her brothel,..

    Amanda wrote (Day 6/7) that Bellas had 6 or 7 girls with capacity for 15, while at the same time, I noticed that the website for for Donna’s, across the road from Bella’s, mentions that they are building on to their facility to increase facilities for more girls.

    Seemingly, she doesn’t compete successfully organizing a work environment in attracting and/or keeping girls to work there and was trying this as a new recruiting idea.

    I noticed on one blogsite about LPIN that Bella’s is one of a handful of brothels on the market for sale. (I imagine through business brokers somewhere).

  16. Bob,

    I have no idea if Bella has actually worked in her own brothel under her own rules or not (I’m guessing not). The owner/worker perspectives are quite different no matter the job — in this case it was QUITE different.

    The sense of independence that make one strong enough to stand up and be a sex worker activist also tend to make one critical of restrictions on freedom, income and work environment. Perhaps Bella does not take sex worker activists very seriously or simply does not understand what the movement is about.

    XX

  17. On the note of legal==cheaper, it actually makes a fair amount of sense. Any illegal good or service tends to carry a(often hefty) higher rate to compensate the provider for having taken the risks involved. And the trouble that goes into minimizing the risks, and dealing with a limited scope of potential clients willing to take the risk. The higher the legal risk, the bigger the surcharge.

    So Bella’s offers street worker prices. Lots of guys are just after a streetworker kind of experience. $100, 10 minutes, get off and go. Simple, quick and easy, no personal touch, just sex. And some girls prefer that style of work. If there is a good solid flow of customers, and you see 10 in a day, you’re making quite a bit more than the average office worker. And the high prices associated with sex work go down with the legality.

    I’m not sure I understand the whole ‘knowing the value of my body thing’. I’ve never thought about this work in terms of the value of me, but rather the value of my work. The value of my time, my efforts, my skills and the use of my body. Much in the way a laborer rents out their body. I’m not selling myself, I’m selling sex with me.

    Now, this is not in an way to belittle your difficulties. The fact that the Nevada system allows a small number of monopolists to gouge the workers there is, itself, criminal(nearly literally). The lockdowns and bells at all hours sound awful, and remind me of everything I hated about working on a cruise ship(waitressing), only worse. On there it _almost_ made sense, due to a lack of space and an inability to let people in and out.

    But it strikes me that setting less insane hours for the girls working there, and creating difficulties with sleep and the like, would simply run the place out of willing workers, _especially_ at such low-class wages. Monopolies and the intrinsic power it gives employers to treat their workers like shit(and even feel like they are doing you a favor!) aside, it doesn’t sound like a lot of these practices are in any way good for the business. Reading the other comments, it seems Bella’s is actually having trouble staying in business, and after reading your adventures, it’s not hard to see why.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing the experience. It was very well-written, very informative, and makes me feel a bit better about my status as an Indie.

  18. Further note:

    I do understand the difference between sex work and office work for the individual, and personally I can’t picture having sex with 10 guys in one day, especially not 10 days in a row(or even 5 days a week, like an office worker). The mind boggles. But it does work for some.

    The emotional stresses of sex work, for me, are actually a lot lower than those of office work. And the physical stresses generally lower(though more…personal) than labor/waitressing. But brothel work is, essentially, _unskilled_ work. Anyone can do it. Any girl who looks decent and is willing. Especially in a place that caters to truckers and miners and the like. They’re not after a highly skilled professional, they are after sex with a pretty girl.

    In the end though, one of the things we might have to end up accepting as a side-effect of decriminalization is lower rates. Sad but true.

  19. Damn those Nevada brothels. They keep getting away with this crap because no single sex worker can call them on their crap. I wish we could raise funds for a class action suit or something. They are getting away with treating women worse than dogs all in the name of legal prostitution. The Nevada brothels need to be straightened up and made more friendly to the providers or they need to be shut down. We’re human beings, not breed mares.

  20. Anonindie,

    I agree. However, sex worker activists do not seem very interested in the brothel situation. It’s disappointing to me.

    Gwenyth,

    I still don’t agree that legal MUST = cheap. Living in Vegas and eating at legal restaurants that charge $100+ per person for dinner tells me otherwise. There is always a market for quality.

    Bella did not present her operation as street-level in caliber or quality. If she had been honest about this, I would’ve passed since I already know it’s not work I’m interested in (unless I’m getting all the money).

    And I’m okay with men who are simply after sex with a pretty girl — provided they’re willing to pay well for it. This is where questions of self-worth come in. I’m still working that out because I haven’t confronted this question in such a head-on manner before.

