Dennis Hof is dead, but his legacy lives on through those who advocate to legalize prostitution

I am never relieved when evil men die. Rather, I feel angry — ripped off. Those men never got their comeuppance.

Today, a king among evil men died too soon. Just 24 hours ago, Dennis Hof was celebrating his 72nd birthday, surrounded by his “product” — women, that is.

Hof lived the life he dreamed of in America, and died before he was ever held to account for the decades of abuse he inflicted on countless women.

Hof was probably the best-known pimp in the world, though he worked very hard to present himself as a legitimate and respectable business owner.

In a 2015 interview, Hof told Fast Company:

“Don’t put me in the same position as a pimp working the streets, giving these girls drugs and exploiting underage girls. I have a license to do this — let’s not question the morality of the state of Nevada.”

And not only did the state of Nevada support him in this — currently there are 21 brothels operating legally in various counties — but many self-described feminists and leftists have as well.

The third wave took up a foundational role in advocating for the legalization of prostitution — “sex work,” as it’s come to be known. The left in North America has also almost wholly taken a pro-prostitution stance, going so far as to vilify those who opposed the sex industry.

Here in Vancouver, leftist academics and activists attempted to remove renowned journalist and author Chris Hedges from The State of Extraction conference in 2015 after he published an unapologetically critical report on prostitution. Local activist Yuly Chan was no-platformed from the Vancouver Crossroads conference earlier this year, accused of being a “SWERF” on account of her support for the Nordic model (which criminalizes pimps, johns, and brothel owners, but decriminalizes those who sell sex) and criticisms of the sex industry. In 2015, a petition was launched to have me fired as an editor and no-platformed as a writer from rabble.ca, a Canadian progressive online news magazine, allied with and supported by the labour movement. The petition was launched by Maggie’s: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, a sex industry lobby group working to legalize and normalize prostitution. It was my work arguing against the legalization of prostitution and in favour of the Nordic model that was the motivation for the petition and subsequent boycott of rabble.ca, though I was falsely accused of numerous other political crimes, as well.

In the United States, mainstream feminism has adopted a position unequivocally in favour of legalization, evidenced by the pro-prostitution stance taken by all feminist websites, from Jezebel to Broadly to The Establishment. Feminist critiques of the sex industry and arguments in favour of the Nordic model are not permitted, and those who do engage said critiques are marginalized, smeared, and ostracized. According to American third wave “feminism,” the notion that men should not have the right to buy access to women’s bodies is much more harmful than the actual exploitation and abuse men actually perpetrate on women in the trade.

Those who consider themselves leftists — that is to say, anti-capitalist — and those who consider themselves feminist — that is to say, opposed to male violence against women and in favour of women’s liberation from patriarchal oppression — should have been ashamed to be working in solidarity with a man like Dennis Hof.

Not only did Hof make millions on the backs of women, who he offered up for men’s use, as though they were little more than sex dolls, equipped with pornographied “personalities” to suit men’s fantasies, but he was an incredibly abusive person, and was accused of sexual assault numerous times.

Three of Hof’s former employees reported that he raped or abused them and other women. One woman, Jennifer O’Kane, who worked as a prostitute at Hof’s Love Ranch in 2011, said that during her first week at the brothel, a manager directed her to go to her room one night, where she found Hof waiting for her.

“He asked me to undress and sit next to him,” O’Kane said. “At that point he put his hands around my neck and explained to me that I was his.”

She says Hof forced her to have sex with him that night and that he “raped and battered [her] daily,” according to a report filed Nov. 15, 2016, with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

Diana Grandmaison, who worked at the Bunny Ranch in Carson City, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that in June 2009 Hof “summoned her to the brothel’s bar, reached under her skirt and assaulted her in public.” She told a Nye County detective that Hof was “not a nice person,” that he would “regularly assault” women and that she was forced to “perform acts to Dennis.”

“He did this to girls at the brothel all the time. He would make young girls sit on his lap. I had no choice — you couldn’t say no. If you said no, you were going to pay a price and get kicked out of the brothel.”

