As paid sex goes, a trip to the massage parlor sounds classier than hiring a hooker. But that’s like saying coprophagia sounds like a classier bathroom activity than taking a shower — entirely accurate, until you learn what it really means.
Pop culture had convinced us that all masseuses are Jennifer Love Hewitts whose only worry is which male model to jack off before marrying. But then we talked to “Amy,” who worked in a parlor in Montreal, and she told us the sticky truth …
5. Massage Equipment Is Dangerously Unsexy
If you search for a video of a woman giving a man a massage, it’s going to play out the same way 90 percent of the time: She slowly rubs down the client with oil, things steadily getting hotter until the pair are nothing but a tangle of naked, glistening limbs. Well, the prevalence of this genre of porn is setting people up for a huge disappointment if they e
If you have this kind of “massage” parlor in your neighborhood — the kind where they massage the client’s boner — you might see real beds instead of the standard massage tables. But more often than not, they have to keep up the illusion with the regulation equipment. That means staff will be attempting sex acts on a massage table, and that can lead to hilarious disaster and/or bodily injury:
“Tables,” says Amy, “are, let’s say, skinnier than they should be for that sort of thing.” So sex with a massage customer is half Tetris, as the masseuse struggles to twist legs and other appendages into configurations that fit. It’s hard enough with any customer, and it’s extra tricky with the chunky ones. “There’s no nice way of saying, ‘Sir, either sort out your fat positioning, or I’m going to squish your sides with my knees, and you’re going to enjoy it’.”
And that’s if she manages to stay on the table at all. One time, “the client was paying for a BJ but was very insistent on seeing my ass.” This meant squeezing herself onto the foot of the table and hiking her posterior skyward — and then scrambling to avoid toppling off the edge and breaking that ass he so admired. It turns out that blowjobs also tend to give masseuses lockjaw when the table forces them into uncomfortable poses. We tried to read up some more on this topic, but that led us to Cosmo and we had to flee, screaming.
The aforementioned porn videos invariably focus on the sensual application of oil. That’s because oil brings to mind the body’s own fluids, and it shows off the actors’ bodies, and it winds up as lube once the boning commences. But though Amy’s massage parlor had huge massage oil bottles in each room, the oil never found its onto customers’ crotchular regions. That’s because oil dissolves condoms. And Amy would always use condoms, no matter what the client said.
So here’s how the scenario really plays out: After a few minutes of totally dry massage, Amy would ignore the props and reach for her hidden purse, which held lube and condoms for the actual sex. “Some would try whining that they couldn’t get off on a BJ with a condom or would offer extra to go bare,” she says. “I would always turn down bare use or got sneaky and could put the condom on with my mouth.”
4. People Confuse “Massage Parlors” For Legitimate Massage Parlorss
You can’t legally advertise sex services in Canada. So Amy’s parlor was in an office building, and it only advertised massage. The signs didn’t even use outlines of women or garish neon, and the inside didn’t look particularly sexual. Dimmers controlled the light, and Amy had to adjust them to set the mood. The music, as she puts it, was “a cheesy massage calm-soothing-water CD” — a spa soundtrack, with nary a porn riff in earshot. Still, most people who entered understood what the place was truly for. Most people.
Here’s the way it’s supposed to work:
The client pays a straight fee for a “massage” — this money goes to the parlor, not the masseuse. The client strips, showers, gets on the table and under a towel, and Amy gives him a preliminary rub-down (not a real massage, since they aren’t trained for that). Then she asks what else he wants, he tells her explicitly, and it’s understood he will give her a “tip” for said services, which she keeps. The towel comes off, and she takes it from there. But the guy sometimes just doesn’t respond. And it goes something like this:
Amy: “All right, enough of that. What else can I do for you?”
Guy: “Maybe a little more on my shoulders. Those have been pretty taut for a while.”
Amy: “Oh, have they been going a bit … stiff? Any other parts that way? I can do anything you want, you know.”
Guy: “Well the shoulders, mainly. And the back. But the shoulders, too.”
Amy: “How’s that towel feeling? You need me to get that off for you?”
Guy: “What? No. I need my shoulders done. And there’s no towel on my shoulders.”
“So I’m just trying to pretty much say, ‘What do you want?'” explains Amy, “without directly saying, ‘LOOKIN’ FOR A GOOD TIME, SAILOR?’ and the guy didn’t catch on. We went through the massage and small talk, and I made no money from that.”
One time, a woman came in. “Boy, that was awkward,” says Amy. This customer wasn’t looking for a lesbian massage (sorry, fellas), and if she had been, Amy’s not sure what she would have done. Instead, the client simply lay there with her towel on, picking up no weird vibes at all. “And again, thinking it was legit, she didn’t think to tip. Or I got like $2. It was just a woman that came in thinking, ‘Oh my, this place is a steal!'”
