Nevada ranks high for health issues in the United States, and infectious diseases are at the top of the list of preventable ailments, alongside the heart disease, diabetes, and cancer statistics that plague the rest of the country, according to a study done at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Being the only state in the country that allows prostitution, it’s telling that infectious disease is at the top of the list. Ironically, Cook County is one of the counties in Nevada that doesn’t allow the world’s oldest profession, yet Las Vegas is one of the top workplaces for both male and female prostitutes in the Silver State. Traditional casino, hotel, and food service gigs rank second, and they don’t pay nearly as much.
And though gun violence and drug abuse play huge roles in Nevada’s deaths and illness, the emotional issues associated with prostitution are often overlooked.
PTSD with or without Consent
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is very real in the lives of strippers and prostitutes of both sexes. Melissa Farley, clinical psychologist and founder of the San Francisco-based non-profit, Prostitution Research & Education, has spent a career studying, writing about, and advocating for prostitutes abused by sex trafficking and violence—with a focus on PTSD within the profession.
Of the hundreds of sex workers interviewed on the streets, in brothels, and in strip clubs, Farley found 68 percent had been diagnosed with PTSD from violence, rape, or slavery. Her findings put an end to the myth of consent in the business, finding that many enter into the field due to a history of abuse within the family, financial dependency, or drug addiction.
Farely’s 2007 book, Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada, found that 90 percent of prostitution took place in Las Vegas and Reno, where it’s illegal. A staggering 81 percent of sex workers interviewed in legal brothels said they wanted to leave for a better life but were physically prevented from doing so. Corroborating the violence, Farley writes that she was even threatened at gunpoint by a brothel owner.
Medicating the Pain
Ashley, a Las Vegas dancer and occasional prostitute, said she sought to leave the world of prostitution for good and enter the healthier workplace of the cannabis industry. She’s looking forward to legalization and the opportunities it may bring.
“I’m 27 and have been dancing since I was 19 years old,” she explained. “I grew up fast in Vegas and soon moved on to prostitution. My mother used to smoke bud. It was like smoking cigarettes in our family, and I started smoking at the age of 13. Cannabis has been my ultimate release from the things I had to do down the road from stripping—the kind of stuff the whole world knows about, but no one wants to talk about—or at least they never tell the truth.”
Ashley said she specifically chooses cannabis to medicate for emotional issues connected to her work, because it is effective.
“I was what they call a ‘renegade,’ a girl who answers to no one and never gives her money to any man for protection,” she continued. “To me, protection was carrying my little handgun in my purse, pepper spray, and a Taser. Cannabis always helped calm me down if I was uncomfortable or if I was just feeling bad about myself for choosing the crazy things I did for money—but a girl’s gotta eat.”
Ashley said she never apologized for the work she did, but that cannabis helped her remain in control and stay safe.
“Bud was the best thing to use when you deal with the men and women I’ve dealt with in this business,” she concluded. “The best part was how empowered I felt. I was in control and I decided what the rules were, and how far things would go. Cannabis helped me with that.”
Bonnie at Bunny Ranch
The Moonlight Bunny Ranch, located east of Carson City, is one of several legal brothels located in Nevada. First opened in 1955 as The Moonlight Ranch, it recently gained notoriety by being included in HBO’s America Undercover special, Cathouse.
Bonnie came for two months in the fall of 2014, then recently came back to stay longer. She originally hails from Washington. No stranger to cannabis, she has grown it herself in the past, keeping track via a high-tech remote system to keep her day job.
“I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at the age of 24, and was told I could use cannabis for pain,” she shared. “Doctors are so quick to prescribe pain medication, and they kill your liver. I have seen people really regain their life due to using cannabis.”
In Washington, Bonnie said she uses Kush Creams topically for migraines, applying the lotion to the base of her neck and temples.
“I’ve also rubbed it on my abdomen for menstrual cramps, and it really, truly works!” she exclaimed. “I’ve also used it on my runner’s knee. The girls at the ranch and I talk about cannabis as medicine all the time. I’m also a big supporter of CBD products.”
Bonnie said that not all illnesses are visible, and though she’s a cannabis patient, she’s actually in line for dialysis or a kidney transplant very soon.
Not knowing about ingesting, I informed both of them of the many ways they could further use the plant as medicine. For Bonnie, I advised that ingesting the strong cannabis oil has been reported to cleanse and heal organs, possibly making her pending kidney transplant surgery unnecessary. Hopefully, she’ll keep in touch on her path to recovery.
As for the many ailments that can be associated with prostitution, such as myriad infections and the stress of the job, there are cannabis products out there for purchase in legal and medically legal states—many able to ship across state lines because of their sole CBD base.
A Sex Worker’s Cannabis Reference:
- Think “inflammation and infection” when using cannabis to medicate issues related to sex work.
- Medicated salves or lotions can be used topically for inflammation caused by chafing, minor infections such as yeast infections, personal lubricants, and to enhance the senses.
- Smoking or vaporizing can provide immediate relief from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, sleep disorders, nightmares, and symptoms related to PTSD.
- Ingesting tincture or capsules (CBD- or THC-activated) can act as a sleep aid, ease nightmares, and prevent infection.