unspeakable crimes What To Know About Legal American Brothels  

Laura Allan
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American brothels have been around even before the United States was really a country. Red light districts and "cathouses" are a part of US history that some think are no longer applicable in the 21st century. However, while prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in the country, there are still legal brothels in operation. You may be wondering, how is sex work legal in the US? 

Similar to other countries where prostitution is legal, the laws surrounding brothels are a little complicated. Each brothel is slightly different and operates in various ways, ranging from set menus to line-ups of girls. One thing that is almost certain is that most assumptions people make about women in legal brothels are wrong. There are strict laws governing the houses, they are not a breeding ground for STDs, and none of the women are forced to be there.

Whether you support brothels (in theory or monetarily) or oppose them, it's hard to deny that they're a fascinating phenomenon. Read on below to learn more about American brothels - you may find yourself caught off guard by what really goes on behind their closed doors. 

American Brothels Have Existed At Least As Far Back As The 1600s


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Legal brothels are hardly something new in the United States. In fact, they go all the way back to colonial times. In the 1600s, men were still traveling to the New World, oftentimes without their wives or families. While in North America, they still felt a need for carnal desires and turned to sex workers of that time.

Brothels began popping up, particularly around port towns. In the 1700s, tavern owners were occasionally arrested for having "disorderly houses," and a few "red light districts" were established. Before long, brothels catering to both the wealthy and the poor would appear, with "bawdy houses" offering inexpensive sex workers, and more refined brothels luring in the upper class. Although these houses were frowned upon, they were not expressly illegal in most cases. Any punishments handed out tended to be light or ignored.

Sex Work Was Made Illegal In The United States In The 1900s


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By the end of the 17th century, anti-prostitution sentiment started rising. It led to a series of "whorehouse riots," where brothels were burned and torn down. People didn't want such an industry to be present in their neighborhoods, and took action themselves because the laws were slow to change. Finally, in 1790, Massachusetts took the step to make the business of "bawdy houses" illegal. 

Prior to the 19th century, prostitution was viewed more as "a moral infraction rather than a crime." However, that began to change throughout the next century. As public outrage over brothels grew, so did actions to legally curb prostitution. At first, lawmakers created a federal law to regulate the sex industry. However, reinforcement proved futile. So, in 1913, the Supreme Court of the United States decided to give states the power to regulate prostitution within their territories themselves in Hoke v. United States. With that decision, most states slowly eradicated prostitution, save one - Nevada. 

Nevada Is The Only State Where Brothels Are Legal


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1971 marked the beginning of a prostitution-free America, except for 13 counties in Nevada. (There was a time when Rhode Island lawmakers accidentally made prostitution legal in 1980. The loophole wasn't found until 1993 and was finally remedied in 2009). 

As of August 2017, Nevada is the only state in America that allows prostitution. It might come as a surprise that Las Vegas is not one of the 8 counties that permit prostitution and have at least one brothel. 

As Of 2017, There Are At Least 20 Legal Brothels


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If you happen to be in Nevada and are looking for a legal brothel, you actually have quite a few options to choose from. While in previous decades, there were more than thirty brothels dotting the plains, there remains just around 20 in the 21st century, in both Northern and Southern Nevada.

These sex houses range greatly in style, size, and price. Places like Sheri's Ranch markets itself more as a resort, with rooms, bars, a swimming pool, a tennis court, and more. Smaller, more themed brothels also exist, such as The Alien Cathouse, which has a bit of an Area 51 theme due to its proximity to that legendary site. Depending on where you go, you may find the cost of a "party" ranges from a couple hundred to well over a thousand dollars.