The Chicken Ranch Brothel

by Emilie Branch

My Hulu wanderings led me to the “Chicken Ranch,” a documentary film about a legal brothel just outside Nevada. The documentary uncovers life inside the house, and gives a look into the psychology of the women who have to earn their living there. It reminded me a bit of “Paris is Burning,” in terms of sex being the deciding factor in how the subjects were going to live their lives. It could be gathered that all of the subjects were forced into prostitution due to extenuating circumstance; one of the girls had been physically abused by an ex-boyfriend, the other was in a huge amount of debt. It wasn’t exactly explained how the girls wound up there, what was important was that while they were there, that’s all they were allowed to be. 

The girls themselves likened it to a prison, and rightfully so. I would say in a prison a woman is more autonomous because at least her body is her own; there they were selling themselves for nothing and splitting it with the house 50%. One of the most disturbing bits about prostitution showcased in the film wasn’t the trade off of sex for money; it was how much money had to be given to someone else for allowing the girl to make that money in the first place. An argument regarding this led to the abrupt, chilling, end of the film. One of the girls is forced to leave by the owner, or pimp, Walter Plankinton (who eventually sold the ranch for $1 million) and as she is trying to call a car she breaks down over what she had to do, for how little.

At the time, The Chicken Ranch was considered expensive, and one of the best brothels nationwide; for instance a man is kicked out of a room when he won’t spend over $20 for oral sex and told to go look for women on the street. The brothel has since lost its reputation for being high-end; the average price for a half an hour of oral sex and intercourse is about $350.

Watch the full documentary:

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