, also known as a
, sporting house
various other euphemisms, is an establishment specifically
dedicated to prostitution
the prostitutes a place to meet and to have sexual intercourse
Today, brothels are illegal in the vast majority of jurisdictions;
in the past, however, they were very common--in most European
countries, brothels were made illegal after World War II. During
the first half of the 20th century, France and Italy were famous
for their brothels. France outlawed brothels in 1946 and Italy made
them illegal in 1959. Today, Amsterdam is well known for its red-light district and is a
destination for sex tourism.
In many countries, while officialy illegal, in practice brothels
Brothels use a variety of business models:
- In some, the prostitutes are held in involuntary servitude without the
option to leave, receiving only a small portion (or none) of the
money paid by the patron. This is typical where human trafficking procures a large
percentage of prostitutes, and is common in (though not limited to)
countries where prostitution is forbidden or repressed. In some
cases, prostitutes are bought and sold by their keepers, reducing
them to a state of chattel slavery.
All of these are illegal in most jurisdictions.
- In others, the prostitutes are employees, receiving a small
fixed salary and a portion of the money spent by the customer.
(Maison close French for "closed house") The brothel owner
receives the rest of the payment for services.
- In the
regulated brothels in Nevada, the
prostitutes are contract workers who split their earnings with the
house and are often expected to "tip" support staff (cleaners, limo
drivers, etc.); they receive no benefits, such as health insurance,
and no withholding for Social Security
- In still others, the prostitutes pay a fee for use of the
facilities, with the brothel owner not being involved in the
financial transaction between prostitute and client (maison de
passe, French for "trick house").
In those countries which restrict or forbid prostitution, the
latter provides some level of plausible
to the facility owner, who often (thinly) disguises the
brothel as a massage parlor
Until recently, in several armies around the world, a mobile
brothel service was attached to the army as an auxiliary unit,
especially attached to combat units on long-term deployments
abroad. It is estimated that a minimum of 34,140 women from
occupied states, particularly in Poland, were forced to work as
during WW2. While, during French and
Japanese colonial campaigns of the 20th century, such employees
were mainly recruited among the local populace of Northeast Asia
and Africa; often, some of the women were underage
. Because it is a touchy subject, military
brothels were often designated with creative euphemisms
. Notable examples of such jargon are (
), replacing the term " ". Women forced into prostitution by the
Japanese occupation armies throughout East Asia were known as
"comfort battalions". The prostitutes were individually referred to
as "military comfort women
In the United States, the only state where brothels are legal is
Nevada. Prostitution outside the licensed brothels is illegal
throughout Nevada. Brothels are allowed only in counties with
populations of fewer than 400,000 inhabitants, and not all
qualifying counties have allowed them. Currently eight out of
Nevada's 16 counties have active brothels (these are all
As of June/July 2008, 28 legal brothels
existed in Nevada. All forms of prostitution are illegal in
Vegas (and Clark County which contains its metropolitan area), Reno (and
City, and a few other places.
The brothels and their employees must register with the county
sheriff and receive regular medical checkups. Brothels have existed
in Nevada since the old mining days of the 1800s and were first
licensed in 1971. The legendary Mustang
operated from 1971 through 1999, when it was forfeited to
the federal government following a series of convictions for
, and other crimes.
In some countries, prostitution is illegal, in other countries
prostitution itself (the exchange of sex for money) is legal, but
most activities which surround it (such as operating a brothel,
pimping, soliciting in a public place etc) are prohibited, many
times making it very difficult for people to engage in prostitution
without breaking any law , while in a few countries prostitution is
legal and regulated. The degree of regulation varies widely by
country. Most of these countries favor brothels, at least in
theory, as they are considered to be less problematic than street prostitution
- "Liberating sex slaves in India",
New Internationalist, Issue 390,
- The Blessed Abyss: Inmate #6582 in Ravensbruck
Concentration Prison for Women by Nanda Herbermann
- Caron, Christina. "Nevada Brothels Hit Hard by Gas Prices".
ABC News, June 23,
2008. Accessed April 24, 2009.
- Associated Press. "Nevada Brothels Feel Pinch of Higher Fuel Prices".
KTVN Channel 2, June 27, 2008.
Accessed April 24, 2009.
- McKenna, Barrie (Toronto Globe and Mail).
"Nevada brothel's 'shady' deal: Come often, get
free gas". SFGate, July 4, 2008. Accessed April
- DJ Tramp Steamer. 101 Brothels i Have Loved.
- Burford, E. J. The Bishop's Brothels. London: Robert
Hale, 1993. ISBN 9780709051138.
- Ka-tzetnik 135633 (Karol Cetinsky). House of Dolls.
Moshe M. Kohn (trans.). New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955. A novel
about the Holocaust, including a description of a brothel staffed
by concentration camp inmates.