    The stress of working as an indie is very low and the pay very good. The stress of working at Bella’s was extremely high and the pay was very low. A BIG problem of the brothel system as it currently stands.

    XX

    PS: The office analogy was for those readers who aren’t sex workers, of course.

  21. The office worker/waitress analogy was not just for non-workers. It was to show a comparison between legal sex work and other legal careers. _Not_ between legal sex work and illegal sex work. That comparison is skewed by the surcharge for the illegality.

    And no, legal need not = cheap, but it will likely mean cheap-er, even for the high end, once it is ubiquitous, if for no other reason than many new women entering the field, who would not have considered it before, due to legality. Though the market might grow some too. Legality will very likely reduce rates.

    There will always be a market for quality, but that market will always be a space of fierce competition, carefully built reputations, skillful PR and advertising, precisely honed skills, and some luck. As it is in any legal business. Because most people would prefer to just plunk down $10-15 a plate. And some would rather pay $3-4.

    But any legality that creates a monopoly business situation, and forces women to work at the whims of a small number of business owners, is ripe for abuses. And abuses that are very difficult for the women in question to deal with, _especially_ due to the fact that much of the bureaucratic system they would appeal to sees them as second class citizens anyway. It creates situations like Bella’s, which are run like 3rd world sweat shops.

    What to do? Well, it really seems to me that there are some actual labor violations going on. Bella’s is breaking the law, and the fact that the brothel is a legal one allows for the workers there to do something about it. Someone mobilizing a class action suit would be a good start. Though as Bella’s seems like it might go under, it might be a bad place to start.

    Another thing, for nevada citizens, might be to work on raising public awareness of the problem. And keep it very focused not on the problems of prostitution as an evil that hurts women, but on the brothel system as a broken one that exploits them. This would be important, as opponents would try and spin things the other way, and losing the broken legality we have there would be a setback.

    But the most powerful act I can see at this point is to do exactly what you have done. Go there with an open mind, really try things out, and come back with a fair an honest, very personal reporting of what the situation is like. So that people _know_. I, myself, knew there were problems, but didn’t know any details. You’ve raised my awareness, thank you so much for that. I’m not in a position to do too much about it, myself, but hopefully someone who is will read your blog, and be inspired to action.

  22. Gwenyth,

    No, when I wrote the office analogy, I meant what I said. Trust me on this one, I was there when I wrote it. I was comparing the banality and soul-sucking effect of the work situation (I thought this was obvious). Legality does not matter in this analogy.

    Because these brothels are LEGAL then there is something that can be done through the legal structure as it exists. This is something I hope for. The problem — just as with stripping — is that the majority of the women are content to let the system run as it is. There are a number of reasons for this, some symptoms of systematic problems, some simply personal and related to the work and societal stigma.

    I also don’t underestimate the resistence of the brothel owners to change. As well as losing a lot of their profits.

    XX

  23. Oh, I thought you meant _my_ comment about office workers…I didn’t notice yours in this post…? Sorry for the confusion. I was saying that my mention of office workers, that I don’t think was actually in direct response to yours, though I am now unsure, I thought you were saying that you assumed my comment was specifically for non-workers. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    I agree about the problems. And there is some incentive to not ‘rock the boat’ floating around too. From a certain mindset, a legal brothel is the best thing going regardless of how awful it is. We live in a fear-fueled culture, and the fear of being arrested, no matter how low the odds, is truly terrifying for some.

    Not to mention the blow to the movement that shutting down the brothels over how terribly they exploit and dehumanize the women in them would be. Major fuel for the anti folks.

    It’s a tricky situation, for which I personally have no solution. Hopefully someone will read this who has a better idea. Partly to that end, and partly simply due to the excellent writing, I’ve recommended your blog to a few friends.

  24. Amanda,

    This is an interesting discussion. Gwenyth understands her economics well. And marketing. And Law. And the social stigma factor is a factor which I would think would attract girls to Independent (or Agency work) over brothel work. That’s a question I wonder about. What do you think?

    In making any comparison, using a single factor, you are assuming ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL. The brothel situation is an interesting study of several things. For one, the State of Nevada has created a skewed market by limiting the number of licenses to a relatively small number, creating pressures on the workers who want to avoid risk, driving the value of the work downward while driving the price upward on the customers. The only thing they are contributing is the facility, organizational and marketing services, and a license which creates the monopolistic environment.