But remember that Amy, despite her experience in rubbing people as foreplay, has no expertise at all in real massage. The woman “likely had one of the most meh massages of her life.”
3. They Cater To Fetishes In The Lamest Way
Have a fetish? Go see a dom. Too poor for a dom? Go see a masseuse! The second-class experience will embarrass you both, but for some customers, it’s the best option.
For example, a shy client once asked Amy to tie him up, which is rather vanilla, as fetishes go. But he didn’t have any rope. Either he was too cheap or he plain had no idea where to buy any. So he produced a tiny pair of shoelaces, perhaps taken from a battered pair of his own sneakers. “Luckily, I was already aware of a few knots,” says Amy, “but come on.”
Another guy, a repeat customer, was into golden showers, but Amy’s bladder was never prepared. “So in the middle of the massage, I had to [drink some water] and pray for it to come out. Oh God. It’s like when you force yourself to cum after jerking off. It hurts and just plain sucks.” And afterward, she had to clean the room up — she cleaned after every client, carting sheets to the laundry room and disposing of other messes in her room’s dedicated cum bucket. At least her stubborn urinary sphincter eased this part a bit. “Given I could hardly pee, it was more of a golden sprinkle than a shower.”
But even if Amy sometimes laughs at her own performances, clients go away satisfied. Like the one guy — 6’2″, 200 lbs. — who walked in looking for a piggyback ride. He wanted to stay clothed during the piggyback ride, and he wanted the rider clothed as well. As a variation on this, he was up for the lady doing squats while he perched on top of her.
“All the girls noped out of the room,” says Amy. But not her. “OH, IT WAS ON. Look, I needed to do it. Most people are all about the in and out, but the quirky ones are my favorite.” He paid her around 60 bucks for this — which, now that she thinks about it, probably didn’t make up for the body stress, but she accepted the offer and paraded him on her back gladly. She couldn’t resist. “He was like a sexual unicorn,” she says. “I didn’t know if I would see that again.”
There are other, less strenuous ways to cater to client fantasies. For instance, clients always want women who are foreign or from far away, since that’s what a masseuse is in their minds. “They basically were looking for something exotic, something different,” says Amy. Asians are very popular, since an Asian masseuse is a familiar stereotype. Black girls are popular, too.
“It’s possibly the one place where being white is a disadvantage,” she says. Still, Amy made do. She simply pretended to be “European.” Not belonging to any country in particular; just European in general. She’d be “Kim” the foreigner. “It’s cute and short. I would be a naughty girl saving up for my education. Clients always want to hear a nice story about yourself so they can feel like they are doing a good deed.” Of course, if a client happened to pop in during school hours, student Kim would still be right there in the parlor instead of the classroom, so she had to trust no one could put two and two together.
This worked well enough for the most part. Then, one day, the guy walking into the reception area happened to be one of her old classmates, from back when she had been a schoolgirl. Amy gamely pretended not to recognize him and dug out her European accent (a “European accent” is foreign in a conveniently nonspecific way). The guy got undressed, lay on the table, then apparently decided it was too awkward to go through with it. First he pretended to fall asleep, then got up and loudly claimed he had been robbed. Finally he fessed up, leaving the room and muttering, “Sorry we were so horrible to you in high school.”
2. The Laws Make No Sense
We described earlier the rather convoluted payment process clients have to go through. There’s a reason for that. In some places (your Amsterdams, your Nevadas), prostitution is legal and regulated and taxed. In plenty of other places, it’s flat-out banned. Between those two, you’ve got places where you can legally have sex for money, but can’t do much anything else associated with running the business. The goal is to crack down on pimping and other forms of exploitation without hauling sex workers themselves to jail, and managing that gets messy. In Britain, for example, you can accept money for sex, but you can’t advertise your services, run a brothel, loiter on the streets, or “incite” prostitution.
In Canada … well, in Canada, things are extra screwy. One law bans being “found in a bawdy house” (yes, the Canadian legal term is “bawdy house,” which is appropriate, given that Canadian judges dress like Santa Claus). Yet having sex for money in such a house is legal. Then there’s the law banning “living off the avails” of prostitution. As Amy describes it, “You could have sex — you just couldn’t tell them your prices or talk about it on the phone. Even more odd is that you’re not allowed to use that money to pay your bills or rent.” She would use the money for bills and rent, of course, but she wasn’t allowed to.
To skirt the law as much as they can, masseuses don’t officially charge for sex at all. The client only pays for the supposed massage — in this case, $30 for 30 minutes, and $50 for the hour. Everything beyond that (“typically $40 for a hand job, $80 for a BJ, and $120 for all-in”) is a …