Married, same-sex couple shares how brothels changed their life

Posted Thursday, 16 May 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Violet Vause and Kayden Blake are planning their summer vacation. This past year, the young couple took a trip to Hawaii, their first “real” vacation that wasn’t for work or family. “I want to go everywhere. I love traveling,” says Violet, 26. “You need to pick one place first!” teases Kayden, 25. Originally hailing from California, the two women have been married for two years and together for eight. They just bought their first home in Las Vegas, where they spend half their time. The other half is spent at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel in Pahrump, where they both work as prostitutes. They came to Sheri’s in August 2017 after working for several years in the sex industry as webcam models, or “cam girls.” As far as they know, they’re the first “openly married” prostitutes to work together in Nevada’s 20 legal brothels scattered across rural parts of the state. And while this differentiates them from the average married couple, on their off weeks they have plenty of time to do typical, millennial couple things: binge-watch Netflix, play with their cats, cook and plan their next vacation. Hundreds work in the Silver State’s brothels, which are permitted in counties with fewer than 700,000 residents. Nevada is the only state in which the practice remains legal in some form, but prostitution has long faced its share of critics. Although threats to the industry were heightened during this Nevada legislative session, legal brothels appear to have emerged relatively unscathed as the session draws to a close. A Senate bill that would have outlawed all brothels died in April. The state is still grappling with a lawsuit filed by a former prostitute alleging that Nevada’s legal brothels facilitate and sanction sex trafficking, but the initial buzz around that suit has quieted down—at least for now. In the midst of these controversies as well as the perpetual stigma associated with sex work, Kayden and Violet sat down with Las Vegas Weekly to share their personal experiences working at Sheri’s, their take on the politics of prostitution in Nevada and the unique details of their relationship. How did they get here? Kayden and Violet met when they were in their late teens and still living in California. “I got dragged to a Super Bowl party,” Violet recalled. “It was at Kayden’s house, and that’s where we met and slowly became friends.” Eventually, they started dating. Prior to entering the sex industry, Kayden worked in billing departments and Violet held various customer service jobs. Both often juggled multiple jobs at once, working 70 to 80 hours a week. Violet’s first stint in the sex industry was as a webcam model, which she quickly realized was her most lucrative gig. Eventually, she quit her other jobs and invited Kayden to start camming with her independently. This allowed them to avoid fees paid to studios and websites and gave them greater autonomy over their work. About 18 months ago, they moved to Nevada and decided to look into legal prostitution. They researched brothels in the state before settling on Sheri’s, which they say has stricter drug and alcohol policies. A recovering alcoholic, Violet was looking for a mostly sober environment, which also helps ensure that both patrons and sex workers can legally consent to sexual activities. “Sheri’s was the only place that met that criteria for us,” Kayden said. The first few weeks at Sheri’s were a challenge as the two women struggled to get their footing, build up a loyal clientele and navigate negotiations with clients. At Sheri’s and at most legal Nevada brothels, each paid transaction, referred to as a “party,” is negotiated privately between the sex worker and the potential client. The sex worker keeps half the profits, and the rest goes to the house. “It took me a couple trips to get the feel of the house and learn how to negotiate for pricing, because I had no idea,” Violet said. “My first party, I did not quote them enough. That’s one of my biggest regrets here.” A representative of Sheri’s declined to reveal any information about prices for services, saying it “misrepresents what the ladies are asking for” and goes against industry practices. But Kayden and Violet say they have earned enough money to buy a home and travel, and they no longer work multiple jobs. What do they do? When it comes to the services they provide, Kayden and Violet say clients do request threesomes with them, as some patrons are intrigued by the fact that they are married and have genuine chemistry. But most often, they each work independently and see different clients. Kayden typically picks up those whom she meets at the bar at Sheri’s, though some will contact her prior to visiting to schedule an appointment. Most of Violet’s clients, on the other hand, discover her through her website and other marketing materials. Violet sees mostly men, the most common patrons of Sheri’s, as well as some couples. Although Kayden sees plenty of heterosexual men, she also sees LGBT clients and those questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. A good portion of the clients they see are also dealing with some sort of mental health issues, often depression or anxiety. They are often looking for companionship, sometimes even more than sex—the so-called “girlfriend experience.” A package deal that can include kissing, cuddling or having a nice meal with a working woman is one of the most popular services offered at Sheri’s. “Most of the men I see struggle with emotional issues,” Violet said. “They’re depressed, but they can’t talk about it because men can’t cry, or they can’t open up to the people around them about whatever diagnosis they have because they don’t want to be ostracized.” Interacting with clients who