    I can’t think of another situation in which workers (who really are providing the value to the customer ) would find it necessary to surrender half of their earnings for the relatively low value added contribution of the brothel operator. The worker is afraid of the legal risk and accepts lowered compensation while the customer is afraid of the legal risk and pays inflated prices, and the brothel makes money on the spread AND forces dehumanizing working conditions on the workers. I think both are getting screwed more ways than one . 

    In comparing brothels, location, location, and location are important, as they say in real estate valuation. A highway location in Wells may appeal to truckers who don’t have all that much disposable income. (Even less now, with high gasoline costs.) A Reno or Tahoe location can command higher rates because of more clients with higher disposable income coming out of California.

    On a smaller-scale comparison, ie. Bellas vs Donnas in Wells, one may thrive while another may shrink below the level of profitability is labor conditions differ and one cannot attract the “product” while another can.

    An assesment should not be made of what the worker’s services are worth without considering when and where, and what the external market conditions are. Buyers are competing with each other with money, workers are competing with each other with quality of service. Prices find an equilibrium level.

    But hey, this is getting too close to academics, ain’t it?

    BB
    xx

  25. Gwenyth,

    I always assume that anyone responding to a post has actually read it.

    For indies, fear of arrest is always there, but it the risk can be hugely minimized if you’re smart about your work. But I agree the brothels serve a purpose for some. In Bella’s case, it seemed to be a safe(r) place for girls to work off the street and I can’t argue with that.

    Nor am I recommending shutting down the brothels. Some people thrive in that system, because there always some people who thrive in any system. Legally overhauling them would be nice, as would the formation of a sex worker-run co-op brothel. And I don’t consider complaints about the brothel system fuel for the antis (though you’re not the first to point this out). It simply means that this legal system does not work, and it’s time to try something different. Same with criminalization — it does not work, it’s time to try something different. At least, I hope that’s the message that gets out 🙂

    XX

  26. Bob,

    Gwenyth buys into the myth that decrim will drive prices down. If you look on CraigsList you’ll see prices are already extremely low. I don’t think decrim will drive them any lower. It’s not a worry of mine. New Zeland’s recent 5-year report showed that there was not an influx of sex workers and that prices remained constant after their decriminalization in 2003. The client pool expanded slightly, but overall everything remained the same (business-wise).

    There are brothels other than Bellas where the prices are rather high — higher than the average indie charges. That’s also part of the artificiality of the system since the girls have to overcharge to get their fair share (you did mention that).

    There are men who came to Bellas willing to spend money. But Bella has spent YEARS establishing a reputation as a cheap place, so it’s no wonder most of the clientele wants it cheap. That’s bad marketing (not location). I never felt I was competing with any of the other girls in the brothel — I was trying to compete with the cheap reputation Bella’s has. That’s a whole different game and one it’s very hard to win.

    Even as an indie, I never felt I was competing with any other girl in my city. I was offering my own product in my own way — men could take it or leave it. There’s a lot of marketing involved, but it’s not really the direct-competition-marketing everyone thinks it is. Strip clubs are far more competitive.

    Your comment:
    “I can’t think of another situation in which workers (who really are providing the value to the customer ) would find it necessary to surrender half of their earnings for the relatively low value added contribution of the brothel operator. The worker is afraid of the legal risk and accepts lowered compensation while the customer is afraid of the legal risk and pays inflated prices, and the brothel makes money on the spread AND forces dehumanizing working conditions on the workers. I think both are getting screwed more ways than one.”

    Really sums up how messed up the brothel system inherently is.

    XX

  27. Amanda,

    I read your entire saga. I just browsed back through it again, and did a search for the keyword ‘office’ in this post, and the first reference is in my comment. I didn’t find your comment about office workers, and therefor it doesn’t seem odd to me that I might assume that your subsequent mention of an office worker comment referred to mine.

    I do not believe that bringing up issues with the brothel system in an intelligent and informed manner adds fuel for the antis, but I do believe that shutting them down certainly would. And that, if pressed the wrong way, given the political landscape of the state, Nevada might respond by simply making the problem go away. Yes I certainly believe that reforms need to be done, desperately. But I also think this is delicate ground, to be tread on carefully.

    A worker run co-op brothel is a beautiful idea, and would in one sweep deal with most of the existent difficulties.

