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 New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, 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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  • Kathleen Lowrey

    Meghan, THANK YOU for your work for running an actually feminist site. It is truly a lifeline.

    • Meghan Murphy

      <3

  • martindufresne

    I am so glad you wrote this and people can read it before they have to see Hof simply made into a late-night humor opportunity by men who fawn on the sex industry. May I adapt it to French, please?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Of course!

  • susannunes

    These “left” supporters of this human rights abuse called prostitution are actually libertarians, which means they are the scum of the earth. They aren’t on the political left at all. They call themselves “civil libertarians,” which is supposedly better than the right-wing economic variety, but they are in fact the same thing. These are people who think the world revolves around them and they can do whatever they want without consequence to others and to society as a whole. They are incapable of empathy or to critically examine their beliefs. Libertarianism is the mindset of a sociopath.

    • Alienigena

      Thanks for pointing this out. I didn’t scroll down to see your message and made a similar point. Libertarians are in my view, the scum of the earth. Because they really only believe in their own freedoms and rights not the rights of anyone else on the planet whom they consider lesser, almost sub-human (basically you are not them, therefore you are sheep, someone to be exploited).

  • Danny

    Meghan, thank you for writing this, and more so for all your work promoting the Nordic model and criticizing both legal and illegal prostitution.
    Western culture has this stupid tendency to look more favorably on influential individuals who have recently died, even if they were complete scumbags. It’s like the old notion that it’s rude to speak ill of the dead or something, I don’t know. I hope your article gets some added attention so people can remember this asshole as the sadistic rapist sociopath that he was, rather than having him lionized as some sort of trailblazer or progressive hero (which would be absolutely nauseating).

  • お茶

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am a former prostitute. I didn’t work in a brothel but I did work in a country where it is legal. Every single time I bring it up on a non-radfem site someone immediately replies to tell me how much their “friend” loves being a “sex worker” and tries to disregard my actual experinces (and of others who worked alongside me). I am definately going to point them to this article in the future.

  • lk

    When I read about Hof’s death, I was wondering what FC would say about him and Ms. Murphy did not disappoint. I can just imagine the liberal coverage that Hof’s death will get: He will probably be lionized as an important American businessman..instead of as the abusive, exploitative man he was. To me, men who work in or solicit women in the prostitution industry are abusive and exploitative no matter how “nice” a john or a pimp they are. The very nature of buying or selling a prostitute is in and of itself and abusive act..whether it is legal or not.

    I wonder if his brothels will be shut down or if some other pimp will take them over? I hope they get shut down.

    It’s ironic to read this because I was just on this atheist instagram page I follow and they had a post that said something: “If you think sex workers “sell their bodies,” but coal miners do not, your view of labor is clouded by your moralistic view of sexuality.” Then underneath it he captioned it by saying that he thinks prostitution is legal, there isnt much difference and women can make more money in some cases from prostitution.

    This guy posts some really intelligent and funny posts about religion, so I was bummed to hear him spouting pro-prostitution nonsense. And the many comments underneath supported it as well..it was def disappointing to read.

    I read the Fast Company article you linked to…the excerpt about his erection at 8 years old is just an amazing piece of literary work (LOL). Like you I was struck by the use of his word product: drugs are a product, alcohol is a product…human females are people NOT products.

    This part jumped out at me: “Second thing: don’t ever party with a guy you don’t want to because prostitution worldwide is set up as if he has the money, you do what he wants. The next thing, don’t ever do anything you don’t want….So don’t ever do anything you don’t want to–just be nice to the guy. If you’re ever mean to my client then you’re out of here.”

    I’ll give him credit for admitting that the power in prostitution is with the man because he is the one with the money..the idea that one can be a prostitute without doing things you don’t want to do and just being nice guys is ridiculous. If you do not do what the client wants, how exactly are you supposed to make money.

    I also cringed everytime he used the term girls to describe prostitutes..I noticed this term also being used to apply to the sex dolls at the sex doll brothels.

    “Prostitution does not exist for women’s benefit, it exists for men’s benefit.” This is so perfectly stated.

    • Meghan Murphy

      The one thing I will give Hof is that I think he is actually more honest about how he sees women and how women are seen in prostitution than most liberals/leftists/third wavers. He calls women ‘products’, for example.

  • In reading articles cited on Feminist Current and elsewhere, I often jump to attention over a piece that appears in a journal or magazine unknown to me. Ah, I say, a whole new radical feminist source (Murphy mentions a few of them above). But, when I get right down to examining its contents, I find the same old pro-sex worker/transgender supporting pattern, the same glib sexual humor, and the same dearth of criticism for male sexual institutions.

    The exact same thing happens when I come across the rare male pro-feminist piece or entry. I will get all caught up in one essay or post and then glance off to links to those same tired sex-worker and transgender sites.

