OPINION: It’s Still Her Fault

wild orchid digital signBy Melissa Holland

This month, Reno City Council voted 5-2 to accept a proposal to relocate adult businesses out of the downtown area. Prior to this vote, and in anticipation of litigation, the Reno City Attorney hired a private investigator to research the local strip clubs. During the investigation, they found horrible conditions including “floors caked with urine, old alcohol and other unknown fluids causing our investigators shoes to stick.” The report also states that “drug use is rampant.” The investigators saw signs of meth, heroin, and cocaine and found that the staff members were “unobservant and displayed a need to serve alcohol to all sitting patrons immediately.”

Furthermore, the report stated that “several dancers appeared to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, as they were constantly nodding in and out of consciousness while seated at the bar.” However, the sex acts, which are prohibited by law, are most concerning. According to the report, “Some patrons were fully nude… and all male patrons were able to touch all exotic dancers in any area they saw fit.”

In response to the investigator’s report, the Reno Gazette-Journal ran a story quoting Mark Thierman, a lawyer who represents the owners of three strip clubs. According to Thierman, “A couple of the girls obviously have issues, but they aren’t our employees. They’re private contractors and we don’t control them.”

Did you catch it? Any problem or issue within the clubs isn’t the owners’ fault. It isn’t the managers’ fault. According to the men profiting off these women, any problems are the women’s fault.

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I disagree.

The report paints a clear picture of club staff who promote the continual intoxication of both patrons and dancers to the point that the women are in and out of consciousness from drugs and alcohol, yet the staff allow any patron to grab, touch, or lick the women wherever and whenever they like. Performing sexual acts on a woman who is intoxicated, drugged, and in and out of consciousness is sexual assault. Intoxication in and of itself is legal reason to count a person incapable of consent. Since these women are incapable of consent, any sexual activity with them is rape.

Why is it that, in any location outside of a strip club, this behavior would be condemned by everyone? What makes actions within the walls of a strip club any different? What makes sexual assault and rape ok, so long as the man tosses the woman a $20 bill?

At this point, your brain is either connecting the dots or still fighting it. To help you along, if you are having any of following thoughts then you too are guilty of victim blaming: It’s a strip club, what do you expect? He paid her so he can do whatever he wants with her body. She asked for it. Boys will be boys. She wanted it. She deserves it. She was topless, what did she expect? She’s a stripper, of course men are going to grab her. And my all-time least favorite but most commonly used: she likes it.

Ladies, let me ask how many of you enjoy being in dimly lit establishments, floors caked with urine and other unknown fluids while strangers have their way with you while you are in and out of consciousness? Guys, this may come as a surprise, but women know how to fake it. We do not like this. Women do not like being assaulted. We do not like being groped. We do not like being drugged so you can act out your sexual aggression on us.

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Managers who dismiss this and say “well they aren’t our staff” are both insulting and in my opinion, should not be allowed to hold a business license. These establishments are primarily female staffed, yet run by men with no consideration for women, our bodies, or our voices. They are telling women we have no value in their eyes other than what they can do with our bodies. These establishments and the management in them are creating a rape prone environment. They believe once money is thrown at our exploitation, it’s not their problem. It’s still her fault.

Melissa Holland is the founder and executive director of Awaken, a northern Nevada nonprofit that conducts outreach and provides direct services to women and girls to help them transition out of commercial sexual exploitation.

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  1. Folks, get real. Sex is a 1.2 Billion year old biological drive. It will not, and has not ever responded to some do-gooder’s whining. This all goes back to the early 1900s, when people were upset by rapidly changing social conditions as people moved to cities, and blamed “immorality” instead of their own fear of the new and unfamiliar. Thus was born alcohol prohibition in 1920, the enactment of state laws prohibiting prostitution starting in 1920 (yes, folks, when this nation was founded, there were NO state laws against prostitution!), the drug war, etc.

    So, how’d that alcohol prohibition thing work out? (It was a disaster).
    How’s the Drug War working? (did you see the NY Times on 9/22/17 about Portugal decriminalizing all drugs and how it saves lives – 1/50 the death rate of the U.S.!?).
    How’s that prostitution prohibition thing working? (yeah, right!)
    Do you know that New Zealand decriminalized prostitution and legalized brothels in 2003? The prohibitionists will have us believe that without them and their “moral program” that the prohibited behaviors will completely take over – did that happen? Nope.
    Did you know that most of Europe and most states in Australia have legal prostitution – anybody terrified to go visit?
    Any evidence of massively increased rape, etc.?

