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Los Angeles Times

Chicken Ranch: Prostitute, law student and activist


PAHRUMP, Nev. -- Stripper/porn star/prostitute Anita Cannibal says she has a bachelor of arts degree that she earned before she entered the adult business, as well as a bachelor of science in business administration that she finished in 2007. She is working now at Chicken Ranch for a few months earning money and taking a break from law school, where she is in her second year at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. Of all the workers here right now, she has the highest profile, with an already abundant collection of press clippings. And if that was not enough, she is making her own documentary: "Porn Star Goes to Law School."

Though her career arc is focused now, her entry into adult work was surprisingly casual. She started as a stripper when she was in her 20s, she says, after her car broke down while she was driving back from the second Woodstock concert. And she feels she made the right choice entering the adult business. Her stage show as a stripper included fire-eating and sword-swallowing, taught one night by Penn of Penn & Teller fame. "The sword-swallowing really helped my career get to the next level in every way. It worked on stage. It worked in a movie."

At 39, Cannibal is one of the older women here, a fact that pleases her. "The only thing bad about getting older in this business is that I will never get to see my hair turn gray."

Even after law school, Cannibal sees her practice focusing on adult entertainment, and she would not mind owning her own brothel one day. "I would change nothing about how the brothel industry is run. I see myself as an advocate for the legal sex industry," she says. Cannibal has in her room a pile of studies from various journals, and has made it her work to contrast the safety of Nevada brothels with the adult business in California. She has worked in both, and she considers Nevada brothels much safer. "Testing is not protection," she says. "The porn industry only tests. We are required by law in Nevada to be tested and practice safe sex."

Of course, brothels do not test for every STD either, though they do test for HIV, among others. I asked Cannibal if she thinks brothel workers should, for example, be given herpes tests. Her response: "I am not tested for malaria, and I see a lot of troops who just got back from foreign countries."

I asked her if she worries that she could have a customer with HIV, whereas in adult films all parties are tested. But she said she's confident that safe sex as practiced in Nevada brothels works.

The Nevada brothel industry for a long time has proudly claimed that no one has ever been infected with HIV in a legal brothel in this state. In my years reporting on brothels here, I have never heard anyone dispute that, including two UNLV professors I have spoken with who study the brothels.


Copyright © 2009 -Los Angeles Times, Publisher. All rights reserved to Los Angeles Times Reproduced with permission. Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Los Angeles Times, Permissions, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

Information in this article was accurate in February 19, 2009. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.