Why are there "Massage Parlors" in the Unites States?

As I understand it, these are simply storefront bordellos. Please correct me if I am wrong. Why in the world are they allowed to remain open? Do they have some legal cover I do not understand?

Massage is a legitimate skill and the majority of massage parlors are legitimate providers of this skill:

A minority provide sexual services. As to how they get away with it: partly by pretending they are legitimate massage parlors and partly because prostitution and other sexual services are low priority for the police (unless they involve children).

You mean actual massaging goes on? I did not know that.

They all massage something.

One of the victims in Atlanta was on a date night with her husband — they were both getting massages, I assume the therapeutic type. He escaped injury.

There are definitely businesses with words like “massage” or “spa” in their names that provide actual massage and, perhaps, other luxury treatments that are sort of peri-medical like skin rejuvenations and whatnot. Several of my friends who are women frequent them. I’ve been to such places twice, once to get my back hair waxed (glad I tried it but too bloody to do again), and once for a massage.

As an older male, though, I’m nervous about trying such a place again, though I could really enjoy a massage of my back and neck, and perhaps hands and feet. I think it would be too easy to inadvertently choose one that offered illegal services (not interested!) and get swept up in a raid or something.

Maybe if I went with a friend who was a legit massage customer…

We spend all this time talking about the horrors of human trafficking, but it’s always kept abstract and distant . . Not the “Asian Massage” sketchy looking massage parlor in the down market strip mall you pass every day.

Since Georgia is in the news, note there is a Georgia State Board of Massage Therapy:


Lots of other states have a similar licensing board:

We all think we are not of the problem. The chocolate I eat is not produced by slaves. My congressman is a nice guy. The girls at my local bordello like their work. The police in my town are different from all the others and so on.

Be the change you want to see.

My sister is a massage therapist, and she doesn’t do the you-know-what. Well, maybe with her husband.

2 answers here.

  1. Massage parlors are places where you go get a massage. People get massages to relax their muscles or relieve pain. They may call it a “spa” outside America. OP is in Saudi, I’m guessing such non-sexual service would still run afoul of the sex police or whatever they have.
  2. This is also the name of a place where you can go to get a sexual massage or other sexual behavior. Often located in seedy strip malls, often called “Asian massage parlors.” Some of those places aren’t asian, but most are.

People got quite huffy about the assumption that the Atlanta victims were sex workers, but in the absence of initial details, it’s an extremely understandable assumption given how many Asian massage parlors are in Atlanta, and how many of those are in the sex trade. There’s a huge Asian sex industry in Atlanta and there’s no glossing over that fact.

OK, so how many Asian massage parlors are there in Atlanta, and how many of them are sexual? If you know numbers that others don’t, then please share.

To answer the OP question of why they are allowed to stay open the answer is they often are not allowed to stay open. It depends on how much effort can be put in. Sending someone in undercover as a customer is a quick way to get low level arrests on workers. It’s much harder to get those in charge. More urban areas may do periodic crack downs but may have bigger fish to fry most of the time. In the more rural county I live in one opened up and within a couple of months it was shut down with multiple arrests.

My wife uses a massage therapist occasionally along with other treatments for a bad back. Massage therapy is a legitimate profession - as mentioned above, many jurisdictions have some form of licensing and accreditation. My benefits even reimburse a certain amount of treatment from licensed massage therapists.

However… “massage parlors” have been a cover for prostitution since the 1960’s. IIRC in one Dirty Harry movie, Clint Eastwood goes into one and then is offered a blow-up doll. More recently, Bill Kraft who owns the Patriots was charged with soliciting prostitution at a place called … wait for it … “Asian Day Spa”. These places nowadays it seems typically (pretty much always) employ unlicensed workers, and some of these workers turn out to be coerced illegal immigrants or trafficking victims. (Which from the news reports, does not appear to be the case in Atlanta).

Every few years there’s an item in local media about local licensed massage therapists, usually when something like Mr. Kraft hits the news; where they talk about their career and mention how often they have to disabuse new patrons of the notion that they offer anything except a professional, medically beneficial therapeutic massage.

So basically, two different worlds unfortunately sharing a name.

My wild unsubstantiated theory - since the police say the perp is claiming a sex addiction - was that he became fixated/obsessed/stalked some girl who worked at one of the places, and decided either to liberate her or teach her a lesson. She wasn’t where he first looked, so they probably told him she had gone to work in Atlanta (I thought one news report said all 3 places were owned by the same company). He was eliminating witnesses as he went, or was simply in a rage. In Atlanta they probably told him at gunpoint she’d gone to Florida - and he was on his way there when arrested.

In this particular case, this guy was, according to a friend, a customer at businesses that sold sex:

We gotta be careful both not to victim-blame, and not to assume that identifying the victims as sex workers is blaming.

This. One, I wouldn’t matter if the victims were all enthusiastic sex workers. But even more so, as I understand it, a lot of the women in these places are trafficked. Being killed as an expression of sexually frustrated rage is not unrelated to the general dehumanization of the industry as it now stands.

It’s not anti Asian bigotry to say Asian women are frequently targeted by traffickers. The bigotry is that we only get upset when it’s “white slavery”.

Straying from the OP and GQ, but WaPo has a story that he spent an hour in the first place prior to opening fire.

I see a massage therapist regularly, he’s done wonders for my frozen shoulder/tendinitis–way more than PT or my doctors have, that’s for sure. He’s a gay man who occasionally gets solicited by clients for the happy ending and he’s very clear with them that it’s not part of the service and it makes him really spooked when it happens. He won’t allow another booking with anyone who tries this mess on him, as well he shouldn’t.

As for why the rub 'n tugs stay open, it’s because men want their dingdongs tugged and there are men and women who’re amenable to that. The big problem is when the tugger is being compelled in some way and doesn’t have agency in whether or not they tug when asked. Sex work, in and of itself, isn’t right or wrong but being trafficked and forced into sex work is categorically bad and needs to be stopped. One way to help do this is to legalize and regulate sex work like any other type of work to remove the stigma and the big leverage it gives the pimps. Pimps are what need to go–nobody should be making money off of someone else’s compelled work and misery. Pimps are lower than whale shit.

Some are, some arent.

The vast majority, at least in CA, are youngish ladies giving real massages, where if the man signals he wants one, gives a “happy ending” ie masturbates him. No intercourse. The tech doesnt take off her clothes. A tip is then given afterwards.

IIRC and IANAL since no offer is made and no money changes hands before tha act , this is difficult to prosecute as “prostitution”.

That doesnt mean that in some locals places dont just masquerade as "massage parlors’ where no massage and actual intercourse for money up front occurs.

As I understand it, in most of the USA, massage parlors where happy endings may happen if you know who to ask and how to ask, much like strip clubs where some of the girls do deliver “extras” in the Champagne Room, and “social escort agencies” that sell accompaniment to events and “whatever happens afterward is between you and her”, with a wink-and-nod from the management who will claim they see nothing unusual, stay open as long as they are not seen as worth it for the authorities to invest the time and resources, by creating a serious nuisance or through other associated activities (drugs, scams, evidence of large-scale trafficking). Individual busts for prostitution are otherwise a low return-on-investment for LEA, I am made to believe?