Defending the Decriminalization of Brothels in Arizona

The Superbowl will come to Arizona in February 2015, but decriminalized brothels will most likely not.  At least, that is what politicians across Arizona are saying after brothel expert, Dennis Hof owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, proposed the idea of setting up a brothel in Arizona before the Super Bowl.

Hof’s a businessman, who is an interested party to be sure, motivated in part by money.  But there is some altruism to what he is proposing.

Opening up brothels would allow Arizona to regulate the business in several aspects.  The state could require condoms usage and STD tests in brothels that would arguably lower the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.  The state would know who voluntarily entered into an agreement for sex for money, and who did not, a step toward rooting out human sex trafficking in Arizona.  The state would be able to regulate that all sex workers are of age, and better prohibit minors from participating.  Registered sex workers would not fear going to the police if they are physically assaulted, raped, or stiffed (these are real secondary effects of illegal prostitution that often go unreported).

In this article I will look at what it would take to fulfill Hof’s idea of opening up a legal brothels in Arizona. I have analyzed what constitutes a brothel in Arizona in a previous post.

Prostitution in Arizona

I probably have to state the obvious: prostitution occurs in Arizona even though it is currently illegal.  Yep.  I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but prostitution still occurs despite it’s illegality.

  • A two day sting in Tempe netted 16 arrests for prostitution and crimes related to sex trafficking in July 2014.  AzCentral
  • A Glendale police officer was arrested in a prostitution sting in June 2014. AzCentral
  • A sweep of Arizona’s truck stops led to the recovery of five children and 52 adults, all of whom were victims of commercial sex trafficking, June 2014.  AzCentral
  • Mesa Police arrested four men in an undercover child prostitution sting. AzCentral
  • Police alleged a gentleman’s club in west Phoenix was a front for prostitution, May 2014. MyFoxPhoenix
  • Six men were arrested in a Tempe underage prostitution sting, April 2014.  MyFoxPhoenix
  • Tempe police posing as 15 and 16 year-old girls arrested 30 people in a prostitution sting, April 2014. AzFamily

Okay, these were the stories in the news that are recent, and I could quickly find.  All of these stories were reported within the last couple of months, so I think it is fair to say that prostitution, especially child prostitution is still a large problem in Arizona.

The Super Bowl will most likely make human smuggling, and child prostitution worse, exponentially worse. According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.

Arizona has prostitution industry whether it is legal or illegal.

Human trafficking v. Prostitution

“Human trafficking is a modern-day manifestation of the slave trade,” said then U.S. Attorney, Daniel G. Knauss in a report on human trafficking in the greater phoenix area published in 2007.

First, human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling.  Human trafficking is an offense against a person and does not require the crossing of international borders. Human smuggling is transporting individuals across the United States border to enter the country illegally.

Human sex trafficking is simply the act of forcibly moving an individual to a location for the purpose for involuntary sexual acts. An example of human trafficking could be, a person from Nebraska may be forcibly transported to Arizona for the Super Bowl to perform sex work.  Human trafficking can occur completely within the borders of the United States.  However, individuals can be smuggled into the United States and then be trafficked.

Second, for the purposes of the discussion in this blog post, prostitution is the performance of sexual acts for money between consenting adults. It is really important to note when I say prostitution I am talking about a voluntary act between two adults who knowingly and voluntarily agree to have sex for money. Minors cannot consent to have sex for money — it is that simple.  Any sort of force or coercion used to gain the consent of an individual to have sexy for money also is not prostitution.

Historical fact: when Arizona entered statehood in 1912 one of the original laws on its books prohibited human trafficking for sex work.  Unfortunately, it is still a problem in Arizona today, more than 100 years later.

Options to Decriminalize Prostitution/Brothels in Arizona

The first and easiest way to decriminalize prostitution/brothels, would be to legislatively modify or repeal all laws criminalizing prostitution.  Instead of going through the legislature, if Hof or some other well-funded person or organization mobilized a movement they could potentially pass a citizen referendum.  That is what happened with the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

Either way, here is a start of the laws that would need work:

Many of the statutes in Chapter 32 Prostitution, of Title 13 of the Arizona Criminal Code would have to be repealed, including but not limited to:

  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3203 – Procuring or placing persons in a house of prostitution.
    • This would have to be narrowed to include only those who are forcibly placed in a house of prostitution.
  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3204 – Receiving earnings of a prostitute.
    • This would have to be repealed entirely.  Prostitute’s earnings would not only be legal, but perhaps even taxable.
  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3208 – Keeping or residing in house of prostitution; employment in prostitution.
    • The repeal of this statute would decriminalize brothels.
  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3209 – Pandering; methods; classification
    • This would have to be repealed entirely to allow for prostitution and brothels.
  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3211 – Definitions
    • Would have to repeal the following definitions: prostitution, prostitution enterprise, and probably sadomasochistic abuse, just to be on the safe side.
      • Sadomasochistic abuse – “means flagellation or torture by or on a person who is nude or clad in undergarments or in revealing or bizarre costume or the condition of being fettered, bound or otherwise physically restrained on the part of one so clothed.”
  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3214 – Prostitution; classification
    • Would have to repeal most of the statute.  Some of it deals with sex trafficking which could remain in tact.

Also the definition of racketeering would need to be changed.

  • Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3214(D)(4)(b)(xxi),(xxiii) – includes both obscenity and prostitution as offenses chargeable under racketeering.
    • The racketeering statute could remain in tact.  The subsections XXI relating to obscenity and XXIII relating to prostitution could easily be removed and the rest of the statute would be able to continue to function as normal.