    It’s as if there’s a foreground world, in which commentary can be striking in terms of feminism and progressivism, but deflating upon a more in depth view. Sometimes I will save the single piece, but then delete the saved link. I think: well, it’s not so much that I’m missing anything; it’s that there’s not much to miss. Or isolation per usual.

  • Tobysgirl

    I just started reading Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Her perspective is that neocolonialism gave rise to “multiculturalism” (in which all people are deemed equal even if one group is murdering the other group) and postmodernism. I don’t think neoliberal feminists care much about bringing down the patriarchy. In their view all people are equal so women are responsible for their own oppression and exploitation.

    • Maria Gatti

      Yes, I’ll look that up. Hope it gives rise to an Indigenous Peoples’ history of America (or of the Americas) as that crap went on from Arctic Canada to Patagonia – and obviously on other continents. I expect that she was sensitive to the issue of enslaved Africans who had absolutely no choice – in some cases those groups comforted each other.

  • OldPolarBear

    Libertarians are conservatives on pot.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Me neither. I know plenty of non violent, non aggressive men. I suspect this had a lot to do with their upbringing and what was modeled to them in the home, but also has something to do with their ethics and choices — their specific, intentional efforts to reject violence and aggression.

    • Jani

      I also fear the influence of social media as there is so much hatred of women going unchallenged.

      https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/oct/18/fa-urges-police-social-media-companies-act-after-online-threats-karen-carney-chelsea-england

      This is just one example but threats to kill and rape women in the public eye are rife on social media, not to mention the ‘everyday’ misogyny, whether it’s about a woman’s appearance or turning a prominent woman into a hate figure. It all normalises hatred and violence towards women. On an ‘everyday’ level it makes it OK for women to be verbally abused, sexually harassed or intimidated. Obviously there needs to be healthier influences in boys’ upbringings and good role models, and alternative opinions that question the way that women are portrayed in popular culture. The same goes for raising girls, to teach them that pleasing the male gaze isn’t a guarantee of anything other than a few seconds of attention from a random a-hole — which is completely worthless.

  • Maria Gatti

    I said some merit in the comparison, not that they are identical. I’m against BOTH extractavism and prostitution; I hope that this is clear.

  • Maria Gatti

    I most certainly NEVER said, here or elsewhere, that prostitution is “better” than mining. Both are cases of extreme bodily harm, and prostitution also incorporates extreme psychic harm.

  • Alienigena

    It isn’t just violence it is the entitlement to take up all the space in a room or the planet. Like talking most of the time in meetings or at social gatherings or interrupting women but becoming testy when they are interrupted. I find that men can be quite passive aggressive as well as physically aggressive. So you really can’t escape their unpleasantness.

    And I feel for a lot of them physical violence is still part of their repertoire even if they don’t use it that often, and not just for defensive purposes. My brother would fight with other (including older and bigger) boys in school. He was slightly built, and shorter than average until he was about 15 when he became tall (6′ 2″) seemingly over a short time (few months). Maybe he had ADHD but he probably also fought because he wanted to assert control over his life because we lived with an abusive father who made our lives somewhat chaotic. I, on the other hand, cleaned and organised my room obsessively or cooked multiple batches of complicated to make baked goods (e.g. Danish pastries).

    My brother talked to my mother about getting back at an abusive boss during a hockey game with colleagues (while working as a waiter in a restaurant during university) by slamming his boss into the boards. He is skinny but not that muscular (has problems putting on weight, including muscle) and his sport was gymnastics not hockey. I have never seen him be violent to any person (except when he was a small child taking on boys two years older than him) as an adolescent or adult. So what you see of male behaviour is not all that men are capable of. You’d have to follow them around like a cultural anthropologist (participant observation) to really determine what they are like as people.

    • Jani

      Absolutely, there is a culture of male entitlement. Men are even entitled to be fat and ugly. Seriously. I see plenty of pot bellied men strutting around without fear of judgment or being ‘body-shamed’ as current parlance has it, they can have several chins, craggy wrinkles, baggy eyes, bald, grey or whatever… AND they still feel entitled to rate women’s bodies and looks, or visit a strip bar and get a woman to remove her clothes for a bit of loose change, and all the other shit they feel they have a right to. Like visiting brothels on a ‘lads weekend’ in Amsterdam or Hamburg. These guys have ‘ugly privilege’ lol. It comes free with male privilege.

  • Wren

    I was thrilled to find out he died, especially because he was running for state assembly (which he still may win, posthumously). I only wish his death was more befitting of his treatment of women: violent, brutal, and degrading.

  • Wren

    Prostitution is not an occupation; it is interminable rape and violence. Comparing it to an actual occupation, no matter how dangerous or dirty, misses the point entirely.

  • Wren

    I hate the term “sex-worker” for this and a multitude of reasons. But it pisses me off that the term includes strippers, cam-girls, AND prostitutes. Of course strippers are exploited and suffer, but it’s a lot different than prostitution (unless of course it’s just a cover for prostitution, which is often true). Meaning these things are not all equal in terms of the damage to the woman’s health.