    As far as minors being trafficked into sex, if you want a more true story than Melissa Holland’s, you need to read:
    Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Beyond Victims and Villains, by Alexandra Lutnick
    The driving force for 90-95% of minors on the street doing survival sex is child abuse. Think about that – teenagers deciding that selling sex to strangers on the street is safer than remaining at home! 20-25% of female minors and 15-20% of male minors are abused before 18, yet the sex phobic want us to torture consenting adults for making each other happy. How that’s going to help abused kids?

    I’d like to draw your attention to the website http://renodivorcehistory.org
    Today, most people don’t get too emotional about divorce, but in the early 1900s it was hard to get due to morality based hysterical (and often un-constitutional) laws. Nevada was one of the pioneer states in easing the grounds and minimizing the residency requirement, and as such prospered, even during the Depression years, on “sin”. (the original 6 month residency was reduced to 6 weeks in 1931). Yes, the moralists complained, just like they complain about same-sex marriage. So tell me, did God punish Massachusetts for legalizing same sex marriage? Huh?
    So think about it – we can follow the sex-phobic stories of Melissa Holland and the Living Stones Church, and let them bully us into continuing to beat our heads up against the brick wall of a 1.2 Billion year old reality of sex, or we can do what’s worked for Nevada before – be a leader in freedom.
    We ought to be decriminalizing prostitution and deftly legalizing brothels, not chasing people around over religious issues.

    The lines about prostitution and strip clubs encouraging rape are just self-serving, man-hating lies.
    You can get the definitive expose of the “oppression paradigm” at this link (click download or open the PDF):
    The Mythology of Prostitution: Advocacy Research and Public Policy,

    You can start at these links to hear the actual voices of sex workers, and not second-hand interpretations by self-appointed “rescuers”:
    Rescue is for Kittens: Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know about “Rescues” of Youth in the Sex Trade

    • You conflate opposition to sex trafficking/prostitution/exploitation/sexual abuse and “sex phobia”.
      No one is advocating the criminalization of sexual intercourse in particular. As a Christian, I celebrate the gift of sex, as will any orthodox Christian (see the canonical book Song of Songs for God’s view of sex).

      Destigmatization of prostitution increases demand. Demand for what? Demand for men and women who are willing to have sexual intercourse with strangers. Where do pimps find men and women willing to have sexual intercourse with strangers? What complex constellation of factors would need to collide in order for someone to find such a life desirable and satisfying? Is the supply of non-coerced prostitutes high or low Gary?

      Here are some resources that rebut your arguments:

      If prostitution and stripping are legitimate occupations, as they seem to be in your view, then sexual abuse experienced in childhood is nothing more than a wretched and disgusting example of “on the job training”. 18 year olds are hired to have sex with strangers without regard for their history of sexual abuse. This means that if a young woman was molested from age 12 to age 17, you would see absolutely no issue in her being hired at the Bunny Ranch once she turns 18. Thus, the effects and experience of her abuse and exploitation translate into a “career” wherein men like yourself continue to treat her as less than human.


  2. Thierman’s attempts to steer the opinion of the public through an illogical, groundless narrative about moral crusaders and big government taking away freedom and invading personal lives are starting to fall very short.

    I think the drastic and dire situation in Las Vegas paints a vivid picture that the Reno City Council needs to pay close attention to: there is an overwhelming sex trafficking problem in Las Vegas because city officials there capitulated to threats and faulty arguments given by proponents of strip clubs and pornography shops, much like the arguments Thierman has thus far made.

