My sister is an LMT (licensed massage therapist). As I’ve stated here before, she has never had a desire to enter the adult industry in any capacity, though she too is drawn to service-industry work. (My feeling is that sex work straddles the entertainment and service industries, depending on what aspect of sex work we’re talking about.) She is happy doing fully-legal and non- wink wink nudge nudge massages. She offers a new perspective on the wisdom of criminalization. Okay, not totally new, but the way she put it was new to me.

Recently, an Asian massage parlour in her small city was busted. Of course the community crowed about getting rid of “those women” and naturally — since the women were “gone” then so were the men; who, of course, are members of the community and live right next door. Since the men seeking Happy Endings suddenly had nowhere to find women who consensually offered those services, they started haunting the local LMTs in hopes they would find a much-cheaper substitute.

All this does is annoy the LMTs or perhaps makes them feel threatened. LMTs do not want to fear permanently losing their license or dealing with an irate man in a small room. It certainly doesn’t make them happy to have to deal with a situation they do not want, time and time again. My sister prefers for a Happy Ending massage parlour to exist in her city because the men who wish to have that experience know exactly where to find it. The women who wish to offer it know where to go to make their living. Everyone does exactly what they wish and no one is forced into situations with very unhappy endings. The stupid laws making such consensual activities illegal just made her life a bit more difficult.

We talked extensively about advertising and the psychology of rates. Though she wishes to raise her rates comparable to the basic massage rates of a large city, her main fear is that her male clients will suddenly assume the higher-than-local rates mean there’s something “extra,” even though her wished-for higher rates don’t compare to Happy Ending rates.

Of course another Happy Ending parlour will open up eventually, and the men who wish to have that will drift back over. Until then, she’s stuck dealing with situations she does not want. I almost suggested she get a good riding crop to quell their enthusiasm, but too many would like it and pester her to provide yet another service she has no interest in.

31 thoughts on “criminalization affects more than “criminals”

  1. This again proves that criminalizing an activity people want will not reduce demand and only leads to more problems. You would think that as a country we would have learned something from prohibition – but no.

  2. Oh I’m sorry, but you sound very naive. You’re honestly saying to just let other women “take the hit” so your sister doesn’t have to? Because chances are there are a number of women in that Happy Ending place that aren’t there by choice. But that’s beside the point. You are doing NOTHING to make your sister– or you, or any other woman– safer by tolerating the selling of women’s sexuality. You’re only legitmizing the idea that women are a rentable sexual convenience. And it doesn’t matter if your sister is momentarily made to feel safer because other women are the target, instead of her. Her body, and your body, and any woman’s body still has a price on it. You’d do well to start fighting AGAINST that, rather than just shrugging your shoulders and saying “oh, well, if you can’t beat ’em, let other women (who are not me or my sister) take care of them.”

  3. .. and just in case you missed it: other women’s consent to prostitution does not matter. They do not have other women’s consent to make women’s sexuality a product.

  4. David — No, apparently not.

    Kels — Actually, a lot of women working in the Asian massage parlours DO want to be there making money and they would much rather not be arrested — they’d rather make their money in peace. (See San Francisco and their continuous massage parlour raids for an example. BTW, thinking Asian sex worker = sex trafficking victim is a bit of a racist stereotype.)

    I’m hardly being naive, nor am I “sacrificing” other women so my sister doesn’t get sexually harassed at her work. YOU’RE being naive in thinking that arresting women for prostitution somehow “saves” them from being trafficked. If these women were indeed being trafficked, then how come their exploiters/customers weren’t arrested either? Think any real victims existed? Think anyone actually cares about helping the real victims? Or you think this is really just about shutting down prostitution because people like you don’t like it?

  5. A perfect quote for the situation for the Legendary Author Jim Harrison from his Novel “The Road Home”

    “The diseased strain of Contentious Puritanism in America is Never Buried for Long.” (SIC)

    Lets hope we can overcome some naive thinking and educate people to try and understand there is a different view point from their own and that it may be based on a different belief structure to theirs!

    Once that happens we have a good shot at possible understanding………..

