In August, two Quartz reporters, Allison Schrager, who’s also an economist, and Siyi Chen, a video journalist, traveled to Carson City, Nevada to visit the famed Moonlite Bunny Ranch Brothel. They interviewed some of the few legal sex workers in America, and found that to really understand the work, they also needed answers to some basic questions. Here, Harley answers some of these questions in her own words At her request, we used her stage name, not her real name. The following is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Harley Lane, 20, is a sex worker at the Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada. She lives in Texas, where she plans to study to be a paramedic. She comes to Nevada every few months to stay and work at the brothel a few weeks at a time. She’s worked at the ranch since December.
On her financial goal:
I would love to own an operating game ranch. In Texas, that’s a really big thing. Hunters will come out and pay several thousand dollars for one season just to come out and hunt on your property.
Depending on what you shoot or leave with, that can be another charge. Depending on how many points the antlers have or if it’s a male or female, different things like that, it’s a bigger charge. That actually makes a lot of money, but you have to have the money to purchase the property. I actually would like to make it a more family-oriented place, so have the hunter’s cabin and a little pool—just things for more of the family because usually the women don’t tend to—some but not all of them like to hunt—but they don’t want the men to leave without them.
So that way they can relax, or have a place to be, or have the kids while the men get to go do their thing. A lot of us back in Texas when we hunt, you know, that all goes to meat. It’s always nice to have something to put on the wall, but, like, I love deer sausage, I love meat. Venison’s very healthy for you. It’s much better for your cholesterol.
On her first negotiation:
Well, my “big sister” at the time helped me, but it was my first day to be cleared by the doctor because to work here, we have to have a sheriff’s card, which means we’re cleared by background check so we don’t have any criminal activity. It was my first day; it was a Thursday. We had a our first lineup ,and I turned to my big sister, I’m like, “Oh my God, what do I do?”
She said, “Go to line up.” So we’re running down the halls, and we go to stand in place, and I’m standing next to Jenny Jade, and we’re going down the line, and they’re saying their names. It gets to be my turn, and I’m, like, [gasp] and she kind of nudges me. I was like, “Oh, I’m Harley.” I was so nervous, and it was this really young kid. He was 19 also. I had started when I was 19. And he was really nervous.
He pointed at me, and he goes, “Harley,” and I just stood there like frozen like a deer in headlights. Jenny kind of nudged me and she’s like, “Go, that’s you.” And I looked at her and she’s like, “Go,” and she kind of pushed me out there, and I kind of stumbled a little and I was like, “Oh, I’m Harley, come on back.” He was a virgin, so I was really nervous; it was my first lineup. I got picked in my first lineup which is, that doesn’t happen much.
I brought him back to my room. My big sister came with us. She gave the tour for me because I’m just, you know, teeth chattering, so nervous. He was just as nervous as I was, so we were feeding off of each other. And then he got back to my room and told me, he’s like, “I’m a virgin, and I would like to experience everything.” This is my first time. So she helped me negotiate the party.
We negotiated, and a lot of clients think they can come in here for a couple hundred bucks and think that’s what they get. Well, we don’t offer street prices, you know. We have a lot of fees we have to pay.
So he was really disappointed, he felt so embarrassed that he didn’t come prepared with the money we were asking for. But it was his first time, so I really wanted to work with him. We came to an agreement. My first party, we did $600 and he gave me a $100 tip at the end.
On her family finding out about her work:
He [grandfather who raised her] starts bawling and crying. My grandfather’s very sensitive. He raised me as if I was his fourth daughter, and then told me that they knew where I worked and it got back to them. I didn’t want to tell them yet. I wanted to wait until I had my finances together. My mother had a reputation of blowing all her money on stupid things, and then we didn’t always have money for groceries growing up. I grew up pretty poor. So at the time, when I was ready, I wanted to be able to lay everything out in front of them and say, “This is what I have in savings, this is what my credit is, this is what I’ve invested. I’m financially stable. I’m not being irresponsible with my money. Here are my plans for the next few years,” and then tell them that way. I figured it would be something we could all joke about later on. But because of how it got back to them, they were very disappointed. They thought I had changed, and I wasn’t the same person that they had raised. They had raised me to be better. But I don’t feel that way. I’m the only kid that they’re not supporting fully right now. So I don’t feel bad about that. I’m taking care of myself and I’m not making them have to work harder to support me too.