Sheri’s Ranch looks like any other resort sitting on the edge of the beautiful Nevada desert. The lush hotel grounds boast a pool, Jacuzzi, sports bar and tennis and volleyball courts, plus there’s a spa for the utmost pampering. It’s pretty much everything you’d want in a restful spot — especially considering the ranch offers a pretty unusual room service menu.
Blow jobs, threesomes, erotic massages, shower and fetish parties, sex-ed classes, bondage, roleplaying, toys … what, the last hotel you stayed at didn’t offer such amenities? Well, that’s because Sheri’s Ranch, located 60 miles outside of Las Vegas in Pahrump, is Nevada’s only full-service sex resort. Sure, the state has a number of brothels since prostitution was legalized in 1971, but Nevada is not the sexual free-for-all you might think it is what with Sin City’s popular “What happens in Vegas …” slogan. It’s quite the opposite, actually.
Prostitution is legal, but only in certain counties, and not in highly populated ones such as Clark County, where Las Vegas is. Vegas’ nearest brothel is Sheri’s Ranch, which since 2001 has been owned by Chuck Lee, a retired Chicago homicide detective and former local business/car dealership owner. Unlike its fellow brothels, though, Sheri’s is the only one that offers a hotel, restaurant and bar. While the hotel is not part of the brothel’s services, meaning the courtesans — as Sheri’s calls its prostitutes — do not work their magic in that area, the five luxurious themed VIP bungalows most certainly are.
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“I would say the biggest misconception people have when they come out and take the tour, they walk away and go, ‘Wow, it’s nothing what I expected’ because it’s run as a business,” Dena, the affable madam of Sheri’s Ranch, told TheBlot Magazine last month. “There’s not women running around naked — well, there’s topless by the pool, but they’re not naked … it is an adult sex resort, so you’ve got to expect a little bit of that,” she added with a hearty laugh. “Most people probably, in their minds, think it’s dark and seedy, and it’s nothing like that.”
Of course, the courtesans are usually found in various stages of undress in sexy lingerie, “but it’s not run like an out-of-control frat house or something,” Dena said.
Again, it’s quite the opposite. In addition to the normal up-to-code requirements any hotel and restaurant facility are governed by, there’s a spate of regulations regarding prostitution. To work at the brothel, women must be 21 or over and have both a Nevada State Business License and a work card issued by the local county Sheriff’s Department. “If a girl has a felony or something like that, they can’t work here or in a brothel, period,” Dena explained. “You just have to be an upstanding citizen, you can’t have any arrests or felonies on your record — that probably helps to keep a lot of elements out of the brothel business that we don’t want.”
GIRLS ON THE MENU
The lineup of ladies at Sheri’s Ranch changes weekly and is a veritable smorgasbord sure to meet any customer’s needs or expectations. Her courtesans range from age 21 to 35, and while several are, as the old stripper joke goes, “putting themselves through college,” there are also plenty of mothers supporting their families on staff. “I’ve got some women, like a biologist who just really likes sex and wants to enjoy it — and be paid for it,” Dena said. “They do this on the side.”
There’s potential for a lucrative income for sure. When women come to the ranch, they are required to work — and live there — for a minimum of one week and a maximum of three weeks. They pay $46 a day to rent the room they stay and work in, and while the brothel takes 50 percent of what its courtesans make, its business involvement ends there. Each woman sets her own price for what she offers during “parties,” what Sheri’s calls its customer appointments.
“They’re independent contractors, they’re working a business within our business,” she explained. “Every girl’s going to have a different comfort zone, and all that we’re doing is providing them a safe place they can operate their business. So they’re going to set their own parameters and comfort zones, how many clients they’re going to see, how they’re going to market themselves, the type of parties they choose to do or give — it’s all up to them what they want to do.”
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The women work 12-hour shifts, but their only obligation is to make the lineup when a customer comes in and wants to meet the available women. “When they’re waiting, they’re watching TV, hanging out by the pool, in the salon, the gym … they have a lot of things available to them because they can’t leave the property,” Dena said. “Once they’ve seen the doctor and cleared the doctor, they can’t leave, they’re here. We provide a lot of amenities to them so they don’t feel like they’re stuck, to give them everything they might need.”
