The media often reports on so called Asian Massage Parlors. These places are not massage parlors but are sex parlors. The word massage parlor was actually removed from the “North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Asian Massage Parlors or Korean Massage Parlors (AMPs or KMPs) were terms coined by the Polaris Project with their report on AMPs (that now has been taken off of their website).
Using these words hurts the massage profession who have passed rigourus training in massage schools, passed state licensing exams, passed background and fingerprinting checks. They are NOT Massage Parlors or Spas despite often calling themselves that. They are commercial fronts for brothels.
It not only hurts the massage professsion but it is also seen as racial profiling. It implies a generalization about massage businesses run by or associated with Asian people, which can be seen as reducing the diversity and individuality of these businesses to a single, monolithic concept. It’s essential to be culturally sensitive and respectful in language use. Terms that single out a specific ethnicity or nationality can be seen as insensitive or disrespectful, especially if they carry negative connotations or stereotypes.
We need to start calling them what they are: Brothels disguised as massage businesses or sexually oriented businesses (SOBs), Sex Parlors or Sexually oriented businesses disguised as massage businesses.
Real Asian Massage is not called Asian Massage
There are many legitimate types of Asian Massage but these businesses will use the proper terminology when referring to what types of therapies they provide. The Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia says this:
“Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) is the accurate professional “umbrella” term that includes the following bodywork therapies: Acupressure, Amma, AMMA Therapy®, Chi Nei Tsang, Five Element Shiatsu, Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu, Japanese Shiatsu, Jin Shin Do®, Bodymind Acupressure®, Jin Shou Tuina™, Macrobiotic Shiatsu, Medical Qigong, Nuad Bo ‘Rarn (Traditional Thai Bodywork), Shiatsu, Shiatsu Anma Therapy, Tuina, and Zen Shiatsu.”
Legitimate Asian Bodywork Therapy professionals will have the following credentials or certifications:
They may be AOBTA® Certified Practitioners or Instructors (AOBTA®-CP, AOBTA®-RI, or AOBTA®-CI)
Resource for verification: http://www.aobta.org
Characteristics of Sex Businesses disguised as massage businesses.
These businesses disguised as massage businesses are usually very distintive once you have seen a few of them. You can tell the difference by looking for some of these distintive characteristics:
- Look at their websites. Many are using Google sites and use the signature beautiful models giving massage. Most states also require that massage license numbers appear on all marketing materials including websites and these sites do not have them listed.
- Google their phone number. These places will show up on those other sketchy websites that are specifically listing sex businesses.
- Look at the reviews on Yelp or Google Business Listings. One or two may something that indicates something more is happening in these places.
- Often Use Neon signs.
- Windows are covered or no windows at all.
- Doors are locked and people have to ring a buzzer to get in.
- Often located in strip malls or residential homes.
- Women (Victims) live on site 24/7 and there are beds and full kitchens and living spaces.
- Do not have appropriate massage licensines hanging on the walls as required by most states by law. (Some will have licenses that are obtained illegally by obtaining credentials them from diploma mills and cheating on licensing tests. )
- Their names usually indicate something else is going on there, but not always.
- Some code words that are often used are Full Body Massage, Tantric, Showers, Tips. They also often use the word Rose in the place of money as in this will cost 50 roses.
- Look before you book a massage and verify massage licenses.
The individuals involved in these situations are predominantly women from various Asian backgrounds, including but not limited to Korean, Thai, Chinese, and Korean-Chinese heritage. Their immigration status in the U.S. varies, ranging from those with valid visas to those who may have entered the country through fraudulent means or without documentation. The number of women in each establishment can differ significantly, with some having as few as one or two, and others having up to six or seven individuals. It is important to note that minors are very rarely involved in such networks.
In some cases, women found in these establishments may reside on the premises, staying there throughout the day and night. Their presence in a specific location can be temporary, as they are occasionally transferred between different locations, usually every two to three weeks.
These establishments often operate long hours, typically from 10 am to 2 am, seven days a week. In such situations, women might be compelled to engage in commercial sex acts multiple times a day, with the frequency depending on the volume of customers.
“The epicenter of this national underground is the bustling Chinatown in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens. Women —typically Chinese, but also Korean, Thai and East European — arrive at Kennedy International Airport, learn the trade and are sent out to places like Virginia, Iowa, Texas
and Florida. Women are recruited locally through ads in Chinese-language newspapersor over the social network WeChat.” New York Times, N. Kulish, March 2, 2019.
The Bad Guys
The control mechanisms used by owners of illicit businesses, particularly in the context of human trafficking within some massage parlors, can be complex and multifaceted. These tactics are designed to exploit, manipulate, and maintain power over the individuals involved. Understanding these mechanisms is key to recognizing and combating such exploitation. Here are some common control methods:
- Debt Bondage: Victims are often told they owe a large debt for transportation, accommodation, and other expenses. This debt is used as leverage to force them into providing illicit services. The debt is often inflated or manipulated in a way that makes it impossible to repay.
- Confiscation of Documents: Passports, visas, and other identification documents are often taken from the victims. Without these documents, they are less able to seek help, escape, or prove their identity to authorities.
- Threats and Coercion: Threats of violence against the victims or their families are a common tactic. This can also include threats of deportation or arrest, particularly for those who are undocumented or have been brought into the country under false pretenses.
- Isolation: Victims are often isolated from the outside world and their communities. They may be restricted from leaving the premises or communicating with others. This isolation can be physical, emotional, and linguistic, as many victims may not speak the local language fluently.
- Psychological Manipulation: Abusers often use psychological tactics to create a sense of dependency, fear, and loyalty. This can include gaslighting, where the victim’s reality is distorted, and Stockholm syndrome, where victims develop a psychological alliance with their captors.
- Control of Finances: Financial control is a key aspect. Victims rarely have access to their earnings, and all financial transactions are controlled by the traffickers.
- Physical Abuse and Sexual Assault: Physical violence and sexual assault are often used as means of control and punishment.
- False Promises: Victims are sometimes lured with false promises of legitimate work, education, or a better life. Once they arrive, the reality is starkly different, but by then, they are already trapped.
- Surveillance and Monitoring: Constant monitoring and surveillance ensure that victims are always under watch, making escape or seeking help difficult.
- Manipulation of Legal Systems: Traffickers sometimes exploit legal systems to maintain control over their victims. This can include using the fear of law enforcement or the legal system against those who are undocumented or unaware of their rights.
So what can be done?
It is a very complex issue and involves many criminal, victims and affects the whole community. You can read this site in full, download the free toolkits, and also purchase my ebook that is a toolkit for massage therapists and everyone in the community to learn about this whole issue that is hiding in plain sight.