  • Lady R

    I personally view it like legalizing slavery. Sure, there are some people out there who probably would agree to work for nothing in exchange for a small roof over their head. That does not mean society should condone slavery, owning people like chattel, or the creation of a slave underclass, and neither should society condone putting women’s bodies on the market like meat. The Nordic Model is the most fair and excellent model for countries to follow and also the most feminist.

  • TLT

    Yes, its very bizarre (if that’s even the right word to describe it).,,,I used to be a bite of a “libfem” myself….at the time I didn’t really know what that term meant (in the context its used here)…and I was never a part of anything extreme like a sex work lobby or something like that…but I would say that my attitude about porn/sex industry was just very blasé… for reasons as to what I now believe are how normalized porn culture is…also probably bc my parents never warned me… I used to read the website “feministing”…over the yrs fell out of touch with it though bc of the sex work is work narrative they push…I still sometimes visit the site from time to time to see if anything good is posted/to keep up with the libfem agenda…here is an article I recently came across: (I wanted to comment on it, but they had already closed the comment section)

    http://feministing.com/2018/09/04/ohio-cop-murders-donna-dalton-sex-worker-mother-and-friend/

    ….just as you said, the author throws in the “victim narrative”, and also like radwonka said in her 3rd para. Well..a few months back this site posted a plea for donations, as they were on the verge of shutting down…not sure what their current status is…but im pretty sure it used to be the HOT fem blog to read (I think Jessica valenti started it)…anyway maybe it’s a good sign they are failing…and their false sex work is work narrative is losing steam…

  • Hanakai

    Happy to see there are other Galeano fans. His work is so relatively unknown in the USA where reading seems to be a lost skill.

  • therealcie

    Ding dong, the douche is dead.
    Still, I know what you mean. It really doesn’t feel as if justice was served. He seemed to live his reprehensible life with no repercussions.

  • acommentator

    “He just wanted to use a negative label so he can dismiss what we say without engaging with our arguments.”

    Yeah, that is part of what I mean. He is shifting the focus from what is said to who is saying it and their motives for saying it. Then he just disses them.

  • Pera Raks

    Pop culture and porn industry are recent things and male violence is as old as the mankind, generalized in all cultures and all historical moments. The generalizated behaviour patterns of males across history makes me suspect it’s instinctive

    We can’t blame porn for violence because there was already a lot of violence before it and porn is just basically responding to the demand. Men like to watch women being humiliated and degraded so capitalism has a product for them.

  • Nadja Penaluna

    I’m shocked that Murphy would call this man ‘evil’, which is loaded with religious connotation. Maybe it’s just semantics here, but the term doesn’t do a good job at analyzing the material and social basis for understanding such abhorrent behaviour. One many dying doesn’t change the exploitative economic system that produces prostitution. Applauding his death does no good, he is replaceable. Talking in such terms degrades our shared humanity.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Since when does is word ‘evil’ necessarily attached to religion? Are only religious people are allowed to use the word, now? Also, the entire article offers a critique beyond simply calling someone ‘evil’ and leaving it at that, offering broader context and evidence demonstrating Hof’s misogyny and abusive behaviour. Did you not read beyond the first two lines? And, actually, did you read those lines? Because I didn’t even ‘applaud’ his death…

  • Meghan Murphy

    The entire website expands on the system that allows men to abuse women, but thanks for the tip.

    • Nadja Penaluna

      I agree, and that is why I enjoy reading much of the articles published here. But reducing a human life down to simply “evil”, without attention paid to the broader social context that gave rise to the monstrosity is harmful to our understanding of the subject. Some of the general vitriolic comments in the section such as “rest in piss”… “worthless piece of shit” etc. illustrate this point.

      • Meghan Murphy

        He was a terrible human being. But, again, I do contextualize his behaviour.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Your comments were in moderation while I took my dog for a walk. Please accept my deepest apologies.

    • Nadja Penaluna

      Thank you. No worries.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I was being sarcastic, tbh…

        • Nadja Penaluna

          Sarcasm is a strange way to respond to a reader’s concerns.
          I was under the assumption that had a policy of inclusion that welcomed critical dialogue. I am obviously wrong, as my comments have still been blocked.

          • Meghan Murphy

            All comments here are moderated and need to be approve manually. Everyone must exercise patience, in that regard. None of your comments are blocked. They are in moderation, like everyone else’s.

  • Nemesis

    @nadja_penaluna:disqus “for broader social context that gave rise to the monstrosity”, *YOU only have to look at how this SCUMBAG rapist’s death didn’t even stop idiots from voting him in for the midterms. one less abuser in a world filled with them is something to celebrate but don’t let us keep *You “from changing the exploitative economic system” by honoring pimps and rapists or whatever it is you’re doing by arguing semantics…

  • Meghan Murphy

    All of your comments have been published, but if comments are removed, that’s up to the discretion of the moderator (me!) and is not up for debate.