  6. Amanda – This is a very interesting post on something that occurs periodically all over the country and that relates to things I am dealing with all the time. Thank you for sharing it. Its nice to hear your (and your sister’s) perspective. More and more (far more than even 5 years ago), the women who work in Korean massage spas/parlors are as fully licensed as your sister. It is a consequence of and response to increased demands by states and cities who are trying to run them out of their towns via some route other than policing. The very people that the massage industry has tried to squeeze out and shun by its intense (and successful) lobbying of state governments to create great bureaucratic licensing apparatuses, together with demanding professional associations, seminars, continuing education requirements, etc., have simply incorporated the new requirements into the cost of doing business. (From my very limited knowledge and observation, the licensing rate at Chinese-run places is probably quite a bit lower, but Chinese places are much more clustered than Korean-run ones, some of which are in the most remote parts of the country. And despite the popular use of the term “Asian”, the number of massage parlors run and staffed by Thais, Vietnamese, Japanese, Laotians, Filipinos or any other Asian nationality other than Korean or Chinese is miniscule). I think that its also worth pointing out that at the vast majority of Korean places that will provide a hand squeeze, the wink and nod is a minor part of the time and service (even if the customers don’t all see it that way); most places will provide a very competent, quality massage. In their minds, and in fact, they are masseuses first and foremost; the squeeze is a silly little thing at the end (of course, there are always exceptions).

    In my opinion (and from experience in doing advertising from the other side of the coin), I don’t think that customers will necessarily take increased rates to mean as you fear. I think the majority associate the hand job with tipping, as many won’t tip if they don’t get one, but will if they do (and so this leads to “hey, I’ll give an extra $20 if you massage me here too” type pressures). A couple suggestions off the top of my head would be to emphasize that ladies massages are provided; and if she doesn’t accept tips, to say so in signage and ads; if she does, she might consider not doing so and raising her rates to compensate.

    Kels – Unfortunately, it is you who is all too naive. Have you ever met a women who works at one of the massage parlors we are talking about? Do you know how they find work? How they come to this country? Did it ever occur to you to ask them how they feel about their work, or whether they would like you to decide what they should do with the bodies and minds? Do you know who owns and manages these massage parlors? Do you know what the women who work in them do in their off time, or where and how they live? Do you have any idea of the mental anguish, trauma and expense they go through when the police come and assault their businesses? How dare you presume to save or so much as speak on behalf of people you know absolutely nothing about?

    Amanda – It is racist. Thank you for pointing that out – may I adapt this line without falling afoul of your previous post? Kels typifies this kind of willful ignorance – her’s are the same common bullshit talking points that I mentioned in a comment a few months ago.

    Aussie Mate – That’s a very accurate quote. The only part of your comment I disagree with (unfortunately), is that I think a large part of the Puritans (both 17th and 21st century varieties) weren’t and aren’t just failing to understand others but also to respect others – they feel that it is their right not just to live as they choose, so long as they don’t harm others, but to try and force others to live the same way that they do. These two opposing strains of American mentality go all the way back to the founding of the New England colonies in the 1620s and 1630s. The similarity in the mindset and attitude on both sides from then to now is striking.

    Lee, LMT

  7. Lee — Good point. It is true that LMTs have to go through a lot of training and ongoing education, something which can be a headache for them (did not know you were an LMT too!). Though I don’t know how many of the workers in today’s US Asian massage parlours have licenses (probably up until their first arrest for prostitution), they aren’t necessarily licensed in Asia. However…by all reports they are very well-trained and a quality massage can be had.

    Their perspective on it seems to be that the sexual release is part of the therapeutic benefit of the massage, or it can just veer straight off into explicit prostitution. Guess it depends on the worker and the attitude of the establishment. And I’ve been told that in Asia Happy Endings apply to female patrons as well, but I really didn’t have the nerve to test the theory out. I’d rather just have a non-sexual massage. Massage is REALLY big in Asia. I’ve read that massage in China was once reserved as a way for the blind to make a living (I’m betting a blind masseuse would be really good). It makes sense that Eastern culture views massage differently than Western culture. They see body care, sex and medicine very differently as well.

    As for the rates, um, we ARE talking about a rather unsophisticated part of the country here. Some of them ALREADY expect the extras without offering to tip, so my sister probably has a valid concern. 🙂

    I’m not the first person to point out that thinking Asian sex worker = trafficking victim is a racist stereotype. So please — feel free to spread the idea around. Asian-American sex workers tend not to appreciate this stereotype. I doubt Asian-Asian sex workers do either.

    The Australians relish their criminal heritage and enjoy poking fun at our religious/Puritanical heritage. It’s made a HUGE difference in our societies today. For sure.


