Illegal in Las Vegas
Contrary to popular belief, prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas.
But almost everything else related to commercial sex is. Vegas, known as “America’s Playground,” is a city flirting with vice and crime, a city where it is patently illegal to sell sex, and where thousands of prostitutes and pimps are arrested each year.
Prostitution might not be legal in Vegas, but all of the components to trafficking are present, accounted for, and celebrated.
The perennial battlefront is the debate over prostitution: is it a “victim-less crime,” a transaction between two consensual adults? Or is it something more nefarious, a slavery in disguise?
Proponents of prostitution would like to see prostitution legalized and legitimized as “sex work,” but statistics paint a grim portrait of prostitution as a “vocation”. Even besides the devastating reality that the average age of entry into prostitution is between 12 − 14 years old (Polaris Project), women in prostitution face a harrowing, day-by-day existence fraught with peril. Annie Lobert’s website, Hookers for Jesus, reports that 78 percent of women in prostitution have been threatened with a weapon at some point in their “career.” A full 82 percent have been raped in the course of their work (how’s that for consensual?), and 73 percent have been raped more than five times. Lastly, 84 percent are currently homeless or have been homeless at some point in their lives.
And if those statistics weren’t enough, the psychological toll that prostitution takes on women being sold ought to give legislatures and prostitution supporters pause. The prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among prostituted women in various countries is between 55 and 86 percent (Prostitution Research and Education). Women in the United States are on the higher end of the spectrum at 69 percent. In fact, there is one occupation that shares that same level of psychological agony: combat war veterans.
In other words, prostituted women are fighting a different kind of war, a war for survival where each john could be an enemy combatant, and each trick could be her last. So it is no wonder that 87 percent of the women studied by the prostitution research center would like to leave “the business?” (Prostitution Research and Education)
A City With a Story
There has been a change in public opinion on the topic of prostitution that took place sometime in the late 40’s and 50’s.
As historian Marie Rowley has pointed out, during Las Vegas’ humble beginnings as little more than a watering hole for dam workers and railroad workers, prostitution was accepted (though never officially legalized). A small strip of land in the city known as Block 16 turned into the city’s first red-light district in 1905, and prostitution would dominate the city for several decades. It was only when federal marshals raided one of the most infamous brothels, Roxie’s, in 1954 that the corruption had become too great to ignore.
More recently, Las Vegas police forces have begun targeting pimps. Operation PIMP (Prostitutes Incarcerated by Metropolitan Police), not only corralled hundreds of women in prostitution during raids, but also has cracked down on the men who sell them. Las Vegas Sun reporter Abigail Goldman reports that, “vice detectives will tell you, behind every prostitute is a pimp. These relationships by nature, are coercive, and these coercions are often cemented with violence.”
The Clark County sheriff’s department has also busted pimps for selling women and children online, on sites like Backpage.com. That means that the internet has become the new brothel, a place where, like Roxie’s in the 40’s and 50’s, women can be sold even though prostitution is officially illegal.
But things have changed significantly since then. Today, while prostitution may not be legal in Las Vegas, the city is a booming hub for commercial sex.
Every year since 1984, Adult Video News has hosted the AVN Awards to dole out dubious honors to the best entertainers of the pornography industry. Widely known as the “Oscars of Porn,” the AVN awards feature both categories that overlap traditional movie honors, as well as categories that are industry specific.
Annie Lobert explained to Exodus Cry in a recent interview that the show has moved to a smaller venue this year, which might at first be a positive sign. But it could also point to more nefarious trends. Amateur pornography, produced and distributed by more and more people with inexpensive equipment, could result in more competitive actions with longer-standing producers. What’s more, there remains the possibility that smaller versions of the AVN awards could crop up in other cities to form regional awards. All of this amounts to an industry that could be growing more rapidly than ever, while staying almost completely hidden.
- The Adult Video News (AVN) Awards will be held January 16-19th this month. This event is designed for the fans/buyers of commercial sex products (porn, prostitution, etc.) to come and revel in all parts of the industry, including meeting actors/actresses. Pray that God will miraculously convict those who will be attending. Pray that people will find fascination in the beauty of God and find the courage to leave the pornography industry.
- Police Forces: Pray that police are protected and can spot trafficking victims.
- Legislation: Pray that righteous laws would be established so that sex buyers will be prosecuted and the purchase of sexual services will decrease. Pray for seeds of change in the hearts of the people in Vegas.
- Pray for a radical spirit of holiness in the church in Las Vegas, that believers would have strength to come out of sexual addiction of all kinds, and call others out of the “business.”
1. Polaris Project: http://www.polarisproject.org/resources/resources-by-topic/sex-trafficking
2. Prostitution Research & Education: http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/ProsViolPosttrauStress.html