Industry News

Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections

Melissa Farley’s new book “addresses the scope of the sex industry in Nevada, including human rights violations against women in the Nevada legal brothels. The book describes how the multibillion-dollar illegal sex industry in Las Vegas works. Sex trafficking from within and outside of the US, advertising for prostitution, political corruption, pornography, organized crime and the constant demand of men for paid sex – all contribute to prostitution and trafficking in Nevada.”

According to Wikipedia:

Melissa Farley (born 1942) is a feminist research and clinical psychologist and anti-pornography and anti-prostitution activist.[1][2][3][4] Farley is best known for her studies of the effects of prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence.

Since 1993, Farley has researched prostitution and trafficking in 10 countries. She is the author of several studies of street prostitutes in several parts of the world, which claim high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among the women studied. In September 2007, Farley published a report on prostitution and sex trafficking in the state of Nevada. In the report, Farley claims that, though Nevada has legal brothels, 90% of prostitution taking place in the state is illegal and that Las Vegas is a major destination for sex traffickers. She also claims that 81% of the 45 legal brothel workers she interviewed would like to leave prostitution, but in many cases are physically prevented from doing so. Farley claims to have been threatened at gunpoint by one of the brothel owners during the course of the interviews.[5][6]

Her prostitution studies, however, have been criticized (most notably by sociologist Ronald Weitzer) both for their methodology and for the way they have been more generally applied to demonstrate the harm of sex work of all kinds. Farley’s critics also hold that her findings largely reflect her radical feminist ideology.[7][8][9]

Farley has also published several papers on the long-term effects of sexual abuse.

Farley is a leading proponent of the abolitionist view of sex work[10] (a term she is opposed to[11]) holding that all sex work is inherently exploitive and traumatizing, and should therefore be abolished. She is an opponent of wholesale decriminalization of prostitution, instead advocating the “Swedish model” of prostitution laws, in which the buying of sex (including soliciting, procuring, and trafficking) is criminalized, while the selling of sex is decriminalized, along with the funding of social services to “motivate prostitutes to seek help to leave their way of life.” Such an approach is based on the point of view that prostitutes are the weaker partner in the transaction and are exploited.[11] She is also largely opposed to sex workers’ rights groups, such as COYOTE, which advocate legalizing or decriminalizing both prostitution and the purchase of sexual services.[12]

Farley is also anti-pornography activist. In 1985, she led a National Rampage Against Penthouse alongside Nikki Craft. The “Rampage” was a civil disobedience campaign of public destruction of bookstore-owned copies of Penthouse and Hustler (which they denounced as violent pornography) and resulting arrest for their actions. Farley was arrested 13 different times in 9 different states for these actions.[13][14][15] In March 2007, she testified in hearings about’s purchase of the San Francisco Armory, comparing the images produced by to images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.[16][17]

As of 2007, she is currently director of Prostitution Research and Education, a San Francisco nonprofit organization.


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