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The sex worker teaching TikTok about legal brothels

An interview with Dacé, a sex worker at Nevada’s famed Mustang Ranch-turned-up and coming TikTok star.

Rebecca Jennings is a senior correspondent covering social platforms and the creator economy. Since joining Vox in 2018, her work has explored the rise of TikTok, internet aesthetics, and the pursuit of money and fame online. You can sign up for her biweekly Vox Culture newsletter here.

TikTokers have always found clever ways around the platform’s notoriously strict content moderation policies. Some of the more delightful examples: referring to sex as “seggs” and lesbians as “le dollar beans.” Porn performers have taken to referring to their work by using the corn emoji, while OnlyFans stars have used “accounting” to describe their job on TikTok. Dacé uses another descriptor: The Modern Working Girl.

Since 2016, Dacé — her stage name — has worked at the Mustang Ranch, Nevada’s first legal brothel. Now she’s demystifying what it means to be a legal sex worker in the US on her TikTok account, which she started in earnest a few months ago and where she’s since racked up more than 75,000 followers. Most of her videos are answers to specific questions from commenters: whether she lives at the ranch when she works there (yes), whether she is allowed to leave (yes, but she has to be checked for STDs before returning to work), how much money she makes (probably more than you do).

“I just started making informational videos because people asked questions over and over again,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Man, they really want to know this stuff.’” The comments on Dacé’s videos are perhaps a reflection of the intense curiosity about the function of sex work in society, but also likely a result of Americans’ lack of knowledge on the subject. In our conversation, Dacé cleared up the many misconceptions her viewers have, while also stressing the importance of decriminalizing sex work. “Every single person is deserving of love and a physical touch,” she says in a recent video. “And if they can afford it, they get it. Period.”

How did you end up working at the Mustang Ranch?

I had always had regular jobs: waitressing, working for someone else. It was just really hard. I was always struggling and dating the wrong kind of guy, and I found myself basically unable to support myself with the job that I had. Honestly, I thought I was too young and pretty to be struggling like I was, and I knew that you could make a bunch of money pretty quickly in the sex industry. I did not want to dance [at a strip club] for that long, because it is a really hard job. I also did not want to be subjected to having to do sex work illegally.

At the time I was living outside of Denver, and I knew that sex work was legal in brothels in Nevada. I was like, “Well, I’m not that far away from Nevada. Let me just look up brothels.” The Mustang Ranch popped up, and I just filled out the application and went for it.

What was it like walking in for the first time?

It was scary. Honestly, I didn’t know if it was going to be a house full of nice women or if they were going to be catty and competitive. I had never worked with women in that capacity before, but everyone was very nice and welcoming. There were the two madams, three girls that worked in the office, security, bartenders, chefs, and like 10 or 15 women.

They don’t really try to make friends too heavily with new girls, because there’s a lot of turnover. Maybe one out of every five new hires sticks it out and works any real amount of time, as in, at least six months. They just may work a nine-month stretch where they’re coming regularly and then we may not see them again. Maybe they’re trying to get out of student loan debt, trying to buy a house. Teachers, especially, come to work just during the summer months to supplement their income.

What’s your schedule like?

I’m at the Mustang Ranch usually two weeks on, and two weeks off when I’m back at home. Typically, I will wake up at seven o’clock, get my coffee, check my social media, respond to any emails, take a shower, and get ready for the day. Usually I have at least one or two appointments set and the rest of the time I’m available for walk-ins, when I’ll be hanging out in the bar and grill area that’s attached to our brothel. We don’t actually solicit in the bar, even though we’re sitting there in our lingerie most of the time. We ask them if they want to go chat in our offices in the back, and that’s where all the business talk happens.

About half the time I’m in parties [i.e. with clients], and half the time I’m chatting with the gentlemen at the bar. The vibe varies from the day shift to the night shift. I’m on the day shift, and we mostly get business people who are in town for conventions and older gentlemen during the day, but that’s fine with me because they’re serious clients. They didn’t end up here drunk with a bachelor party, which happens pretty much every weekend at the night shift.