    As to not feeling like you are in competition with the other women in your city, I believe this is an illusion created by the environment. Case in point: my rates are quite high for my market, because I have another job and quite frankly don’t feel like doing this work in more than a casual way right now(mostly due to an odd aspect of indie work:the loneliness). Plus I seem to get a more respectful set of clientelle, on average, at a higher rate. If I wanted to go back to making more money I would actually have to lower my prices, to be competitive with the market, to draw more clients. One might not be competiting directly with the other providers in a tooth and claw manner, but one does compete with the market, in prices, in advertising, and in reputation.

    The fact that the prices have fallen some actually supports this. I know that the price drops have much to do with the recent recession, but also think some small part has to do with recent dips in enforcement. Sex work has become a lower priority in most cities, partly because a lot of the work has moved of the streets and out of the bars, onto the net. The spread of the internet might also be a factor. Many women who would never have considered working the streets or putting an ad in a newspaper are now at least dipping their toes into the water via craigslist and the like. This has also expanded the market some, but I think it has expanded the supply slightly more.

    I’m not sure about fuzzy decriminalization, but I do feel that a full legalization might bring more competition into the market. Which might bring down prices some. I also feel that gauging ones self worth by what one earns is just bad news all around, and especially so in this business. I do agree that working for less than you can make elsewhere, in horrible conditions, is a bad plan. But I personally think I would feel ok about making less per hour if I was making more overall, _if_ I was also having a good time with it.

    I really didn’t mean for this to turn into an argument, I just tend to like a good intellectual discussion, and points of disagreement tend to make things interesting, and often useful for both sides(though by no means always). I actually agree with you on nearly all your points, I was just concerned about hearing(again) about someone who ties their self-esteem to what they are being paid, at a particular moment, for their job. And somewhat confused by your shock that you would be offering services for a lower rate in a ‘bulk’ location, in the middle of nowhere(though I agree the rates seem a bit insane by comparison to anything in a city).

    I think at this point, I should quit while I am ahead though. Be well, and I hope you realize that none of this has been intended in an antagonistic way. If I’ve offended, I am sorry.

  28. Gwenyth,

    The reference to working in an office was made in my post, though I don’t think I used the exact term “office worker.” At any rate, I certainly thought you were alluding to the reference I made in the original post. Don’t know how this got confusing.

    Like I said, I never felt like I was in direct competition with other girls in my city as an indie. Other girls may feel differently — of course. I don’t feel my lack of competitive feeling is an illusion, it’s more like my approach to many things in life: I’m competing against myself. Obviously, this is a personality trait; just as some girls feel any other female is competition for the entire planet’s resources (also a personality trait).

    I read police busts every single day in my Google Alerts. Prostitution is not a low priority for ANY city. More and more of the busts are from online stings, particularly CraigsList. Any girl who believes she gets less attention from police because she’s online is operating under an illusion. More so for the low end of the market, less so for high-end. Though the recent Spitzer thing did thrust a lot of high-end girls into the spotlight and many took down their sites to avoid attention. Under current crimalization, no one can assume they’re safe or untouchable.

    At the moment, any idea of decriminalization is “fuzzy” because it hasn’t been tried — though there are other models throughout the world, some better than others.

    The only legal option in the US is not only clear-cut, but not to the advantage of the worker. I would love the chance to reform the legal system to make it more worker-friendly. It’s a place to start. I certainly don’t want this legal system spread to all 50 states without some serious changes first. The antis argument against the brothels seem based on their dislike of sex work and their belief that brothels are havens for trafficking. They don’t give one whit about worker rights — as far as I can tell. That’s why I think sex worker criticisms about the brothels aren’t going to affect the antis much. They don’t care what we see and think.

    Basing self-worth on what you make is another personality trait of mine — as I thought was clear. I’ve held a job of some kind of another since I was 15 and my work defines me — for better or worse. Maybe this is blue-collar, I really don’t know. I only know that I feel good about myself when I feel I’ve made a fair living. A bad working environment affects me — even if lots of money is involved (been there, done that). At any rate, this is really a conversation with myself in public — I certainly don’t assume everyone thinks this way.

    My shock was based on the way the job made me feel. I expected something different — obviously. I went into this to discover new things about myself (check) and try out something new (check). I certainly don’t think this is the sum of the brothel experience and I certainly am not going to say that I’ll never have sex with someone for $100 because I know in my upcoming travels I probably will. But a different situation will produce a different response in me. I know that. And, well, there are a lot of personal things that aren’t on this blog. Perhaps you’re seeing into some of the open spaces I’ve intentionally left.

    No offense taken, at all.

