Of the 20 or so women who work at the Kit Kat Ranch, one of Nevada's legal brothels, Katherine Stone is the only virgin.

The 21-year-old has been living there since May, learning the ropes and entertaining "clients" - but not for sex.

Instead, Stone is auctioning off her virginity to the highest bidder, and says she wants to save herself for someone special.

Bids for her virginity are reportedly at US$400,000, she said.


The unusual arrangement was set up so that Stone, who grew up wanting to become a lawyer, could raise money to help her family, she said.

In December of 2014, an electrical fire destroyed her family's Seattle home. They lost everything.

Worse yet, the house was uninsured. Stone moved in with relatives for about eight months, but the family continued to struggle with bills.

"For a time my parents were actually living at the burnt-down house," Stone told the Washington Post . "It was really hard to actually get back on your feet after everything."

Last northern summer, she said she came across the story of Natalie Dylan, a woman who reportedly tried to auction her virginity in 2008 to pay for college. Dylan had orchestrated the online auction through Dennis Hof, a Nevada businessman who owns seven brothels in the state.

So Stone looked up Hof, found his email address and sent him a note. Then she waited.

Stone first shared her story with Lisa Ling for a widely shared segment on CNN's This Is Life that aired last Monday.

"I saw an ad on Facebook and found out all about the brothels, and the money made me think, wow, it's a chance at, like, fixing all that I really need to fix," Stone told Ling.


Nevada is the only state in the country in which prostitution is legal, though brothels are only allowed to operate in certain counties. There are 18 legal bordellos in the US, all in Nevada.

Hof is fond of saying he owns "40 per cent" of those brothels, including Love Ranch, where former NBA player Lamar Odom was found unconscious last year.

In a phone interview with the Post, Hof said he couldn't remember exactly when Stone's email arrived, but that he frequently receives emails from women who make similar requests - or who supposedly proposition him outright.

"I get three or four a month, minimum, wanting to sell their virginity," Hof said. "So virginity's a real complicated phenomenon, if you will."

He said he is usually loathe to entertain these requests, particularly when it comes to helping sell someone's virginity.

"You get girls that come to us, 'I'm broke, busted, can't be trusted.' We don't want to hire that girl," Hof said. "I want her to be there for the right reason and the right reason is to be able to achieve their goals and get ahead in life."

Still, Hof said Stone was persistent, traveling to Nevada - with her mother - to meet him. After that, he relented.

"I still didn't like it, that somebody's desperate to do something," Hof said. "I said, I'll do this with her but I don't want any of the money. Other articles are not saying that. I'm doing it to help this girl... Now that I've gotten to know this girl, I just love her. She's amazing. She lives at the ranch. She's part of our family now and I hope this works out for her."

Stone relocated to Nevada in May, around the time the Kit Kat Ranch reopened after a major renovation.

At first, Hof said Stone worked at his restaurant, then asked to start giving clients massages and "doing some things in the room". Outside of the virginity bid, Stone now works at the ranch offering "girlfriend experiences" in a more traditional setup: Of what she earns, she keeps 50 per cent and the other half goes to Hof.

Stone is not the first woman to try to auction off her virginity. Most recently, a college student in Russia reportedly put her virginity up for auction on an escort site to raise tuition money, according to the Daily Mail.

Dylan, whose efforts inspired Stone, reportedly drew bids as high as US$3.4 million, though some said her auction was a hoax. Hof denied these reports, but said the transaction never happened and that Dylan still walked away with US$250,000.

Her new goal is to buy her mother a home in the Lake Tahoe area one day. "I'm her daughter. What else is she supposed to do?"

Stone has seen hundreds of comments both criticising and defending her choice online.

"it's called lack of other viable options, vulnerabilities and often sexual abuse," one person tweeted in response to Ling's story. "Please get the facts!"

"Even if that was the case, you can't speak for ALL women," another person responded. "No woman can. *Especially* about sex work. Stop the fear."

Other commenters used cruder language to criticise Stone. Most don't faze her anymore, she said.

"Until they're in my shoes they don't really know what's going on," she said. "We're in a bad economy. I'm just capitalising on what most women don't. ... Growing up, I was very focused on school. I had extracurricular activities. I had a very good upbringing. I was very lucky. My parents were pretty conservative. We all choose to go different ways and I chose this path. I don't regret it at all, though. I've read people saying that I'm going to regret it later in life but I honestly don't believe that."

Stone said her clients know she is a virgin, and that she is still waiting for more bids to come in. So far, she has entertained three serious bids by meeting the people who made offers. The highest amount so far has been US$400,000.