Brothels in a Slump over Online Hookups

As online sex surges in popularity, legal brothels are taking a hit. (Image credit: mtkang |

The world's oldest profession is showing its age: Nevada's legal brothels have taken a hit from the explosion in online sex hookups, and many have been forced to shutter their doors.

Of the 36 brothels sprinkled across Nevada in 1985, just 19 remain in business, Bloomberg reports. In addition to a sluggish recovery to the recession and rising fuel costs (many customers are truckers), most brothels are challenged by the ease with which any woman can advertise her services on the Internet.

"A brothel is an intermediary," Scott Peppet, law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told Bloomberg. "It's pulling together women so it's easy for buyers to find them." But the online world now satisfies that need, Peppet said.

Research has shown that about 1 percent of men in the United States visit prostitutes in a given year, and about 16 percent of U.S. men have visited a prostitute at some point in their lifetime. Men who buy sex do so for a wide range of reasons: Social acceptance of prostitution in some cultures makes it more likely for men to seek out prostitutes, and for certain "johns," the illicit nature of prostitution is part of the appeal.

A recent study finds that a significant portion of men who regularly pay for sex are married, white, earn more than $120,000 per year and have graduate degrees. The researchers concluded that there's little evidence to suggest that hiring a prostitute is inherently deviant or linked to psychological problems.

The Nevada brothels that remain open have been forced into the uncomfortable position of offering reduced rates and other incentives. "I offer a lot more specials and discounts and incentives for people to come in to see me," said Taylor, a sex worker at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch outside Carson City, Nevada. "People are looking for deals."

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Marc Lallanilla
Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.