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The Cherry Patch Bar at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch in Crystal, NV, as seen on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

By Ruby Rae

In 2003, when I was approaching my teenage years, my family moved to Northern Nevada to escape the financial stresses and economic turmoil of California.

We moved to a quiet town in Lyon County, where life was slower, smaller and completely gentle. I spent my adolescent years attending middle school and high school in this charming county, which I grew to love.

When I was 20, I had made the move from Lyon County to Washoe County and was living in Reno attending college. I was working a full-time job, not getting through my classes fast enough and losing steam and passion for my future. I wanted a life that was made on my own terms — and more freedom.

I had known about the legal brothels in Nevada, but decided to research more about them to see if I thought it would be a good fit for me. I came to the conclusion as an open-minded, sexually adventurous young woman, that yes, I believe I could be a legal prostitute and succeed.

I started working in one of Dennis Hof’s brothels at the age of 20 as a result of my own well-researched and thought-out decision. Now at the age of 27, I have been working in the brothels for seven years.

Since starting my career as a legal prostitute in Nevada, I can truthfully say it was one of the best decisions I have made, even though a risky one, as I had no idea if I was going to sink or swim. I took a big leap of faith and thankfully, it worked out better than I had ever anticipated.

I am the kind of the woman who is okay with this line of work. I don’t see it as selling sex or myself, but more so, selling an experience to those who desire or need it. I have clientele that have been seeing me since I started seven years ago, and I see them as good friends. I have enriched their lives through passion, compassion and joy.

They have helped me become a more well-rounded, empathetic and successful young woman. I have come to consider myself a savvy businesswoman who manages my own marketing, brand and clientele.

Since entering this line of work, I have completed my B.A. from UNR – paid for solely on my own. I am currently a graduate student pursuing my M.A. from UNR, and I will graduate next spring. I am a published author in a top academic journal in my field. I am well-traveled and have explored nine countries, with three more this summer, all because I had the financial means and freedom in my schedule to make those trips.

I am able to help my grandmother with caring for my aging grandfather who has dementia, because I have the freedom of scheduling and support from management to go and help care for him. Everything good in my life up until this point has come from my career in sex work – from working in the Lyon County brothels.

When I heard about the petition that is being started by No Little Girl to put an end to the Lyon County brothels, I was angry, saddened and confused. Not only is this group trying to take away my livelihood, success and freedom, but also they are trying to take that away from the hundreds of women I work with and the hundreds of staff that these four brothels employ.

The women and staff I work with are like family to me, and I care deeply about their happiness and want their success just as much as my own. To see this petition being started when none of us asked for this was a maddening realization.

The women I work with are not engaging in survival sex work (street-based prostitution) and are not desperate women. They are mothers who are caring for their families and choose this line of work because it gives them flexibility when choosing their schedules so they can spend more time with their children. They are women who have worked in corporate America and wanted a job that was the complete opposite. They are young women, like myself, funding their college educations and other passions.

In the brothels, we have the choice, always, to say which clients we will say yes and no to. We have staff that would never let a man hurt us, and we have a clientele that do not come here to hurt us.

The women who are not here for right reasons do not stay long, because this is not easy money in the sense of the all the background work that goes with it, such as marketing, branding and administration. Many women succeed in this business because they learn to be good at negotiating, to be a part of a team and to learn undeniable business skills.

In addition to all the benefits for the women I work with and myself, Lyon County also heavily benefits. Not only do the brothels pay taxes and fees that fund the county’s vehicles, but we also give back to local charities and organizations regularly, either as a company or by individual lady.

A woman I worked with recently gave back to a Lyon County senior center through donations from her clients. Many girls before me, myself included, have started canned food drives that our clients contribute to. Currently, all four brothels are raising money for the Lyon County Boys and Girls Club. Last winter, three other ladies and myself delivered an SUV full of toys and gifts for the Lyon County toy drive, which we do yearly.

Charity aside, the brothels also bring a great deal of tourism dollars to the area spanning Washoe County, Carson City and Lyon County, and, like myself, many of my fellow sex workers live in Northern Nevada. Restaurants, hotels, housing and more - all in the local area - benefit from the brothels every single day, whether from individual ladies who are touring, the women who live here or from our clients.

The brothels, ladies and staff deeply care about this community and do a lot for the community that the average person does not see. To know there is an organization such as No Little Girl that does not recognize these facts and experiences, will not acknowledge them and instead puts out inaccurate facts about our industry is not only offensive, it hurts deeply.

My immediate family currently lives in Lyon County, and my grandparents have lived in the county for over twenty years. My entire family knows about my occupation and they fully support my decision to work in the licensed brothels of Lyon County.

My roots and history are deep in this community, and I urge Lyon County, from one resident to another, please acknowledge that the brothels here are for the good of everyone involved — the ladies who choose to work here, the staff that is employed by them and the community that absolutely benefits from them.

We need support. Do we have yours?  

Ruby Rae has lived in Nevada for 15 years with her parents, grandparents and siblings. She has worked in a brothel for seven years and is now an M.A. student at UNR.

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