In both legal and illegal form, the sex industry is present in every state in the country. Yet, it is only in Nevada that sex industry is legalized in the form of brothel prostitution. While prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, the city is internationally recognized as a highly sexualized tourist destination with a flourishing market in commercial sexual entertainment and services.
If the Nevada sex industry affects the state’s social health and its quality of life, it doesn’t do so in a uniform, easy-to-judge manner. The growth of the sex industry or pornoculture in the Silver State has a negative impact where it condones exploitation, oppression, crime, and continued stereotyping and stigmatization of women. The abundance of sexually charged entertainment can have a positive impact when sex workers have a range of viable economic options, when they are not forced into commercial sex against their will, and when Nevada’s tourism-based economy cultivates arenas of safe sexual expression and enjoyment.
There is little reason to think that the broader trends toward more sexualized everyday culture will play out differently in Nevada than in other parts of the country and the world. Las Vegas is likely to remain at the forefront of these cultural shifts and will continue to benefit economically from the current trends. This presents a significant opportunity for Nevada to move to the forefront of the national debate about these cultural trends, and to take the lead as an innovator in policies, programs, and practices that confront head-on the dangers and pitfalls associated with a growing, and most likely inevitable, sex industry in ways that minimize risk and exploitation and maximize safety and empowerment.