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Could Sex Tech Spell The End Of Nevada's Brothels?

Illustration/Natalie Cullen

Prostitution is legal in Nevada. But only in brothels. And only in counties with fewer than 400,00 residents.

Still, it is an industry that creates jobs. And for working women, it’s a relatively safe job with good pay.

But could the Internet and high tech be the undoing of Nevada brothels?

Recently, the communications director for Sheri’s Ranch, a brothel in Nye County, said the growing tech of remote-tactile communication threatens the good old-fashioned human-to-human interaction that comes from a brothel.

UNLV Professor Lynn Comella studies gender and sexuality. She also wrote an article in Seven Magazine about webcam modeling. She told KNPR's State of Nevada the adult entertainment industry suffered just like every other industry during the Great Recession.

However, sections of the industry, like webcam work are actually doing well. Webcam modeling or 'cam work,' as it is often called, is when an adult entertainment worker performs in front of a web camera for a fee. What the worker does depends on what someone from the audience asks for. Everything from dancing to stripping to masturbating to just talking. 

Comella said unlike traditional pornography webcams provides a new level of interaction.

"What is interesting about cam work is it is a form of adult entertainment that customers seem willing to pay for," she said, "I think one of the things they're paying for is this level of interactive entertainment."

One of those webcam workers is "Jeze Bell." She works at a simple office building in Las Vegas that instead of cubicles and offices has 'pods' that are built to look like small bedrooms. The rooms include a bed and a computer with a webcam, of course. 

Jeze Bell said she can makes $1,000 a week depending on the hours she works and the number of 'gold shows' she does. Gold Shows are similar to a pole dance on the main stage of a strip club were several customers are watching at one time. She will also perform in one-on-one shows or shows for just a few customers.

"One of the things that I really love about this work and this job is it has just enlightened me about the spectrum of sexuality and how much it varies and ebbs and flows," she said. 

She said the webcam shows often allow people to explore some taboos without making big choices about their life. Jeze Belle said it also allows people to make a connection they're not getting in real life.

"The interaction not only being able to ask for what they want but to participate in the activity in the show," she said, "I think it provides something that so many people seek."

Brothel owner Dennis Hof doesn't see webcam shows as something that will hurt the brothel industry, because going to a brothel is more than just sex.

"My ranches, they're brothels but it's not as much about the sex as it is the experience," Hof said, "It's about the adventure."

He said webcam shows are entry level for many people but his brothels are the fulfillment center for pornography. Hof believes human touch is still critical and it is not something that can be fulfilled over the Internet.

Comella agreed that Nevada's brothel industry is not really threatened by the kind of work that Jeze Bell does. She said technology driven adult entertainment like webcam work doesn't fulfill all of the needs that customers have.

Comella pointed to years of research on the brothel industry that shows customers go there for something else.

"It's not just sexual gratification that customers are looking for," she said, "They really are looking for a certain interaction and intimacy."


Dennis Hof, brothel owner;  Lynn Comella, UNLV professor of gender and sexuality studies;  "Jeze Bell" sex-cam worker, Las Vegas

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.