  8. I am very familiar with THAT story, ’nuff said. I noticed that the complainer who initiated the complaint “thought it strange that the only people going thru the door were men!”. I advertise on bp under the legitimate section, simply because I prefer the clients who respond to my non risque ad. I make my ad “gender friendly” and have not had one single female inquiry in my first year advertising. Oddly, a few of my clients express surprise about a happy ending because they honestly thought I would not “go there”. (I avoid risque advertising because I live in a small town and do not want to risk legal trouble). In regards to the previous asian massage, I thought it a waste of resources because they were paying taxes and renting office space, all improvements to the economy. Not exactly collecting welfare……

  9. Massuse — Thanks for your perspective too! I guess women are wary of responding to online ads for massage (less wary of going to a spa/salon). Interesting to know some of your male clients were not expecting the Happy Ending.

    And good point about the massage parlour — if they are a business establishment, they ARE contributing to the community just by being in business.


  10. First to the ‘trafficking’ thing: if trafficked girls are afraid of arrest, it’s very easy to control them.

    I have found a masseuse (like Masseuse above(, who has a very straight up ad and does also do beauty care for women, but her services for men (I know from experience) are spread word of mouth.

  11. Kels’s post is right on. Oh and Amanda, don’t put words in her/his mouth. Anyone can read the comment you’re referring to, and there is no mention of equating Asian masseuses with sex workers. If you need to create strawmen, perhaps you’re a little insecure to be talking about this issue. As for “Or you think this is really just about shutting down prostitution because people like you don’t like it?” Way to dodge the issue. Yes Amanda, we don’t like prostitution the way you probably wouldn’t like people selling something that belongs to you without your consent.

  12. And Lee: “Did it ever occur to you to ask them how they feel about their work…. so much as speak on behalf of people you know absolutely nothing about?”
    Did it ever occur to you to ask women who are uncomfortable with prostitution the reason for that? No, of course not. Because Kels mentioned concerns, and your response was to go on the defensive. (Oh yes, and calling Kels “racist” when s/he clearly is nothing of the sort– classy and formidable.) Because in your mind, sex workers are the only ones with the right to an opinion. Meaning, you are far too biased to talk rationally about the issue.

    So you all go on here, validating each other. Because this is exactly the kind of “discussion” (i.e. hysteria and ad hominems) that others have come to exppect from the pro side. And it’s not interesting in the least. Just letting you know, in case there ever comes a day when you actually might want a dialogue on the issue. No one’s holding their breath, though.

  13. And Amanda: seems that YOU are the racist one, who has made the comparison of Asian masseuses to sex trafficking victims. Because you see, saying that there is a chance that someone is in prostitution unwillingly is a universal problem. YOU made it somehow into an Asian masseuse thing.

  14. Oh, AB, I know you tried pulling the whole “break your back trying to twist your opponent’s argument so that it kinda sorta might sound that the opponent is racist/sexist/whatever” so that you might then try to cast yourself as genteel and uber-pc,” And a good try it was!
    … but I wouldn’t think that the personal indignity of having to stoop so low really gains you the kind of victory you’re after. 🙂

  15. Janna/Liz/Kels — I’m pro-sex worker rights and anti-arrest/harassment. This does not make me “pro-prostitution.” As I’ve stated elsewhere on here, I AM pro-prostitute. There is a difference.

    Stereotyping all Asian sex workers as sex trafficking victims is a very common assumption that has racist roots (this stereotyping also happens in Asia, mostly by Westerners attempting to “save” them). Asian sex workers reading this blog are more than welcome to comment on this. They’re the ones who have pointed it out to me — this is not my own original observation.

    Nothing I say is a straw-man argument. If I jump around a bit or don’t elaborate enough, it’s because I don’t feel like beating this very dead horse. You’re more than welcome to peruse

    Bound not Gagged:

    Or Maggie’s blog:

    Or SWWB:

  16. Janna,Liz and Kels must be the same person. I see you got some hater traffic Amanda.How do they find these blogs…scoure google?

    Stop foaming at the mouth with all your anger you fridgid bitter battle axes. Thats all you deserve.

