I recently found myself becoming increasingly curious about Nevada’s legal brothels.
A late bloomer when it came to sex (growing up in the Midwest, scoring straight-As through high school, and being a general, all-around goodie-two-shoes will do that to a girl), it wasn't until my mid-20s that I started thinking about my own sexuality in any real depth. For me, that included measuring myself more and more against other women; specifically, those embodying the supposed sexual fantasies of men.
Insatiably curious about what the process for becoming a legal, full-time sex worker might look like, I couldn't help but wonder how a person even begins to go about working at a place like one of Nevada's brothels. Did someone like me have what it takes to become the object of another person's desire? Well, one cursory Google search later later, I discovered these places actually have online applications for employment!
And that is how I ended up applying for a job at Sheri's Ranch, Nevada's most famous brothel.
All brothel applicants must complete a preliminary checklist
Sheri's Ranch has made Pahrump a destination for travelers all over the world. The brothel is home to 25 ladies, but I discovered is also always looking for new talent. Their application is extensive, beginning with a lengthy checklist of requirements.
At least 21 years of age? Check.
Able to book one to three weeks per month at the house? Sure.
"Sheri's Ranch reports W9s at the end of the year. Kind of unromantic, but sensible nevertheless."
STD and HIV testing at the on-site medical facility before each stay? I can do that.
Nevada State Business License? Each lady at Sheri's operates as an independent contractor. And as such, she must be legally licensed in the state of Nevada as an independent business owner. They have to pay taxes. Sheri's Ranch reports W9s at the end of the year. Kind of unromantic, but sensible nevertheless.
Nye County Sheriff's Card? A Sheriff's Card is basically the same as a background test. If you intend to be a lady at the ranch, you have to have a clean record. Luckily, no one knows about that downed street sign I stole in college, so my record is squeaky clean.
Have enough money to pay for room rental ($46/day) as well as "incidentals" (condoms, lube, toys, etc.)? Check. This seems a small fare compared to the money you can make at Sheri's Ranch -- girls can take home thousands in an average work week.
Your references matter less than your stage name
The one-page job application was the easiest I've ever filled out. It didn't ask for previous employers, references, or even a resume. But it did ask for a stage name (I chose Remy Hart, an alias I have long thought about giving life to), my measurements (my work as a bridal consultant gave me experience in nailing this task), and three photos offering an accurate portrayal of my appearance.
"We want to see who you are," she said, "not what you look like Photoshopped."
I figured a place like Sheri's Ranch would want high-end, professional, boudoir-style pics. But when I checked in with Dena, the ranch's madame, she assured me they just wanted authenticity.
"We want to see who you are," she said, "not what you look like Photoshopped." I quickly sent over a few Instagram posts I'd repurposed for social dating apps.
After applying, you wait for the madame's acceptance
Madame Dena handles all hiring of new employees. She's been at the ranch for a decade; and has constructed a hiring and training program unique to Sheri's.
Dena teaches the newbies how to walk, talk, negotiate, build their brand, create a five-year plan, and cultivate sensual skills. Typically, a new girl won't reach her full potential in terms of services provided or finances earned for six months. Considering the payoff, I thought this could work for me. Six months at a brothel seems like a lot more fun than four years in college -- and there's no student loan debt to worry about afterward.
After reviewing my online application, Dena was ready for the phone interview. She told me to just be myself, as Sheri's Ranch seeks out genuine, authentic girls who can hold a conversation.
The interview was more thoughtful than I expected for a brothel
"Why are you interested in this industry?," Dena asked me. I told her there’s a reason it's the oldest profession in the world: because we need sex, we like sex, and because sex work is recession-proof.
"Novices like myself with a high sex drive and genuine respect for the industry get a gold star."
Dena let me know that novices like myself with a high sex drive and genuine respect for the industry get a gold star. Girls looking for a quick payout are not good for the ranch, as they bring high turnover and unsatisfied clients.
Next, she asked what kind of experience I had. Well… I worked as a (fully clothed) waitress, have a vibrator, enjoy sex with people (one at a time thus far), and have been told I'm very good at oral. Oh! I also have a friend who's a stripper.
"What do you think about sex?" Dena asked next. "What is your sexual knowledge?" I rated myself at intermediate: not quite a Junior Scout, but definitely not a Brownie.
Dena said she's not looking for a Kama Sutra genius, but she does want the girls to have a firm understanding of pleasure. This question also helps her know what sort of training and education the girl will need should she be brought onto the ranch as a lady.
The rest of the questions were fairly straightforward: what would my family think of me working there? What would my schedule be like? Did I have any kids or pets to worry about?
Interview survivors move on to training week
After the interview comes training week; a nerve-wracking experience held on-site at Sheri's Ranch. Candidates learn every little detail of what employment there looks like. And while I didn't attend myself, I was offered an inside look at the fifth and final step of the hiring process.
DAY ONE: During orientation, new trainees get a mountain of paperwork and literature in addition to a tour of the resort (the term coined for Sheri's Ranch's entire property) which includes a hotel, spa, and tennis court. Most important during orientation is the breakdown of Dick Checks -- any ranch worker's most important skill.
Dick Checks are just what they sound like: the girl checks a dick up and down for any sign of a sexually transmitted infection or other malady. Should a penis fail this check, the customer is asked to leave.
DAY TWO: Prospective workers visit with a doctor to receive medical clearance. If the trainee gets medical clearance, it's off to the sheriff for legal clearance and to receive her card stating as much.
On the evening of the second day, potential ranchers hit the bar with the hostess or the trainee's Big Sister. The bar is where the customers meet the ladies, and where the business of the brothel starts cooking.
"Is she a sexy and overpowering dominatrix? Or the kind and nurturing girlfriend? It's different for every worker."
DAY THREE: The third day can be another day of acclimation, or the day to get your feet wet: it all depends on the trainee. If the new girl is confident and experienced, she will usually start talking to customers on the third day. She also begins to get a feeling for how to pitch her character and gimmick. Is she a sexy and overpowering dominatrix? Or the kind and nurturing girlfriend? It's different for every worker.
DAYS FOUR AND FIVE: By the fourth and fifth day, the new trainee will be leading tours and chatting it up with customers in the bar. Dena watches closely to see how the new trainee is handling the ins and outs of the job. If she seems to be floundering or playing a wallflower, then Dena knows she isn't a good fit for the ranch. But if she's hitting it off with customers and leading tours with great confidence, she's earned advanced training with the madame herself.
I'm sticking with my day job
Although I managed to bumble my way through the initial phases of the process, ultimately my lack of experience worked against me and Dena opted for a more knowledgeable candidate. I can't say I'm not a little relieved.
This experience gave me a lot of insight into the mechanics of an industry otherwise shrouded in mystery. And I've come to realize that behind every stripper pole and brothel are a whole lot of women who aren't ultimately all that different from me.
I find some peace in that -- and in the fact that I don't have to break it to my family that I'm packing my things and shipping out to a desert brothel in the middle of Nevada. But man -- those student loans.