A third woman claimed Hof came into her room at the Bunny Ranch II while she was sleeping in December 2005. In a public report from Lyon County, she wrote, “Dennis pulls me close to him, opens my legs, and I pulled my legs together, said ‘no,’ and made excuses to try to leave or make him leave.” When she tried to escape, he pulled her back into the room. Eventually, she says, she just “gave in.”

Upon learning of Hof’s death, O’Kane told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “My rapist is dead. He doesn’t get three square meals a day. There’s no more drugging other girls. There’s no raping other girls.”

This was not at all abnormal behaviour for Hof — in fact, it was routine, and he saw nothing wrong with it.

In his memoir, The Art of the Pimp, Hof includes testimonies from women who worked in his brothels. One woman, Krissy Summers, was a college freshman when she first connected with Hof online. After she graduated, she was stuck with $45,000 in student loan debt, so contacted Hof about working at the Ranch. Summers met him in person for the first time in a hotel room. She writes:

“I walked in and he said, ‘Hi, I’m Dennis Hof.’ And I remember thinking, ‘I know who you are.’ And then he said, ‘Take off your pants.’ That was it. ‘Take off your pants.’ I was absolutely terrified. Dennis was only the second man I’d ever been with.”

Another woman, Cami Parker, says she was told:

“You want Daddy to like you. You won’t have a very good time if he doesn’t, so if he wants you to [have sex with him], you definitely should.”

Hof also constantly pressured Parker her to lose weight, leading her to develop a very serious eating disorder that almost killed her. “Everyone knows Dennis likes skinny, little-girl bodies,” she said. At 23, Parker was deemed “too old,” as, according to Hof, “girls over 21 are no good anymore.”

His memoir also included a psychological profile by psychotherapist Dr. Sheenah Hankin, who determined he was a “narcissist” with “no empathy.” Hof was not just physically abusive to women, but emotionally abusive and manipulative, as well. Hankin writes:

“Dennis uses the women he ‘loves’ for his own desires, loyal companionship, and sex. Like any pimp, he exploits them. This is sadistic behavior, and it is both unrecognized and denied.”

Like all abusive men, pimps prey on the vulnerable. When prostitution researcher Melissa Farley visited the legal brothels of Nevada in 2007, a pimp told her that many of the women working for him had histories of sexual abuse and mental ill-health. “Most have been sexually abused as kids. Some are bipolar, some are schizophrenic,” he said.

Prostitution does not exist for women’s benefit, it exists for men’s benefit. Exploitation is not an accident that happens, it is the point. Everyone knows — especially the pimps and brothel owners — that the women don’t want to be there. While those outside the trade — the middle class liberals and third wavers who rail on about “sex worker rights” — as well as the johns who wish to maintain the ridiculous fantasy that a woman they are paying to fuck really does desire them, may delude themselves into believing otherwise, the truth is obvious. People who desire each other don’t pay the other for sex acts.

The “workers’ rights” leftists claim would exist under legalization are, similarly, a sham. When Julie Bindel visited the Mustang Ranch brothel in 2011, she reported:

“As with most other legal brothels, the women are not allowed out unless the manager gives them permission and they are accompanied by an assistant pimp. Many are not allowed their own cars and are required to work 14-hour shifts, 15 days in a row.”

Hof, one of America’s leading advocates for the legalization of prostitution, acts as a warning to us all. When asked what lessons he brought with him, via his previous experience working in the gas station and real estate industries, to brothel-ownership, he said, “First of all, believe in the product and then go out and sell it.”

This is what women are in prostitution: products to be bought, sold, and used by men. This is how pimps see them, how brothel-owners see them, and how johns see them. Not only does this view not change under legalization, but it is reinforced.

What we should have learned from Dennis Hof is that exploitation and abuse is inherent to the sex industry — legal or not. The notion that legalization will magically turn prostitution into a harmless practice, wherein women are respected and treated as equals is delusional, and has been disproved many times over by countries and states that have attempted it.

So-called leftists and feminists who promote the legalization of prostitution are nothing more than capitalists and misogynists in disguise. And while Dennis Hof may be dead, these “progressives” are carrying on his legacy.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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