    For quite a long time, Las Vegas touted the slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” That was a self-fulfilling prophecy for the city: they invited the rest of the world to come and use their city as a toilet, promising that any and all negatives resulting from their experience in the city would not follow them home but would stay in Nevada. As Las Vegas built more strip clubs and porn shops, the demand for sexual experiences increased, fueling an ever-growing sex trafficking market. How did this happen? Las Vegas city officials invited and created a certain kind of culture, a “do whatever you want to do because we’ll take care of it after you’re gone” culture. Why? Because it brought in tourists who wanted to “let loose”, doing whatever it was that they couldn’t do in their own cities. It turns out that many tourists want to “let loose” in Las Vegas by having sex with teenage girls and boys in hotel rooms. Simply browse the law enforcement statistics related to sex trafficking.

    The point is this: sex traffickers go where demand is high. Demand for sex with teenage girls and boys is increased and fueled by a certain kind of culture, one that is created in part by the patent approval of the denigration and exploitation of human beings which takes place in strip clubs and pornography.

    Reno City Council, please continue to move forward with re-imagining Reno rather than capitulating to the fear-mongering and baseless protests.

  3. Melissa, thank you so much for voicing the truth. I am so tired of women being talked about as though they are property and as though it is ok to grope, profit, sexualize, objectify, or victimize us. I am exhausted of people turning their backs and pretending it doesn’t happen and I am beyond thankful you are standing up and exposing this very real issue. You are brave and courageous and I am fully behind you.

  4. It is important that Melissa Holland brought this part of the issue to light. These places are the underbelly of any community in which they exist. Most of the women who work in them have long histories of sexual abuse and molestation starting at early ages. Their low self esteem and distorted perceptions of male female relations lead to continuing the degrading patterns in such clubs. It is not surprising that the owners of these places take no responsibility for the women who work there. As long as cities allow such places, they continue the patterns which keep men from growing into whole people who have positive and loving relationships with women; and which keep abused and damaged women locked into abusive and exploitative relationships. Then we wonder why there is so much dysfunction in our societies and in our families.
    My guess is that you won’t have any of the patrons of these places making arguments on the other side of this issue!

  5. NO secondary effects, means no exception to the First Amendment protections. Girls nodding off can’t dance on poles with 9 inch heals, so that report is simply false. Full nudity on stage–never happened and never will. We will put cameras up to prove it. This is all trash talk from unreliable sources. Lets get government out of our private lives. We are adults. Government that governs least governs best. How much money did this stupid report cost the taxpayers. We have a homeless problem, not a strip club problem in Reno. We should spend the tax payers’ dollars fixing the real problems. Spending money to make Reno look bad hurts everyone.

    • You are a nasty man and obviously you do not have any daughters it’s a disgrace that you would be okay with this it’s the homeless people that are on the streets that are running into your clubs to humiliate themselves just to survive its disgusting if you care about people why don’t you do something to help the homeless on the streets instead of bringing them into your club and using them for work to put money in your pockets !

    • I believe Sexual exploitation is one of the biggest issues society faces nowadays. Besides climate change and geoengineering of course. But back to sexual abuse and trafficking…anybody that assist to strip clubs, brothels, watches pornography etc…are very guilty for supporting and fueling the fire for the decadence of humanity. And just like any society in the past that fell so deep into perdition it will be destroyed sooner than later. I’m looking forward to it. I’m so tired of selfish people who think it is okay to exploit others and have lost all sense of honor and morals.

  6. If you make your profit off the exploitation of others then you are a momma’s boy who can not get a female to touch you so you have to use human trafficking (which is what it is) to get your rocks off. you are pathetic, small and if the owners say they are not responsible well then they need to shut down as with every private or government agencey what happens on work time, on employment propertey is the direct responsibilty of said owner, managment or person in charge to conform to all government policies and procedures.
    You are to afraid to lose money by the explotation of others and will use the desperate comments of those who your clubs make them feel like “MEN” to further your defense to keep club in the profit line and beyond at the suffering of humans. These women have lost pride, homes, children and find the only way to get by is helping these men who’s wife will not fit the sexual satisfation bill get a thrill. I see the criminals who are in prison for sexual crimes and if I walked in one of your clubs I could point to many who have titles of importance in the community and active community volunteers and family men…I should start standing outside your club and taking pictures of your customers and posting on facebook…..don’t want that? Not legal you say? It is my right to take pictures of my visit to Reno the greatest little town in Nevada…I do not belive in what happens in Reno stays in Reno…lets start new motto…exploitation others, Facebook Sensation!

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