Sometimes I’ll have a couple appointments and a couple of walk-ins and I’m seeing four or five people a day. Sometimes one person will book me for a whole weekend, which is really nice, because it’s more of a low-pressure situation. You’re not worried about the clock running out on you, you’re just relaxing and having fun, and getting to know a person and they’re generally interested in you. We can stay at the Mustang Ranch for the whole weekend or we can go into town on an out-date, and security would accompany me and watch me the entire time.

What’s it like negotiating with the clients in the offices?

I’ll ask them what type of experience they would like to have, and they get all nervous. They’re looking around the room and are like, “Oh, I don’t know.” At that point I grab the inside of their knee and I’m like, “I don’t believe that. I think you know exactly what you want.” And then they’ll tell me.

Sometimes you have to do a little bit of digging and take cues. There are men that come in and they want to know that you’ve been with so many men that day. They’ll ask, “How many people have you seen? Has it been a busy day?” If I notice it, I’ll feed into that, but everyone’s different. There’s the people that like feet, they’re looking to see what kind of shoes you’re wearing, they’re going to comment if you have open-toed shoes or tell you they like your pedicure. After you’ve been doing this, you know what to feed into.

Most men obviously don’t like it to feel transactional, . So I try to navigate that very carefully and keep the focus on what type of experience they would like to have. And then I’ll just hit him with the price: “Do you want to pay cash or card?” We get it over with real quick.

What are your favorite and least favorite kinds of clients?

My least favorite type of man to work with is the misogynistic guy who almost hates himself for even being there and doesn’t talk to you like you’re a human being. Luckily, they only come in like five percent of the time. But I don’t have to work with anyone. I can just say, “Thanks for coming in. Have a great day.”

My favorite type of people to work with are couples that have been with people before or maybe are swingers. In the last year and a half, a lot more couples have been coming in because I think it’s popular now to have a third in your relationship now, or at least have a threesome.

What’s the money like?

I make more than $250,000 per year including tips, before taxes but after Mustang Ranch takes its 50 percent cut. Per Nevada state law, we cannot talk about pricing because it would fall under illegal solicitation, unless we’re on brothel premises.

What are some of your future goals?

I want to advocate for sex workers’ rights, to be able to talk about our careers and not be discriminated against when we’re trying to use our money to better ourselves and contribute to the community. It’s so taboo, and there’s this misconception that sex workers are dirty people. We are honestly some of the cleanest people you’ll ever meet, especially in the regulated legal industry. We’re getting tested once every seven days for absolutely everything, so we actually have some of the best health care for women out there. We get checked any time we physically leave the property and once every seven days while we’re working.

Sex work in so many forms is legal across the country; everyone and their sister has an OnlyFans right now. Only good things can come of decriminalizing sex work and regulating it in the legal system. So many things could be funded if sex work was taxed. I know people have a difference of opinion on whether the brothel system is the right setup or not. Obviously, I’m all for the brothel system.

Why do you prefer the brothel system?

I like that we’re safe and protected. They put so much work into having nice facilities for us to be able to use, and they do all the marketing for us. Emails come to my inbox from people Mustang Ranch has found out there for me to see. That’s a pretty great value, especially for the percentage breakdown.

Other sex workers don’t want to give brothels that 50 percent; they want to work out of their own houses or a hotel. In my experience, though, if you’re not in a brothel with management, you’re at a pretty high risk of having a pimp or some sort of manager that’s getting a large portion of your money.

Have you learned anything surprising while working there?

The most surprising thing I’ve learned is how starved our society is of human touch and compassion. People come in and just humbly beg for your affection and a little intimacy, more so than any kind of vulgar sexual act. I get asked a lot on TikTok if people come in for nonsexual parties, and I haven’t addressed this in a video yet, but so often it’s grown men just wanting to be held. People just want to caress you, because they haven’t touched another human being. There are husbands that come in saying, “I haven’t had sex in 12 years because my wife doesn’t want to anymore or her health doesn’t allow it.” They want to be respectful to their marriage and honor the love that they have for their wives, but at the end of the day, humans need that touch.

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