Reality Bites: Cathouse: The Series

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

"Naked television" indeed. Our uneven and mostly unofficial look at reality nudity concludes with your final Reality Bites of 2013, zeroing in on HBO's long-running Cathouse: The Series.

I say "long-running" when in fact it's hard to tell if the show is even produced anymore. The last official series broadcast I could find was dated 2008, which a handful of specials airing since then. The "Best Of" special was The Episode I Watched, but I'd seen enough over the last six or seven years to get the main thrust of the show.

That may or may not be the last lousy pun in this entry. I'm not making any promises.

Outside of Reno and Las Vegas, the latter presumably because it would cause the city to be wiped clean by the wrath of God, prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada. So unlike HBO's other "after hours" excuses to almost show hardcore pornography (Real Sex, Hookers at the Point, Arli$$), the only verboten aspect of the goings-on at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch are seeing how many faces and license plates are pixelated in any given episode.

There are valid arguments to be made on either side of legalization of prostitution debate. Those against it point out, rightfully in many cases, that the women in question often end up in the profession as a result of substance abuse or sex trafficking. Those on the "pro" side assert that, if legalized, prostitution could be taxed and regulated, presumably making it safer for everyone involved. I have my own opinions, but I think one significant data point presented by Cathouse is how few of the workers in question stick around for very long.

Don't believe me? Watch a few episodes. One thing that stands out is how not many Bunny Ranch ladies are present for the series' entire run. Sure, there's turnover in every profession, but close to percent over the course of a few years isn't quite the norm (well, maybe in IT). Of the dozens of women featured on C:TS, maybe four or five have the HBO pseudo-porn equivalent of tenure: [possibly] legitimate nymphos like Air Force Amy, former "girlfriends" of MBR owner Dennis Hof like Brooke Taylor and Sunset Thomas, and -- in later seasons -- straight-up capitalists like Isabella Soprano, whose nakedly (heh) mercenary attitude is refreshingly blatant.

Holding sway over all is Hof, who in interviews with the likes of Howard Stern extols the libertarian paradise he has built in the Nevada desert. He certainly appears to be living the dream, continuing to succeed where many others have failed in this economy, albeit literally on the backs of the Bunny Ranch's "workers" (I'm not sure exactly what his cut is, but if it was less than 50 percent I'd be very surprised).

Hof is a constant presence (the better to publicize the business, don't you know): presenting the girls like scantily clad sides of beef for the customers, hanging out and back slapping at the bar afterwards, or enjoying the attentions of girlfriends a third his age (Hof doesn't date "civilians," as he calls non-working girls), this is his brand and - a la General Woundwort - it does not displease him.

Sorry if I'm being harsh, but my impression of the guy is built on the fact he exudes all the human decency of a Gila monster sunning itself on a land mine.

HBO attempts to obscure any unseemly angles by showing us what *fun* the girls have, whiling away their free time by sexing each other up with vibrators or celebrating the monthly birthdays in wacky fashion (what woman doesn't feel the urge to plunge her breasts into a sheet cake?). It's almost enough to forget creepy scenes like a mother procuring Sunset Thomas' services for her 20-something virgin son, or the guy who hires four of the girls to play ring toss with his erect member. Almost.

But I'm probably overreacting. If there was anything truly amiss going on, I'm sure the moral custodians of this country would have done something about the Moonlight Bunny Ranch by now.

Let me guess, Sean: you were only in there to get directions on how to get away from there, right?

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