LAS VEGAS – The owner of a Nevada brothel suffering from the recession thinks she has been ignoring about half the market — the half that prefers men.
Bobbi Davis is looking for male prostitutes to help expand the clientele at the Shady Lady Ranch, her small roadside brothel about 150 miles north of Las Vegas.
"We've had requests for men in the past, and there's nothing else like this out there," she said.
Indeed, the 25 legal brothels scattered throughout 10 rural Nevada counties are staffed by women and cater to men. The Shady Lady, however, isn't the only one thinking about hiring male prostitutes.
Nevada Brothel Association lobbyist George Flint says other brothels have approached him with the idea lately to drum up business.
Like Nevada's gambling, hotel and convention industries, the prostitution business has hit hard times. Flint estimates that bordellos have seen a roughly 50 percent drop in revenue since the economy turned sour.
"Business is so bad right now, I think brothels would do anything to survive. Disposable income is just in short supply at the moment," he said.
Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss recently planned to open "Heidi's Stud Farm" near Pahrump, but gave up the effort this year after being arrested on felony drug charges.
Flint says other brothels have offered male prostitutes over the years, with little success. He argues that the business model for a brothel that caters to women just doesn't pencil out.
"Seducing a woman and seducing a man in a brothel environment are different things completely. One can take a few minutes, the other can take hours. It wouldn't make money," he said.
Davis agrees that women customers could differ significantly from men, though she plans at least initially to keep her current prices for services — $500 for two hours, $800 for three.
"That may change. We're figuring that women may want a longer period of time, maybe a little more romance. They're not quite like men in that respect," she said.
Davis said the requests she has received for male prostitutes have come mostly from women, but that she also would welcome business from men seeking men.
"I can't discriminate, nor would I want to," she said, adding that it would be up to prostitutes to decide whether they entertain any particular guest.
Licensing male prostitutes might be a problem. State law allows for legal prostitutes of both genders, but the health codes that regulate the business largely are written to apply to female prostitutes. That includes a requirement that the working girls have mandatory cervical exams.
"It's kind of hard to do that with a man," Davis said.
Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo, whose office administers work cards for prostitutes, said he's aware of Davis' plan and has sought legal advice from the district attorney.
Meanwhile, Davis is drawing up her help wanted ad. She said she'll be looking for one or two men "in good shape, in their mid-30s to 50s." Asked about the age range, she notes that's another way women differ from men.
"Look at George Clooney, he's 50 and he's still considered a very sexy man. Women don't consider a man washed up by the time he's 50," she said.
Prostitution is outlawed in five Nevada counties, including in the Reno and Las Vegas metropolitan areas, but brothels have operated legally elsewhere in the state since 1971.