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"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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