In addition to repealing and modifying the laws, new laws should be enacted to regulate and tax the industry.  This isn’t as difficult as it may seem.  Some of the framework is already in place.  The city of Phoenix already licenses escort businesses.  An escort is defined by the city as:

Any person who for monetary consideration in the form of a fee, commission or salary, is held out to the public as available for hire to consort with or to accompany another or others to social affairs, places of amusement or entertainment, within any place of public resort, or within any private quarters. It shall be unlawful for any person to work or perform services as a sexually oriented escort.

— Phoenix Mun. Code § 10-87(E).

The second option would be to challenge the laws judicially.  This would be an enormous uphill battle, but perhaps there is some hope.  In a future post, I will look at what it would take to challenge the Arizona prostitution and brothel laws through the state courts.



6 thoughts on “Defending the Decriminalization of Brothels in Arizona”

  1. Your are falling for the scam of sex trafficking. 90% of arrests are private consenting adult but always mention to prevent sex trafficking.

    There was shown to be virtually no “trafficking” in a bad way or any big indrease in prostitution at the Superbowls in around the country. Arrests were of zillions of consenting adults and a couple underaged, and no evidence of any forced “trafficking”.

    The FBI latest sting with 8000 police officers in like 40 cities arrested thousands of consenting adults to find about a dozen underaged and a few pimps.

    Pimps are often drivers that provide security and transportation for girlfriends or wives. An example the recent bust of 40 in Scottsdale (all consenting adults). A gals boyfriend who drove her was dragged from his car, smashed to the ground and called a pimp and his car was trashed (no drugs or anything illegal found).

    He is a sex trafficker because he helps his girlfriend, as are people who help with answering phones, provide security, place ads etc.

    This is all based on the huge funding and grants to feed the “victim industry” like the Project Rose scam.

    Hof is a self serving disgrace in his recent comments. There is no thousands of pimps and prostitutes going to come to Phoenix and spread disease etc. Totally bogus proven in prior Superbowls and most recently in Brazil for the World Cup. Prostitution legal and the set up booths in the red light districts on the streets. However the number of clients DECLINED because World Cup fans more interested in drinking and other things not any mass looking for the legal sexworkers.

    Hof I like in some other ways, I met and had good discussion with him when he testified for the Phoenix Goddess Temple. I would never go to one of his high priced brothels but at least in NV it gives folks a choice to work for a pimp house legally.

    However his trafficking comments are self serving and from history totally lies just like all the media hype and forums to stamp out all commercial sex in Arizona, the new law and the huge funding by Hunt sisters and organizations raising $millions from the trafficking and children lies and fake discredited studies.

    There is HUGE funding going into spreading these lies in Phoenix area with ongoing police stings and from all stats, 90%++ private consenting adults. Likewise the big Redbook sting – sex trafficking and child excuse with no a shred of evidence of any other than a suspicion from an ad 3 years ago.

    We do not need brothels with pimps. Decrim works in most of the world at least for outcall with no STD issue. I bet the rate of STDs in sexworkers (private not street) is far less than in the overall general public.

    Like in Canada, most of Europe and of course NZ, Australia and many other countries sexworkers should be in charge of their own bodies and businesses.

  2. On the under aged arrests recently.

    The entrapped on backpage men looking for adults, on a website that only allows adults, from an ad that stated an adult age, with fake pictures of obviously adult women. If they want to go after men that seek under aged maybe they should go where they look for underaged (The hidden/black? net is supposedly larger than the main Internet but have no idea how to access since have no interest).

    All this child and trafficking scams are to build up arrest numbers to justify the funding, grants and media hype. It is a huge waste of public resources in Courts, defenders and investigation costs. Six months often undercover at Temple, the Studio, etc just to go after in private consenting adult for often nothing more than a “happy ending”.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for responding. I used the example of Hof because his desire to build a brothel in Phoenix would lead to the decriminalization of prostitution. There is no way that he could open up a brothel with all of the prostitution laws that are currently on the books. I do not know anything about Hof as a person, but I do respect that he has the name recognition and the influence to potentially lead a decriminalization movement, if he desires.

    I think we both agree on decriminalizing prostitution for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we have different reasons for advocating for decriminalization.

    Even if the newspaper reports are not objective, I think they still serve my point of showing that there is prostitution occurring in Phoenix even while it is illegal. Why not legalize it and reap the benefits?

  4. The problem is Hof does NOT want decrim. He wants legalization like the terrible pimp houses of Nevada – his! His pimp interest is contrary to anything sexwokers seek or need in Arizona. I agree he helps show it not all sex and trafficking yet he lies for his own interests how terrible it is in Phoenix with trafficking, spreading STD etc that he is the only solution with his pimp houses vs women in charge of their own bodies and businesses.

    1. There are so many laws on the books in the state relating to prostitution, I honestly think the best viable route to decriminalization is through a citizen’s initiative — I don’t see the legislature taking action. Like with what happened with the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, if an initiative gets on the ballot it might have a chance.

      1. I agree on citizen’s initiative but would be very expensive and worded right so as not to fail like it did in Berkeley. Besides getting signatures would need lots of money for a media campaign to offset the million that will be against us. I believe a legal challange would be first choice, then initiative.

        Problem is doing at city or State level, but has complications. Idea may be not to enforce against private consenting adults vs just repeal. Have to do at both city and State level.

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