In light of an Atlantan massage therapist recently charged for prostitution during an undercover sting, the question of what constitutes the difference between prostitution and what slides under the radar as a consensual sexual exchange between strangers, such as a happy ending to a massage appointment, begged to be defined. Or, possibly, redefined.
Of course it is known prostitution is illegal in this country, but yet it is verifiably one of the most lucrative businesses in the black market economy. Beyond being the oldest profession there is, the term “prostitution” seems to be eking its way into quantitative business practices, like massage therapy. Ok. Maybe making the leap from someone paying for sex and someone paying for a full body massage is not entirely inconceivable to some, but the two are quite different endeavors. Although a massage can be intimate, find some hidden reserves within that have long been asleep, and make one vulnerable, the emotional, or palpable connection can be discussed away because of the amazing power of touch. A hug can do similar damage. I mean, help in a similar way. Humans need touch, although at times it can be uncomfortable. Who wasn’t nervous for their first kiss? But on a first date, what’s one of the main questions? Should I kiss her? Is he gonna expect me to kiss him? If we don’t kiss, is that bad? How many Cosmopolitan articles have been written on the subject? Seriously. When it’s consensual, strangers intimately touching one another isn’t the problem. Than what is?
Is it all about the money?
Maybe the question we need to ask is not who is paying for it, seeking it out, but who is offering it. Why would a licensed professional, who’s already making an established hourly rate offer more than the status quo? Is a happy ending the new status quo? Anything for an extra buck? Convincing, but it may not be the only reason, although it’s a persuasive one.
Becky Knight, a Charlotte clinical sexologist, interviewed a local massage therapist, who during their first appointment subtlety (or not so) suggested that he would be happy to make himself available for more than the usual. His approach was appropriately clinical. He said he practiced the art of vulva massage, and he was willing to practice his technique on her if she was interested. A little bewildered by the insinuation initially, Knight played out the appointment congenially and tuned in with a therapist’s ear.
Her therapist, the masseuse, the gentleman who offered to do whatever she wanted in there, because no one would ever know, began to discuss with her why he loved pleasing women so much. “They trust me. They get to know me, and they feel safe asking me. They know I’m not going to make anything more of it than what it is.” He believes women respond to his unique perspective, interest in their bodies, and persuasive style of making them feel relaxed. He lights candles, asks what kind of music they like to listen to, what scents and oils they prefer. He listens to what they want and delivers it without judgment. The experience is solely about them. And, as a bonus, the women get to forget about their lives and walk away without being attached to the intimacy or the layers of baggage and discord that tend to distance couples. He commented on a client who said she would rather pay for sex with him and get what she wanted on her terms than have sex with her husband. Whenever she got a massage from her husband, she knew it was always going to lead to sex, and she could never relax. But with her massage therapist, it was different. She got to call the shots.
The masked masseuse says many of his clients are also single, professional women who do not have the time to date and are highly focused on their careers. For them, it’s all about efficiency. “The art of vulva massage” does not sound like a cat and mouse game. It sounds like it is really about one thing only. The woman’s parts, making her feel good, and releasing tension. Although in Knight’s encounter, he suggested the “practice,” he said most of the time the women make the first move. They will moan expressively while he is touching a particular area and ask him to go deeper, ask him to touch their breasts, to rub their behinds, or they will turn over and place his hands between their legs. He said, in most instances, the women make it very obvious what they are after.
Although he considers himself a massage therapist and not a prostitute, Mr. Massage Therapist does provide happy endings to women who pay for the difference in his appointments. Usually, he makes house calls to ensure he won’t endanger his position at the massage parlor. Since the appointment is all about the woman, he’ll do whatever they want, including toys, digital stimulation, penetration. He said the extra charge is $200. But in Knight’s case, was the initial offering a tease? Or is practicing the art of vulva massage free of charge? Does it make a difference if it is free? If it is free, is practicing at the place of business excused?
In his experience women would rather see him than, often times, their own partners, or someone they could meet in a bar, or meet on a dating service, because there’s no other obligation. What has happened in society that now sex therapy has turned into a sex vacation for what is not available at home? Or with people who want to know one another beyond an exchange of sensation, stimulation, and money? Has sex become something thought about more safely outside of one’s self? Outside of one’s personal bubble? Are there more bridges to cross within one’s own personal relationship that it is easier to ask your chiropractor to give you a titty-twister than your boyfriend to rub your shoulders?
Knight remarked in her interview that she never did receive any bonus features from her guy. Yet, his nonchalance towards his illegitimate practices intrigued her enough to get to know him, and she says they became friends. His perspective and optimistic outlook was at least interesting enough for data entry. However, Knight does not appear to be one to judge too harshly. I wonder how she would weigh in on the difference: Should a happy ending be considered prostitution, irrelevant of the party’s hankerings? Or should what happens behind closed doors stay behind closed doors?
Opinion by Stacy Feder