(By Ruby Rae) – Recently the Reno Gazette-Journal ran an op-ed written by a Texas woman named Rebekah Charleston who made a number of absolutely outrageous claims about Lyon County’s legal brothels that, as a legal sex worker, I can’t let go unanswered.
Ms. Charleston, who’s been on a crusade to “save” sex workers for years now, claims she’s a “survivor who was once trafficked into Nevada’s legal brothels.”
But her story – as with the entire campaign to ban brothels in Lyon County – is loaded with misinformation and outright lies.
First, she claims to have worked at both the Bunny Ranch and Love Ranch where – because the industry is so tightly regulated and controlled via sheriff-issued work cards – the brothels are required to maintain extensive employment records.
And guess what?
Neither the general manager nor the accountant at the ranches has been able to find any record of Rebekah Charleston ever working there…and not one supposed co-worker or customer remembers her.
Of course, it would be extremely helpful to know exactly when Ms. Charleston claims to have worked in Lyon County – a detail she conveniently omitted in her column.
Why is this important?
Because if she claims to have worked there after she got out of prison in 2007, she must have lied about her felony criminal record or used a fake name and ID in order to obtain a work card from the sheriff.
And if she’d lie about that, what else would she lie about?
In fact, what it appears Ms. Charleston is deceptively doing is taking her experience working as a prostitute in an illegal brothel in Texas in the early 2000’s and using that to smear Lyon County’s legal brothels.
According to a CBS11 I-Team report back in January, Charleston was arrested “for money laundering and tax evasion” as part of a “high-dollar prostitution ring” operated out of “a very unlikely place – an upscale Denton home” in a Dallas suburb where she lived with her pimp.
This is important to point out because Lyon County residents need to understand that if you ban our legal brothels, that won’t make prostitution go away.
Illegal brothels will simply spring up in your neighborhoods rather than be confined to out-of-the-way industrial parks.
The money laundering and tax evasion for which Ms. Charleston went to prison involved a pizza restaurant she co-owned “to disguise the money” she was making illegally as an illegal prostitute working in an illegal brothel operated illegally out of a luxury home in Texas – not Nevada.
In the I-Team report, Ms. Charleston details the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of the violent street pimp she worked for.
“If you didn’t obey the rules, you’d be beaten,” she said.
But that’s why so many of us have CHOSEN to work in a legal brothel. That kind of abuse simply doesn’t happen here. We’re safe.
And because we’re working legally, *if* anything even close to what Ms. Charleston is claiming ever happened, we wouldn’t be afraid of getting arrested if we reported it to law enforcement authorities.
Ms. Charleston also claims that Lyon County’s legal sex workers don’t have the freedom “to turn down buyers,” and that when a customer came in and picked her, “we would bring the sex buyer back to our room where he was allowed to do whatever he wanted with us.”
“This is simply untrue,” writes sex worker Ruby Rose of Sheri’s brothel in response. “We always have the freedom to turn away clients at any time and for any reason.
“When a sex worker goes back to her room with a client who chooses her in a lineup, it’s to negotiate price and activity, not to let him do whatever he wants.”
“Absolutely FALSE,” adds sex worker Kourtney Chase of the Love Ranch. “I can turn down anyone I want. Listen to the ladies who actually work at the brothels and have experienced it first-hand!!”
“She lying straight through her teeth,” legal sex worker Kiki Lover of the Kit Kat Ranch stated plainly.
The fact is, in the legal brothels we have the choice – always – to say which clients we will say yes and no to. We also have staff that would never let a man hurt us, and we have a clientele that do not come here to hurt us. Period.
Ms. Charleston also claims women working in Lyon County’s brothels “were not able to come and go as they pleased.”
This is another outright lie.
“We make our own hours, time off and much more,” writes legal sex worker Destiny Starr of the Love Ranch. “We are not held as hostages.”
“The Lyon County brothels are NOT lock-down brothels,” adds Christina Parreira, a legal sex worker and PhD student at UNLV who’s writing her doctoral thesis on her experience working in Nevada’s legal brothels, “and that’s easy for anyone to verify.
“Workers leave all the time. ALL THE TIME. The Lyon County brothels have NEVER run on a lock-down system.”
And I can attest to that personally myself. I leave on a regular basis to attend classes at UNR while pursuing my Master’s degree.
Now, as to the overall claim by Ms. Charleston that sex trafficking occurs in Lyon County, Christina says that’s also absolutely untrue.
“Sex trafficking is a problem, but it’s not a problem occurring in legal Nevada brothels,” she writes. “In the past four years of deep ethnographic research into the Nevada brothels – including working/living there and over 60 interviews with other sex workers – I found zero evidence of sex trafficking.
“Zero. None. Nada. It’s not happening. I don’t know how to be any clearer.”
“Consenting adults are not victims of trafficking,” adds Kourtney. “Legal sex workers are simply doing it as a job and we should have the right to choose sex work as our career.”
“The anti-brothel movement claims to want to protect and liberate legal sex workers under the assumption that we are helpless, trafficked by pimps and participating in the adult industry against our will,” writes Alice Little, a legal sex worker at the Bunny Ranch brothel.
“It’s illegal sex work that exploits children,” Alice continues. “It’s illegal sex work that traffics. It’s illegal sex work that sees women exploited and abused by pimps.
“The legal system people such as Ms. Charleston are attacking actually creates a safe haven from the dangers of the illegal industry. The idea that you’re advocating for the ‘rights’ of women by taking away their right to work is irony that borders on deranged.”
But in conclusion, I think Destiny put it best: “We are regular workers and we are regular people. We pay taxes, mortgages and much more. We are not victims. Leave us alone.”
Sound advice. Live and let live.
(Ruby Rae has lived in Nevada for 15 years with her parents, grandparents and siblings. She has worked in a brothel for seven years and is now an M.A. student at UNR.)