  17. I agree Amanda…beating the dead horse thing is exhausting and could go on forever…let them foam,rant and excrete their deep seeded issues about this onto a blog. They’re either extreme womens libers or 200lbs women who’s husbands visited escorts or strip clubs, and like all Jerry Springer mentalities,they’re misdiredting their sacred rage on a blog to someone they don’t even know.

  18. I just can’t stand that whole catty,spiteful,bitchy women to other women thing. I’ve always been more women supportive no matter what and even if I don’t agree I know it’s counter productive to insult my sisters with self righteous little comments attacking their beliefs and imposing mine ,and it’s really annoying when people do the cowardly judging and trolling of drive by sarcastic,insulting comments on the Internet especially to people they don’t even long as you stay away from animals and children I don’t care how you live your life. I’m not judging any ones life.

    I say stay off the blog if you don’t like what they write. You’ll never see me going over to Ann Coulters blog to let her know how much I dislike how she thinks or what she stands for. LOL It’s usually people who are so full of venom with their own issues it gives them a temporary place to spew their hate The thing about the Internet is it’s easy for people to just dump onto others because of the anonymity.Plus I’m sure it pisses them off even more that your writing is articulate,funny and you have some great points,but this is were the rubber meets the road,no more reacting. AMEN

    Yes I read the haters blog and shared my funny story,now it’s time for a red velvet cupcake Texas sistah! Hoo rah!

  19. Tamara — 🙂 Thank you!

    Women who hate on other women have SERIOUS issues.

    Yup, 7-11 is one of my stops this weekend. I’m trying one of them!


  20. Here’s another funny hypocrisy story,about 8 years ago when I first moved to L.A. I met another actress friend who also worked as a energy worker and LMT. She was actually really good at the massage. I’ll give her that,over time I told her I had been in the sex industry,she eventually told me she doesn’t know how I could do that ,she could never do that. Which is always B.S with EVERYONE because consider the lowest situation,something happens in life and you hit bottom and have a scathing meth/drug addiction….ANY HUMAN being at their lowest would do anything for that fix,so there goes that high and mighty thought!

    Fast Forward several month later ,she tells me while giving a massage to a man out of her home he kept wanting her to touch him in different places and he kept slipping her more and more $100 bills but she wouldn’t dare do that at the same time she took his money and was morally okay with deceiving him,she said he ended up giving her about $800.LMAO $800 for a regular massage. This is were the friendship ended with her hypocrisy and lies!! Does she really think any human with a brain and common sense would believe that guy would have given her that much and let her get away with just a massage? This just made me laugh and of course she had a melt down down when I called her out on it basically eventually admitting it. I of course don’t have a problem at all it’s just the lies and hypocrisy!

  21. To Kels and Janna and others, I think the following article describes what the sex worker rights activists are REALLY after:

    …”Thirteen years old, I’m on the street in Montreal, I need to eat, some guy offers to buy me food, and maybe at that time the exchange (for sex) wasn’t cash, it was food, it was shelter,” Debra said in an interview with The Chronicle Herald on Friday.

    “I decided to get the money so I could buy my own food, so I could decide what I wanted to eat and where I wanted to sleep.”

    …Debra says that because of her own childhood abuse, “the day that I could tell a man what he could do and what he couldn’t do, and what it was going to cost him, was a very powerful day for me — it was an empowering day.”

    …”I don’t have a problem with what I do,” Debra said Friday at a community education forum titled Green Light, Red Light: Regulating Sex Work in Halifax.

    “To me, it’s a job. It’s not who I am, it’s what I do.

    …Debra told the forum about the impact that current criminal laws have on sex-trade workers.

    “As long as these laws stay in effect, I will always be a potential victim for the lunatics, my family will be,” she said.

  22. Tamara — The denial, the hypocrisy — you hit it on the head. That’s what bugs me the most and girls in the business certainly aren’t immune (like your friend). That’s where we get our lovely hierarchy from.

    Love that she was okay with telling the story of how she took his money and gave him nothing in return but was trying to hide that she actually did the work he was paying for.

    Thais — Thank you! Very good article for all to read.


  23. Tamara — I love this! I’m so sorry for what happened to her but I’m loving her putting the preacher in his place. Going to watch more of these episodes.

    At least at a bar you have slightly less chances of finding a hypocrite. You have very slim chances of finding a truly honest person in a church.


  24. I know and I love how when she says “her first sexual experience (RAPE) was in a church,he said “I’ve heard that before.LOL Okay? Not to uncommon huh preacher?

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