This story was originally published in 2016. “This is Life with Lisa Ling” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Watch past episodes of “This is Life” on CNNgo.
At one of Nevada’s infamous legal brothels, a 20-year-old woman recently signed up for work – but not to have sex.
Instead, Katherine Stone, who dreams of one day becoming a lawyer, planned to sell something other women working at the bordello couldn’t offer: Her virginity.
Like the brothels themselves, Stone’s choice has been controversial, particularly for those who believe a woman’s virginity should only be shared for love.
But in Stone’s eyes, that’s exactly what she’s doing.
‘I love my family’
In 2014, Stone’s family home in Seattle, Washington, was destroyed by a fire. Without insurance, Stone and her family found themselves forced to remain in the scorched property.
Then came the day when she noticed an ad on Facebook, and “I found out all about the brothels and the money,” Stone says. “It made me think, ‘Wow, it’s a chance at fixing all that I need to fix.’”
While prostitution is practiced across the United States, Nevada is the only state where it’s a legal activity. Any Nevada county with a population below 700,000 can host a brothel and, as of 2015, there were 19 brothels operating in the state.
READ MORE: What to know about Nevada’s legal brothels
Brothel tycoon Dennis Hof owns seven of Nevada’s legal bordellos, and that’s who Stone turned to last year for help.
Hof – who says he receives two to three similar requests a week – agreed to sell Stone’s one-time service with the understanding that he’ll take a 50% cut from the profits of the final bid.
In an effort to salvage her family’s damaged home, Stone packed her bags and left home for the first time to live at one of Hof’s brothels.
“People say you are suppose to do it for love,” Stone says of the cultural ideals around losing one’s virginity. “But if you think about it, I am doing it because I love my family.”
‘I obviously value myself’
Like the brothels themselves, Stone’s decision has been controversial. “I read an article about myself online that made me cry,” Stone recalls. “It was a Christian lady; she said I had no self-respect, which I disagree with completely. I mean, I obviously value myself.”
At the moment, Stone says, her virginity bid is a little over $400,000 – and she’s still waiting to accept an offer.
“I’m waiting for a man who I feel a connection with so that the experience can be special for both of us,” she says. “It’s really not just about the money.”
While she waits, Stone is still “contracted by Dennis Hof to legally provide services to gentlemen who are seeking experiences” other than intercourse, she says. “I have done small simple parties. Massage parties, stuff that has been very PG-13. My first experience I had here was the scariest one. It was all really new.”
Even after her virginity is auctioned, Stone says she has no intentions of leaving the ranch. “I anticipate to continue working at the ranch for the next five years,” she says. “I plan to go to law school in the future.”
‘I have the right to choose’
Hof himself has been heavily criticized, with some lambasting him for exploiting women in need. The businessman and reality TV personality employs over 500 women at his ranches in Nevada, with roughly 30 working every weeknight at the famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch.
As for Stone’s contract, “it’s controversial; there is not any question about that,” Hof says. But, he continues, “It is her choice. I don’t think it is a good idea for a girl to drink six tequilas and lose her virginity on the bathroom floor in a frat house … If she wants to (sell) it, I think that’s great.”
If that sounds like something a pimp would say, Hof wouldn’t disagree. “In the strictest sense, I am a pimp,” he says. “I am a guy that brings customers to a girl. The difference is I have a license to do this.”
READ MORE: Dennis Hof: The making of an ‘American pimp’
Stone would argue she has the same.
“I have the right to choose what I do with my body,” she says. “And in this troubling economy, do you blame me?”