face mental health issues isn’t without its challenges. Kayden once partied with a client who was schizophrenic, which she said took some getting used to, but was ultimately a positive experience. On the whole, both women feel that the opportunity to give people the physical and emotional intimacy they’re craving is one of the most rewarding aspects of their job. “If someone comes to see me and they leave happier or maybe lighter than they came in, that makes me feel like I’ve done a good thing,” Kayden said. What do they think of prostitution in Nevada? Compared with other developed countries where the practice is permitted and regulated, Nevada’s approach to prostitution is unique. While the state mandates condom use in all brothels and regular STD and HIV tests for all prostitutes, most of the other regulations for brothels are left up to the rural counties. While they’re pleased with their experiences at Sheri’s and in Nye County, Kayden and Violet believe that the system in Nevada would benefit from more uniformity, an issue that lawmakers are currently looking into. Some towns and counties, for example, enforce a curfew on prostitutes, while others have rules about specific times and days when prostitutes are permitted to leave the premises without having to get retested for STDs. One policy enforced at Sheri’s and some other brothels is often referred to as “lockdown,” whereby prostitutes are required to remain at the brothel during certain days and times, even when they’re not on shift. However, Violet and Kayden say that lockdown is an inaccurate way to describe what they believe is a harmless and beneficial policy. “The idea of lockdown, it sounds really scary, but basically what it means is you have to schedule the days you leave. You can’t just leave whenever you want,” Kayden explained. The rule stems from testing requirements for prostitutes in Nye County; if a prostitute leaves the brothel for more than 24 hours, she must be retested before going back to work. Sheri’s has handled the rule by encouraging prostitutes to only leave two days a week while they are working and for no more than eight hours. But the house recognizes that emergencies and extenuating circumstances happen. “Some girls leave for a doctor’s appointment or school,” Kayden noted. Another change they would like to see in Nevada would be lower costs for prostitutes. At Sheri’s, prostitutes pay $46 per day for room and board. But they also pay hundreds of dollars a month in mandatory doctor’s fees and health tests, and they must cover the costs of obtaining a business license and a work card in the county prior to starting. Not to mention that any materials needed for their job—condoms, lube, lingerie, sex toys and more—are paid out of their own pockets. “It is unfortunately a privilege for the people that can afford it,” Violet said. “If you’re new and you’ve never worked in a brothel before and you’re trying to get some money together, it’s insanely expensive to start working here.” In addition to making brothels financially accessible, Violet and Kayden would like to see more gender diversity. No men currently work at any of Nevada’s brothels, and media reports indicate that the first transgender prostitute worked at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Lyon County in 2015 and 2016. Kayden and Violet aren’t sure if there are trans sex workers currently. “I think there should be more opportunities for trans sex workers. ... There’s not enough at all,” Violet said. How has sex work affected their lives? Prior to camming, Kayden and Violet were two 20-somethings trying to make ends meet, a task that felt unattainable no matter how hard they worked. Although camming helped them achieve more financial stability, working as prostitutes has given them additional money and new freedom and skills, such as negotiating and setting clear boundaries with others. And while they have faced stigma from family and friends for becoming prostitutes, they say they’ve experienced less harassment at the brothel than in past work environments. In addition, Kayden and Violet have never felt unsafe on the job. “There is a level of professionalism with everyone that I wasn’t expecting,” Kayden said, referring to the clientele, the management and the other prostitutes at Sheri’s. Working at Sheri’s has also strengthened their relationship with each other and improved their work-life balance. During their off-weeks, they are free to spend time at home in Las Vegas or anywhere else. “We get to come [to Sheri’s], be here, share ourselves and also our marriage, and it’s a great thing. But we also get to go home and just be us with each other,” Kayden explained. This newfound freedom has also given them time to think more about their goals. Kayden hopes to get EMT-certified and become a paramedic, while Violet wants to one day start a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth. Both of them worry about whether they will face discrimination in their future endeavors because of their time in the sex industry. “I would be absolutely heartbroken if I got to the point where I was ready to start the nonprofit ... and they were like, ‘No, you were a prostitute, and you can’t offer resources to kids who don’t have them,’ ” Violet said. It’s a shame that sex workers, and particularly prostitutes, face stigma, they added, but it hasn’t stopped them from being public and speaking about issues facing prostitutes—many of whom need rights, rather than to be rescued out of the profession. “I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m a sex worker,” Violet said. “But if someone was like, ‘I saw you on Twitter and you’re working at a brothel,’ I’d be like, ‘Yes, that is what I’m doing. Thank you for pointing that out.’ ” This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.

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