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BrothelReview - Brothel
Mustang Ranch and Its Women
by Alexa Albert
Random House, 2001
Review by Libby Fabricatore
Dec 3rd 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 49)

"Legal brothels are one alternative in dealing with prostitution. However disturbing the idea of commercial sex may be to some of us, it's naive to believe that prostitution can ever be eliminated." Brothel, by Alexa Albert provides readers with an objective and enlightening view into the subculture of legalized prostitution in Nevada.

Inspired by public health issues, and in particular, the rising AIDS epidemic, Albert obtained permission from George Flint, the executive director of the Nevada Brothel Association to conduct a research study inside Nevada's most notorious legal brothel at the time, the Mustang Ranch. Her study was one month long, but was not limited to just the empirical gathering of data. Albert found that many social issues presented themselves. Among these were the following questions: "How had Nevada come to legalize prostitution in the first place? What drove individuals to abandon mainstream society to work in such isolation, in houses of prostitution? How did the women feel about the work they did and about each other? Who were their customers? How did other locals feel about legal brothels and their prostitutes?"

In order to address these and other issues, she, over the course of four years, returned to the Mustang Ranch as well as other brothels, spending a total of seven months residing on the premises. Brothel is a result of the time Albert spent observing, interviewing, befriending and living with the women of Mustang Ranch. Written in prose that is not sterile, condescending, judgmental or biased, Brothel allows readers to objectively observe and develop their own opinions about legalized prostitution from an informed and educated standpoint.

Albert provides a comprehensive account of the history of prostitution, from the first unofficial brothels in the rising mining towns of the late 1850's through the evolution of legally sanctioned brothels and current Nevada legislation. In addition to this, she addresses the complex nature of interpersonal relationships for these women. Bonding and friendship between the prostitutes, maintaining a husband or boyfriend, and prostitute/client relationships are among some of the issues addressed.

Albert examines the wider sociological implications of legalized prostitution. She considers what affect this profession may have on how women are viewed in society, and how the "working girls" are viewed by their clientele. Albert states, "It is not my intent to redeem these women -- they don't need my help -- but to awaken readers to their humanity and bring this issue out of the realm of caricature and into that of serious debate." To this end, the book is successful. Set aside any preconceived notions and enter this book with an open mind. There is much humanity to be found within.

© 2001 Libby Fabricatore

Libby Fabricatore lives on Long Island, NY. She spends her time struggling to find her identity and skeptically examining the expectations placed on her by society. She currently bartends in order to fund her ever-increasing habit of going to U2 concerts.


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