    XX

  29. Glad to hear I haven’t upset you. Understand how different perspectives can seriously differ an experience of a situation. My perspective does make it seem that online escorts are a fairly low priority(aside from some high profile busts to appease the media) in some cities, especially LA, SF and NY. I may be operating under an illusion here, but if so, I’ll keep my illusion I think, it helps me sleep better at night.

    When I refer to competition, I think I may be referring to something with a slight conceptual difference than you. When I say competition I am not referring to zero-sum/sports style ‘If I win, you lose and vice versa’ sort of competition. Rather a sort of economics/market forces/mathematical abstraction of competition, in which many individuals vie, often gently, for a share of a resource. A system in which it is quite possible for all parties to ‘win’, and in which cooperation is actually highly beneficial to all, yet some will, inevitably, succeed more thoroughly than others at any particular arbitrary scale of judging success.

    Sorry for getting geeky there. With all this writing, maybe I should be starting my own blog and leaving yours in peace 😛

    For now, I wish you well, and should you get the urge to start building up energy around the co-op brothel notion, maybe keep me in mind. I’m betting that Bella’s license might come up for sale at some point soonish. I think the poetic irony there would be fun, all things considered.

  30. Amanda,

    I am very sorry to hear that Bella’s is not the place she presented it as being when we met her in Chicago. Please do post any information you find out during your research into other brothels. I had been hoping to make the trip to Wells sometime in the coming months, but now I will wait to find out about opportunities at other ranches.

    Thanks!
    Aina Montero

  31. Amanda,

    I’m glad you finally got paid (at least in part). As for Shaunia’s comments: you know what they say about opinions? 🙂

    Take care,

    David

  32. 7665376fd0ad47431a2245d553fa3f60

    —David,

    Me too!

    One person’s opinions are just that — however it was really weird how she echoed an ex-boyfriend. Not what I was expecting.

    Aina,

    Did I meet you in Chicgo? If not, I wish I had!

    No, Bella’s brothel was not quite how Bella herself described it. If you look through the comments on my brothel postings, you’ll see some commenters who have other brothel experiences weighing in. There’s some good thoughts on this blog by others. Personally, I’ve heard good things about the Mustang ranch from several unconnected people.

    Gwenyth,

    No, online escorts get busted every day in lots of cities in the nation — and this is just the news I read online. I can only assume those news stories are a percentage of actual arrests. But again, CraigsList (or agencies) seem to the be bulk of online arrests.

    Defining your usage of competition helps clarify things. I wish there was another word to describe your definition other than "competition." Your definition is not strict competition (how most of us think of it) and is actually closer to what I believe happens. Ideally, there is a network/sisterhood too. I like that idea a lot. I firmly believe there is enough out there for everyone. Maybe this is my illusion?

    Bella IS trying to sell her brothel (several million!) but she wants to retain a controlling stake in it. Not ideal for reformation.

    Unfortunately, we need a team of lawyers before getting really serious about a co-op brothel. It always comes down to money, doesn’t it?

    XX

  33. Amanda,

    I am curious about something. You have cited the New Zealand experience, and in another industry, distilling alcohol, I was told by someone there that NZ abolished restrictions on distilling simply because the cost of enforcement and licensing exceded the revenues from it, and I wonder if the legalization of prostitution in NZ followed the same rationale. (If so, and it worked there, it might work here,)

    I also wonder, is legalization of prostitution in NZ of the Nevada format which ties the worker to a brothel, or can a girl work legally as an independent. If the latter, the experience of the NZ model might be used in building a case for NV legalization of Independents.

    BB

  34. Bob,

    I believe the decriminalization (NOT legalization) of prostitution in NZ came about because sex worker activists did their work. The economic argument may’ve been used — I’m not sure. It is a viable arugment here in the US.

    NZ does not have a brothel system. It is a system of decriminalization — which is why I wish the US would look to it as a model. It allows for brothels, it also allows for indies and small groups of girls to work together (less than four in a house). It’s a very good system and the vast majority of the workers are happy with it and have good job satisfaction. Both clients and providers have legal protections in place.

    Right now, it’s the darling of sex worker activists here in the US and probably other countries as well. It’s the system that’s working the best for all involved, which is why I reference it so much.

    XX

  35. as much as providers hate ‘haggling’, clients hate ‘up selling’. nothing kills a mood faster when a provider starts to up sell after the sessions starts.

  36. Rich,

    TOTALLY agree. Haggling over price — in either direction — manages to insult both parties at the same time. I’m a real fan of flat rates. Of course, if I were a super-negoiator, I might believe differently, I don’t know.

    XX

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