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Nevada gives 'green light' to its first male brothel

End of a double standard: Nevada's first legalized male brothel.

For the many decades that Nevada has had legal brothels, they have been dominated by the image of busty women with lacy garters and messy up-dos.   But that image is now as antiquated and sexist as Nevada's prostitution health codes.

These codes required prostitutes to have weekly cervical exams to ensure they are not infected with a sexually transmitted disease.   But what if the prostitute doesn't have a cervix to examine?

That double standard was what kept men out of the oldest profession — at least in a legalized way. But it's now been swept aside in one Nevada county anyway. 

The Shady Lady herself: owner Bobbi Davis. (Courtesy Jim Davis)

In response to repeated petitions from a bawdy-house madam, with a disposition that seems more suited to a quilting circle, Nye County gave its approval recently for her brothel to offer the services of male prostitutes.

Bobbi Davis, owner of the Shady Lady Ranch, about 240 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas, says that like any good businesswoman she simply wanted to meet customer demand.

"We'd had requests," she says sweetly, in a calm voice that belies her relentless determination to challenge Nevada's prostitution health code.

As Davis explained, "All prostitutes had to have a cervical exam, therefore men couldn't comply."   So Davis and her lawyer approached the local health board and county officials. After a few months' of lobbying, the code was changed to allow for the physical examinations of men.

No public outcry

"I was happy of course that it happened, but I was also a little stunned because not one person spoke out against it," Davis told the CBC. "We expected opposition. We were told a bunch of religious people were coming" to the board meeting.   Two county board members did vote against the plan, including Nye County sheriff, Tony DeMeo.

The sheriff's office enforces health exams of prostitutes in order to stop the spread of venereal disease.

The health checks are crucial for the brothel industry, DeMeo says, and they require female prostitutes to examine their male customers for any visible signs of infection. 

In his view, it is physically impossible for male prostitutes to thoroughly examine female and male clients.

So under the new compliance code, he says, "we have no safeguards in place to protect the clients and the prostitutes."

What is safer?

The new code requires latex condoms be used and that all male prostitutes submit monthly blood samples and weekly "urethral specimens" to ensure they do not have any sexually transmitted infections.

Condoms, of course, are not fail-safe, which is why female prostitutes are required to examine their male clients.   In Nevada, brothels have a long history that dates back more than a century.   In Canada, prostitution is legal, but it is illegal to live off the avails of prostitution, operate a bawdy house or communicate for the purpose of paying for sex — all of which are currently being challenged before the Supreme Court of Canada.   Tricia Foxx runs a male escort service in Vancouver and says the Nevada decision is great news for women because of personal safety.

"For a lot of businesswomen and women generally, I think it's safer to order an escort than to go into a bar and pick someone up.

"You don't want a Mr.Goodbar-type," she says, referring to the 1977 movie in which a young woman's search for casual sex ends in violent tragedy.   Foxx says that most of her customers are gay men, "but recently a couple of single women have called from some of the nicer hotels."

The 'it' factor

At the Shady Lady Ranch, Davis and her husband have put together a little rustic cabin for her prospective female clientele. "It gives the ladies privacy."   She says it's likely the hourly price will be the same for both male and female prostitutes.

But because women customers may well want more time, it will end up costing more than the $300 per hour that female sex-trade workers charge at her brothel.   "Women are going to want more from the men than just the sex part. I think they're going to want to feel special — more like a spa experience. Like a friend with benefits."   Davis has already received more than 100 job applications and will be starting interviews over the next two weeks.

According to the Shady Lady Ranch website, qualified men are described as, "between 21 and 40; have a good work ethic; must be service oriented; have a willingness to please; have a positive attitude."

Davis says that just a handful of applicants so far have the "it factor," that she's looking for.

"They don't look arrogant. They look approachable. And they look like if you got to know them, they'd probably give you one hell of a good time."

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