The courtesans are tested for STDs and HIV on a weekly basis at the ranch’s dedicated medical facility, and “absolutely everything” is done with a condom. “There is no transfer of bodily fluids,” Dena emphasized. “Let’s say a guy wants to have oral. Most people don’t even know that there’s a condom for that.” Additionally, when women are first hired, they’re taught to do what Dena calls a “Dick Check,” during which males are screened for any visual signs of an STD before a party begins.
NOW ABOUT THOSE PARTIES …
The extensive sex menu at Sheri’s Ranch is merely a starting point for what its courtesans offer. According to the menu on the website, “The only sex limits you have at Sheri’s Ranch are the boundaries of your own imagination and creativity. Here, there are no borders to your erotic fantasies.” If there’s something specific a customer is looking for, he or she can reach out to one of the ladies on a particular week’s lineup and get their fantasy started.
The most popular menu items are the Girlfriend Experience (GFE) and BDSM sessions, Dena said. The GFE is just what it sounds like: Customers can have a romantic dinner date in a private dining suite, cuddle in front of the TV, play naked Wii, have a popcorn fight … all the things one might like to do with a significant other — but with no chance of hearing, “Sorry, honey, not tonight, I have a headache.”
On the other end of the spectrum is a BDSM party where a dominatrix may use restraints, gags, floggers, feathers and much more for her pleasure-and-pain party. Dena partly cited E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy for the popularity of the BDSM parties. “[They] just piqued a lot of curiosity and raised questions like, ‘Would I like flogging? I mean, what is flogging?’ When the books were accepted, it made it OK to say, ‘Hey, I want to try that,'” she said. “If you’re looking to experiment and try different things, you want somebody who knows what they’re doing.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A MADAM
Dena is the first to admit that being the madam of a brothel is not something she was introduced to at Career Day. “I started out as a hostess, and owner Chuck Lee saw something special in me,” she said. “He put me on this journey in 2007, and we’ve been on the ride ever since. You have to learn as you go, it’s not something you walk into going, ‘I got this,'” she added with a laugh.
She works with about 150 courtesans total, though there’s usually 25 on property at a time. During a typical day, she’s answering phone calls and e-mails, walking the property, interacting with customers and doing exit interviews with them after a party as well as the normal admin duties one might expect from a hotel-like job. “I’m very interactive with all the girls, whether it’s scheduling or they just need to vent about something going on in their personal life,” she said, and it’s easy to believe because she was so bubbly, maternal and easy to talk to for this story.
Using her mix of maternal and business instinct, Dena also mentors courtesans who work, or are interested in working, at Sheri’s Ranch. “I just spoke with a gal last night I’m having come in,” she began. “She’s never done anything in the adult entertainment industry before. I like getting those type of gals in, seeing what I can make of them, what they have going on that I can give them that star factor. It’s a bit of a challenge for me, and I like it.”
When it comes to training, Dena looks beyond just a willingness to fuck. “It’s evaluating their need, and can I supply that and teach them what they need to know? Do they know how to talk to people? Do they know how to dress? Do they know how to do their hair? Do they have any type of business skill? How are they emotionally?” she shared. “All of that, and I know that’s not the answer you were expecting, but all of that plays into whether or not I can do something with a girl.”
Outside the resort, Dena is a self-described homebody and soccer mom who likes to knit, garden and spend time with her family.
“I don’t talk about work when I’m home. It’s pretty separated. I have young children, so it’s never really been a question,” she said. “It’s kinda boring, but I like it that way because it’s a lot of excitement here, a lot of people, a lot of interactions, and you never know what it’s going to be like from day to day.
“Last week, there was a guy going down the hall, and we were like, ‘No, your party is happening in this room — and please put clothes on,” she recalled with a laugh. “The excitement that you get here and the high energy and all that, by the time I get home, I just want quiet, enjoy-my-family type moments.”
Have more burning questions about legal prostitution or Sheri’s Ranch? Check out this handy infographic the brothel supplied: