Brothels: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eighteenth-century illustration of Sally Salisbury stabbing a client in a brothel.

A brothel, also known as a bordello, cathouse, whorehouse, sporting house and various other euphemisms, is an establishment specifically dedicated to prostitution, providing the prostitutes a place to meet and to have sexual intercourse with clients.



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. Netherlands has one of the most liberal prostitution policies in the world, and, as such, it attracts sex tourists from many European countries and from the US.

In many countries, while officialy illegal, in practice brothels are tolerated.

In a few countries brothels are legal and regulated, however, the existence of these licensed brothels did not stop illegal brothels from existing: according to a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, illegal brothels in Sydney now outnumber licensed operations by four to one;[1] according to a 2009 report, in Queensland only 10% of prostitution happens in the licensed brothels, the rest of 90% of prostitution remains either unregulated or illegal;[2] according to some estimates, there are 400 illegal brothels in Victoria.[3]

Business models

Brothels use a variety of business models:

  • In some, the prostitutes are held in involuntary servitude without the option to leave,[4] receiving only a small portion (or none) of the money paid by the patron. In some cases, prostitutes are bought and sold by their keepers, reducing them to a state of chattel slavery.
  • 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 taxes.
  • 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 cases of illegal brothels, the latter provides some level of plausible denial to the facility owner, who often (thinly) disguises the brothel as a massage parlor, bar, strip club or similar.

Child brothels

Brothels employing children are common in the developing countries, especially in parts of Asia.

In India, the federal police say that around 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in prostitution [5]. A CBI statement said that studies and surveys sponsored by the ministry of women and child development estimated that about 40% of all India's prostitutes are children.[5]

The exact number of child-prostitutes in Thailand is not known, but Thailand’s Health System Research Institute reports that children in prostitution make up 40% of prostitutes in Thailand [6].

Many tourists from the Western World travel to these countries to engage in child sex tourism. Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil and Mexico have been identified as leading hotspots of child sexual exploitation.[7]

Military brothels

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.

Because it is a touchy subject, military brothels were often designated with creative euphemisms. Notable examples of such jargon are la boîte à bonbons (English: "the candy box"), replacing the term "bordel militaire de campagne". 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" or jūgun-ianfu.

  • It is estimated that a minimum of 34,140 women from occupied states, particularly in Poland, were forced to work as involuntary prostitutes for the Nazis during WW2.[8]
  • 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.[citation needed]

Nevada brothels

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 rural counties). As of June/July 2008, 28 legal brothels existed in Nevada.[9][10][11] All forms of prostitution are illegal in Las Vegas (and Clark County which contains its metropolitan area), Reno (and Washoe County), Carson 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 Ranch operated from 1971 through 1999, when it was forfeited to the federal government following a series of convictions for tax fraud, racketeering, 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.

Illegal immigration and brothels in Western Europe

A difficulty facing migrant prostitutes in many developed countries is the illegal residence status of some of these women. They face potential deportation, and so do not have recourse to the law. Hence there are brothels that may not adhere to the usual legal standards intended to safeguard public health and the safety of the workers.

Currently, Western Europe is confronted with a serious problem of sexual exploitation for the purpose of prostitution of illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe. In Europe, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the impoverished former Eastern bloc countries such as Albania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have been identified as major trafficking source countries for women and children.[12][13] Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by the promises of money and work and then reduced to sexual slavery.[14] It is estimated that two thirds of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters of whom have never worked as prostitutes before.[15][16] Most women who work in the brothels from countries such as Netherlands, Germany or Spain are now migrant prostitutes, not local women. An article in Le Monde in 1997 stated that 80% of prostitutes in the Netherlands were foreigners and 70% had no immigration papers.[17][18]

Internationally, the most common destinations for victims of human trafficking are Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US, according to a report by the UNODC.[19] The major sources of trafficked persons include Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine.[19]

See also


Further reading

  • 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.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Quotes about brothels

A brothel, also known as a bordello or whorehouse, is an establishment specifically dedicated to prostitution, providing the prostitutes a place to meet and to have sex with the clients. In some places, brothels are legal, and in many countries, places such as massage parlor are allowed to function as brothels, with varying degrees of regulation and repression. Depending on zoning, brothels may be confined to special red-light districts or 'tolerance zones'.

18th century illustration of Sally Salisbury stabbing a client in a brothel.


  • In Hollywood, a starlet is the name for any woman under thirty who is not actively employed in a brothel.

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