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Pahrump is a town of 40,000 about an hour's drive northwest of Las Vegas. It's home to Sheri's Ranch, a legal brothel I visited to look into how sex tech -- think virtual reality and Internet-connected devices -- could threaten the world's oldest profession.

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Photo by: Max Taves/CNET

The town sits in a desert valley at the base of a jagged, snow-capped mountain range on the California border.

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The road from the state highway to Pahrump's two legal brothels takes you past two churches, a casino and an abandoned roadside bakery.

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The signs on the road to the Chicken Ranch, a legal brothel here, aren't subtle.

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A sign outside the brothel, one of two within about a mile of each other on the outskirts of Pahrump.

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Outside the Chicken Ranch, a legal brothel here.

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Photo by: Max Taves/CNET

Sheri's Ranch, another legal brothel, wants you to keep driving past its local competitor.

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Sheri's is one of 17 legal brothels left standing in the state. There were 36 a little over two decades ago.

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Sheri's Ranch, which was bought by a former Chicago homicide detective in 2001, has about two dozen women from all over the world working there at any given time.

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The scene at one of the brothel's two entrances. Its sex workers -- they're called "courtesans" -- will line up for customers, who then privately discuss what specific fantasies they'd like to fulfill. After that, they negotiate prices.

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The menu of some fantasies a customer might want fulfilled at Sheri's Ranch.

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Sheri's madam, Dena (right), with one of her "courtesans," Allissa, says last year was the best in the decade since she began working there. The building they're standing outside has themed fantasy rooms including a classroom for customers to act out being a teacher or student.

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Sheri's includes what it calls a "sex resort." It's got 20 acres, a pool, several hotel rooms plus "VIP" bungalows.

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Allissa, who has worked at Sheri's for about five years, stands outside one of its five "VIP" bungalows, which are designed around themes like Arabian Nights, King Arthur's court, an African safari and the Roman empire.

She's not worried about her job security no matter how good sex tech gets. After all, she asks, "What if the power goes out?"

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For customers seeking hardcore bondage, this is the room. There's a cage in the corner.

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A room near the brothel's entrance where customers negotiate prices with sex workers here.

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Cassie has worked at the Ranch for eight years.

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Another themed room at the Ranch. A sign in the corner says condoms are required.

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Cassie tries virtual reality goggles powered by a phone while standing outside the Ranch's bungalows.

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The Ranch's madam says there's a three-month waiting list to work there. The draw? It's safer than the illegal alternatives.

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The main strip in Pahrump, about 10 miles from the Ranch.

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Dusk in Pahrump.

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There aren't many employers in Pahrump, but there are a lot of casinos.

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The Pahrump Nugget, another casino near the center of town.

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