RENO, Nev. — Why another book on the world’s oldest profession? Why another insider’s look at the business of sex for sale? Why another tale of a fiercely independent woman pluckily running a business where sexual transactions take place?
American Madam: One Woman’s Journey to Female Empowerment, Providing Sensual Services — by Bella Cummins, owner and operator of Bella’s Hacienda Ranch, a legal brothel in Wells, Nevada — is more, much more, than a recounting of familiar stories and rehashing of old information. It is a memoir of an intelligent, industrious and idealistic entrepreneur who achieved female self-empowerment with enormous patience, sacrifice and vision. And it is a manifesto for legalizing nationwide and worldwide the profession that Cummins has christened “sensual services”: a more dignified and accurate term for the work performed by professional courtesans.
At Bella’s Hacienda Ranch, Cummins mentors the independent contractors who work as sensual-service providers, so they can empower themselves by setting personal goals and raising the standard of their occupation to that of the revered courtesan of old, such as the educated class of La Cortigiana Onesta in Renaissance Italy. “The women who provide professional sensual services are performing the work of angels for people who crave what society frequently doesn’t provide: warm, caring, intimate human contact,” Cummins says. “It is an esteemed calling. And for women who choose to provide sensual services, it can be a route to their own economic independence in a male-dominated world.” Cummins was a poor, hard-working single mother when she married a man who happened to own a brothel as a side business. She ended up taking over the brothel after his death.
After 34 years, she is among the longest-serving madams in the world. In 2019, she added the role of an activist for her profession, founding the nonprofit Onesta Foundation to decriminalize and legalize the sensual-services industry in the United States, educate the public, and build safe pathways from illegal to legal work for those who choose this profession. “As part of my campaign, I have written this book, which is a memoir and a manifesto,” Cummins says. “My ultimate agenda is to radically and absolutely change 21st-century society’s regard for, and treatment of, the world’s oldest profession. The need for physical intimacy is an essential human need, and suppressing it has severely negative effects for individuals and society as a whole.”
Among the benefits of legalizing the Nevada model of providing sensual services across the nation and world, Cummins says, will be:
• Providing safe environments for courtesans and customers. • Minimizing the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
• Contributing to tax rolls and local economies.
• Combatting sex trafficking.
• Providing an outlet for disaffected customers, including incels, among whose ranks are notorious mass shooters.
American Madam is coming in print and Kindle format this summer. Cummins will be promoting the book via an author’s tour and is available for media interviews. Cummins intends to debunk myths and demystify the profession: “Whenever I see a customer at Bella’s return to the bar after a party with a courtesan, glowing with a huge smile and a sense of lightness, I glow inside, as well. The customer has not only experienced a precious episode of human joy, he has gained a lasting memory, a happy mental video, to draw on in the future. In fact, his experience has been more than physical. It has been spiritual. It was a soul-to-soul connection on a basic human level: a transaction between two individuals — each of whom knew what he or she wanted, and what he or she was willing to give or get, with the understanding it was a win-win situation. “The gratification of sensual desires — the need for intimacy and human contact — will always be among the most basic of human needs. No number of laws has ever effectively quashed the world’s oldest profession. Nor should they.”