Nevada is the “poster state” for sexual exploitation in America. As the only U.S. state in which prostitution is legal in certain counties, Nevada legally sanctions male sexual entitlement. Its sexploitation industry has a predatory dependence on women with economic disadvantages, as well as childhood histories of neglect and sexual abuse. Moreover, exchange of money or something of value to obtain a sex act is inherently an act of sexual coercion.

Additionally, Nevada’s normalization of prostitution as “work” for women has turned Nevada into a magnet for sex traffickers, who are kept in business through the demand generated by prostitution tourists (i.e., sex buyers).

Legalized prostitution in Nevada has led to an increase (not a decrease) in the state’s illegal sex trade. In fact, Nevada has the biggest illegal sex trade in the country, adjusted for population — 63 percent larger than the next highest state of New York and double that of Florida. Further, police found that 30 percent of women in so-called legal brothels in Nevada had red flags for sex trafficking.

States and local communities profiting from prostitution (e.g., by tourist revenues), like pimps, are complicit in sexual exploitation. In the Age of #MeToo it’s time for Nevada to join the 21st century by recognizing that sexploitation is not a woman’s job.

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Dawn Hawkins is executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.


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