stone (Courtesy of Katherine Stone)

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 $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 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 burned-down house,” Stone told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “It was really hard to actually get back on your feet after everything.”

Last 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 told her story to reporter Lisa Ling for a widely shared segment on CNN's “This Is Life” that aired last Sunday. “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, although brothels are allowed to operate only in certain counties. Nevada has 18 legal bordellos.

Hof is fond of saying he owns "40 percent” 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 that he couldn't remember exactly when Stone's email arrived, but that he frequently receives emails from women who make similar requests.

“I get three or four a month, minimum, wanting to sell their virginity,” he said. “So virginity’s a real complicated phenomenon, if you will.”

He said he is usually loath to entertain requests that involve helping someone sell her 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.

“I had no clue what to expect,” she said. “I’ve been nervous since I even came up with the idea to do this.” The other women quickly embraced her, she said, and they frequently hang out together when not working. Stone was assigned a “big sister” named “GI Jen,” who acts as her mentor in the house.

“I’m definitely growing as a person. I’m learning valuable life experiences, really,” Stone said. “Luckily, I’ve had a lot of support, so at first I was very scared to be here, but I’ve grown to very much enjoy my work.”

At first, Hof said, Stone worked at his restaurant but 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. She keeps 50 percent of what she earns, and the other half goes to Hof.

Katherine Stone's bedroom inside the Kit Kat Ranch, where she lives and works. (Courtesy Katherine Stone) Katherine Stone's bedroom inside the Kit Kat Ranch, where she lives and works. (Courtesy Katherine Stone)

Stone is not the first woman to try to auction off her virginity. 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 $3.4 million, although some said her auction was a hoax. Hof denied these reports but said that the transaction never happened and that Dylan still walked away with $250,000.

Stone said the “This Is Life” clip featuring her auction was filmed in January. Since then, she has turned 21 and, it seems, grown much more accustomed to living and working at the brothel.

“Over time, I’ve grown to understand how the sex industry works, how the brothel industry works,” Stone said. “It really is about the experience. We provide people with companionship they’re missing in life. ... It’s more than just sex."

Before the CNN segment aired, Stone said she wasn't sure who knew she worked at a brothel. She said that her sister is too young to keep up with the news and that she and her father don't have much of a relationship anymore. Her mother, while “not happy" about the arrangement, is generally supportive of her, Stone said.

“My mom still tells me she loves me," she said, adding that they talk every day. Her new goal is to buy her mother a home in the Lake Tahoe area. “I’m her daughter. What else is she supposed to do?"

Since Sunday, Stone has seen hundreds of comments online both criticizing and defending her choice.

“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 criticize Stone. Most of those 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 capitalizing 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 that she is a virgin, and that she is still waiting for more bids. So far, she has entertained three serious bids by meeting the people who made offers. The highest amount so far has been $400,000. That bid “is just the start," she said. “It’s still early in the process. I’m still learning a lot of stuff here at the brothel. It’s still too soon to even decide."

Stone said that at the brothel, “we actually do a 'girlfriend experience,' and we’ll see how comfortable I am with him. I feel like I’ll feel it when it’s right, and I’ll definitely feel like it’s the right person. ...  I’m definitely choosing someone not just because of the price but of the connection."

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