I spoke with a public official this past week regarding the decriminalization of prostitution. When I talked with her, she told me she saw a TV show about a legal Nevada brothel. In this show, there was a man who was taking care of the girls who worked for him. She said that the girls looked really happy.
Three things bother me with this woman’s statements. One, she mentions a man who is taking care of his girls. Two, she is referring to what they do as work. And three, she is under the impression that these women are happy. I question whether selling human beings for sex can really be viewed as “taking care of”? It seems more along the lines of a human rights violation. If we look beneath the surface of all of this, we see that the women in prostitution are not happy. Has anyone asked the women how they really feel about the work they are doing? Here are a few quotes from women in Nevada brothels who talked to researcher Melissa Farley (Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. Prostitution, Research, & Education, 2007) about what it was really like in brothels.
“From the moment you’re in one [legal brothel], you’re like a prisoner.”
“You have sex when they want, with whom they want, and it doesn’t matter how you feel or anything. You’re locked in a box for two weeks and guys come in and out.”
“The first words that come to mind are: degraded, dehumanized, used, victim, ashamed, humiliated, embarrassed, insulted, slave, rape, violated.”
The legal pimp that this public official was referring to is Dennis Hof, whose legal Nevada brothel is aired on HBO, a television company greedy enough to give him free advertising. Cathouse, which masquerades as a documentary, presents a distorted view of the legal system of prostitution in Nevada. Cathouse offers prostitution as a fun, career choice for girls and women while never looking at the downsides of prostitution or the grotesquely negative impacts it has on people’s consciousness.
Hof legitimizes the exploitation of women. By making a high-profile image of himself, Hof has infiltrated the consciousness of many Americans and has successfully convinced them that he is “taking care of his girls” and they look “really happy” in their profession. As most pimps are good at, he has hidden the horrors of prostitution: the women who are caught in the system, who got into prostitution because their sexual abusers told them when they were little girls that they were cunts, just like Hof and his johns tell them now. The impressions that this TV show left on this one California public official speaks volumes to what it is doing to the minds of young people, men, and women who tune in every week. If an educated, elected, public official can be fooled by the seemingly happy lives of Hof’s prostitutes, imagine what it is doing to the rest of America.