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Brothel

Mustang Ranch and Its Women

by Alexa Albert

Brothel
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  • First Published:
    May 2001, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2002, 288 pages

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Michael Roberts (01/16/12)

Exploitation at its worst
The book starts describing the research that Albert uses to gain access to the brothel. A book about the spread of AIDS or the use of condoms would have been very interesting. However, the book quickly devolves into a book so voyeuristic it makes Fabio novels look like honest depictions of love. The author is clearly fascinated with the life and struggles of prostitution. She then uses her credentials as a legitimate researcher to explore her personal desires. Note, that I in no way think that her fascination with prostitution is sexual, she never uses language which would suggest her interest is sexual in nature. But her objectivity absent and her language in the face of what these women experience expresses itself more as detachment than true objectivity.

The description of the lives the women face, essentially prisoners in what is an implicit agreement between the brothel and the police to violate these women’s civil rights, is treated as just another fact. Paying only menial lip service to a violation of civil liberties under the guise of objectivity and fairness is despicable.

Albert then sits in on two sexual encounters. She crosses a line which an objective researcher would never cross and which an advocate would never claim was useful. Albert is not giving a voice to these women; she is exploring her own fascinations. If she wanted to give voice she could have easily just written the firsthand experience of these women and the struggles they face. Instead she hides behind a guise of scientific credibility in order to explore her own fascination with prostitution. Her actions are exploitive on two levels.

First she is clearly experiencing sex in a new and novel way for herself, using this opportunity to get in all the experience she missed out by being a “square”. This book is less about what the women whom she claims to be writing for experience everyday of their lives (and are most likely still experiencing), than Albert and what she, a white Harvard-educated married woman with few sexual exploitations of her own, experiences inside of a brothel.

But a more disturbing exploitation taking place is the exploitation of these prostitutes by Albert for financial gain. Albert is proclaiming herself a voice for the voiceless, a writer sharing the stories of hidden women who are subject to the myths and fears of an uninformed society. But Albert chooses not to donate proceeds from this book to any organization that I can find. She keeps the money for herself! Proceeds from this book, which are made all the more sizeable by the fact that the subject is sexual and taboo in nature, go directly to Albert and not the prostitutes. This is sexual exploitation. The sexual nature of these women’s work sells books and Albert profits from this taboo just as the brothel owners profit from the women’s actual sexual acts. Albert is essentially no better than the john’s who buy the service or the brothel owners who run the joint.

This book has been recommended for women’s studies classes, and in fact this is where I was exposed to the work, which is extraordinarily ironic because the goal of women’s studies (or at least one of three) is to end sexual exploitation, something that seems impossible as long as tripe like this is passed off as a work of advocacy.
Sasha (03/07/10)

girl interviewed
I think she did a wonderful job with the info that was provided. Way to go Lexi. I remember you. Thanks for treating us like everyday people.
April (11/04/04)

I couldn't put the book down. It gives you a new look at the sex trade occupation.
Matthew (10/30/02)

Not only is the book highly engaging and readable, it sets one's mind reeling with implications. This book ranks with Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" as two of the best pieces of investigative journalism in the past two years.
Don (05/19/02)

Not your usual journistic or 60 Minutes show expose. A well written look inside the workings of a curiousity in the United States - a legal brothel. While Nevada has decided it is worthwhile to have legalized, controlled prositution other States simply try to consider the oldest profession as something criminal. The result? There still are non-legal prosititues in Las Vegas, for example, but women who decide to work in a controlled environment and their customers seem happy to find a safe haven. With the AIDS epedemic in the United States one wonders why this model isn't followed elsewhere? This book won't change anyone's opinion, but its an interesting investigation and might help those in favor of various aspects of the sex trade to show that it is possible to run a state sanctioned sex business that harms nobody. Worthwhile. Read the book before its out of print.
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