Today's NYT has a piece about Nevada brothel owners' lobbying to start paying the state an entertainment tax on a per-transaction basis. Apparently, despite these troubled economic times, some legislators are resisting the push out of fear that it is a "back door" effort by the industry to achieve statewide legalization of the world's oldest profession. (Currently, prostitution is allowed only in counties with a population under 400,000, meaning Vegas and Reno are missing out on the action.)  

But here's the line that caught my eye: "There are about 225 women licensed by the state as prostitutes; no county allows brothels to have men who sell sexual services."

Hmmm. Can this really be? If so, is it simply that no one has ever pushed for such a license, or do local Nevada lawmakers have an unspoken policy against men turning tricks? I did a quick Google search and found stories about former Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss's 2005 effort to open the state's first "stud farm." But that plan hit a snag. As Fleiss explained to Fox News in July 2007

One brothel owner here has been arrested for allegedly bribing a public official, and I happen to have introduced him to the public official, so that has delayed the stud farm. But it will happen within eight months.

A year and a half later, still no stud service in the Silver State.

Some people chalk up the disparity to economics: What self-respecting woman would ever pay for sex when there are so many perpetually horny men to be had for free? But this question seems based on a market-model as misguided as the idea that Playgirl magazine was consumed by women. Even if you don't think the gals will pony up for a casual shag, what about a high-end stud farm for gay men? Confident, well-adjusted, hot gay men might not consider paying to have their kinkier desires indulged, but what about shy, nerdy, awkward, homely, or semi-closeted types who long to be treated like a king for a few hours by some strapping young god?

My assumption is that the politics of the business are simply too fraught. Allowing women to rent their bodies to lonely, sweaty pervs with naughty-nun fantasies is one thing; giving the legal nod to man-on-man sexcapades is too hot even for Nevada. For an industry already concerned that its right to exist will be reversed by uneasy legislators, the pressure not to rock the boat must be intense. 

Still, I smell discrimination--not to mention a lost business opportunity. The sex trade isn't recession proof, but it's more recession resistant than many. And these days, the need for creative stimulus plans has never been greater.

--Michelle Cottle