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Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women by…

Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women (original 2002; edition 2002)

by Alexa Albert (Author)

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4271842,320 (3.64)11
Until Harvard Medical School student Alexa Albert knocked on the door, the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada had never let an outsider in. Intending to conduct a public health study, Albert gained unprecented access to the notoriously secretive Ranch. Now in this candid and powerful work, she examines the realities behind prostitution and tells the unvarnished stories of America's most marginalised and misunderstood group of women.… (more)
Title:Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women
Authors:Alexa Albert (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (2002), Edition: Reprint, 276 pages
Collections:Your library

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Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women by Alexa Albert (2002)



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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
It was more interesting than I thought it would be. I've read it a few times.

The book focuses on more than just the health of the girls. It also explores their mindset, the business itself, and what it is like to work in a brothel. The history of brothels is also explored.
  LadyRakat | Mar 2, 2020 |
A profile of the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada written by a psychologist who spent time there observing and interviewing participants. I lived in Reno for about 15 years during the original time the ranch was in operation and though not a great deal of attention was paid to it as I recall the fact that is was there was always a curiosity for many.

This book itself was not terribly interesting and dragged in places. But there was some information about the people and some of the activities that were surprising. The industry itself goes hand in hand with the nature of what Nevada is and the gaming connections where tourist dollars are sacrosanct. The book wraps up with the final shut down by the government in 1999. However since this book was written I understand it was reopened at a nearby location under completely new owners that apparently puts a permanent end to the Joe Conforte influence. ( )
  knightlight777 | Sep 2, 2018 |
Yes I know I seem to be obsessed with ladies of the demimonde recently. It just happens to be luck of the draw on the unread book stack.

Author Alexa Albert is a Public Health MD and therefore became interested in why legal brothels in Nevada had a minuscule STD rate. Somewhat naively, she sent a series of holiday cards to the public relations man representing the Nevada brothel industry asking if she could come out and do some research. After a series of replies ranging from “No” through “Hell, No” to “Hell No until Hell freezes over, and then Hell No on the ice” she was one day surprised by “Well, OK”.

The book is not really going to make anybody happy. Feminists will be disappointed to find that brothel workers are not dissatisfied – usually - with their work. Libertarians will be disappointed to find that working in a brothel is not a free and independent contract between equals. Teenage boys will be disappointed to find that there are no pictures. Minimum wage workers will be disappointed to find that brothel prostitutes can clear $150k/y.

The modern Nevada brothel saga begins with Joe Conforte, an out-and-out stereotype who seems to enjoy playing it that way. The Nevada constitution allowed for a county option on permitting house of prostitution, and Conforte convinced Storey County to allow one. The current licensing rate for a brothel is $100k/y, which is a pretty good chunk of the county’s annual budget. (It was somewhat less when Conforte started). What’s more, the Mustang Ranch was the third largest employer. (Conforte was a fugitive from justice in Brazil for tax evasion when Albert started her research, but Mustang Ranch was still running, and eventually the Feds determined that it was still controlled by Conforte and shut it again). The first reopening provides the only humor in an otherwise fairly serious book – when the Feds first seized Mustang Ranch they sold off all the furnishings; when it reopened the ladies had to re-equip it themselves, leading to a shout when a client turned up: “Come on, girls, we need a toaster!”

The first shock to my libertarian sensibilities was an ugly secret the girls revealed to Albert when they began to trust her: the libertarian theory is that the legalization of sex of money would eliminate pimps, because the prostitutes would no longer need them from protection from the law and from other pimps. This turned out not to be the case; when Conforte was running things directly, the prostitutes were required to have pimps; the pimps were to “keep the girls in line” rather than having Conforte do it directly. With Conforte out of the way, it didn’t really change; although there were now some prostitutes who were entirely independent, most were still giving their money to a husband or boyfriend or – in a couple of surprising cases – a mother or mother-in-law. The mother case was especially grim – Mom essentially said “I don’t want to work anymore”, drove her daughter to the brothel, dropped her off, and then returned every payday to collect all her money.

The ladies' attitudes to each other were interesting; sometimes they treated each other like sisters, and sometimes they didn’t. They were especially hard on other girls if they were especially attractive (because they got all the business); if they “cheated” in the line-up by touching or gesturing to the prospective client (same reason); or if they actually enjoyed having sex (apparently a violation of sisterhood rules). A favorite tactic of expressing disapproval – used once while Albert was there – was to fill the offending girl’s shampoo bottle with hair remover.

At the same time, there was a certain sense of community – the ladies would chip in and help each other out. Author Albert expresses dismay when the Feds shut down the Mustang Ranch again in the middle of her research – “Don’t they realize they are destroying a community?”

Albert’s naivety comes to the fore during some of her descriptions of brothel work, where she discovers the truth of the maxim “Never bet that there’s something so perverted that you can’t find a man who wants to do it”. These are not titillating passages; Albert’s sense of disgust is predominant and she presumably had to keep repeating “I’m doing this for science”. Albert’s friends and relations expressed considerable shock when they discovered what she was researching, and she seems to be doubtful that some of them fully believed her. She also had considerable difficulty interviewing brothel opponents, who all seemed to think her very presence as a researcher lent legitimacy. (I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been, that some of the strongest brothel opponents are casino owners, who see the legal brothels as discouraging tourism).

There is, presumably, a scientific paper out there somewhere about this; the book does volunteer a few of Albert’s conclusions: Nevada brothels really, truly are free of venereal disease; this is accomplished by meticulous condom use and meticulous attention to male genitals for signs of disease. (There has never been a case of HIV transmission in a brothel; prostitutes get frequent checks, and coming down with any STD bans you for life).

Worth a read; probably don’t want to leave it lying around for a SO or kids to find. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 5, 2017 |
This was a great book about a fascinating topic. Albert did a great job recounting her experiences doing research inside the Mustang Ranch, one of the most famous brothels in the world. She did a great job humanizing the women who worked there and helped illustrate how becoming a prostitute could be a realistic option for people searching for a way to earn a good salary, while not glossing over the negative aspects of the lifestyle. It was a great read. ( )
  knfmn | Dec 22, 2016 |
A look at legalized prostitution in Nevada, from a public health standpoint. Interesting. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
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In memory of my friend, Alfred In appreciation of my husband Andy and my father, Marvin In celebration of my mother, Judy and my daughter, Coco
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The postmark read "Reno, Nevada, 24 Dec 1992. I stared at the envelop for a long moment before opening it.
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Until Harvard Medical School student Alexa Albert knocked on the door, the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada had never let an outsider in. Intending to conduct a public health study, Albert gained unprecented access to the notoriously secretive Ranch. Now in this candid and powerful work, she examines the realities behind prostitution and tells the unvarnished stories of America's most marginalised and misunderstood group of women.

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