Archive for June 7th, 2011

Unless we include a job as part of every citizen’s right to autonomy and personal fulfillment, women will continue to be vulnerable to someone else’s idea of what “need” is.  –  Gloria Steinem

I always find it fascinating when women in professions which are only barely different from prostitution (such as stripping or domination) or historically connected to prostitution (such as acting and massage) get all holier-than-thou, proclaiming themselves “better” than we are or even attacking us as “criminals” or “degenerates” or whatever.  Some of them even become actively involved in prohibition, in an obvious attempt to distance themselves from us and pretend that their jobs are not remotely similar.  Recently, A.K. Smith called to my attention this example from the June issue of Massage Today; though I can completely sympathize with any profession wanting to prevent credential fraud, the author’s wounded, self-righteous tone reveals this as a mere cloak for an anti-whore philippic.

For decades, the massage profession has battled the stereotype that it is a front for prostitution.  While the occasional bad apple can still be found in the bunch, the profession has made significant strides in recent years to combat this false belief.  Hospitals and health care centers nationwide have begun to embrace massage as a compliment to their traditional medical practices and most states have established licensing criteria for professionals who have the proper education and skills to become legitimate practitioners.

Right, and in civilized countries nursing homes have begun to embrace prostitution as a means of satisfying the needs of their patients for sex and companionship, and many of those countries have licensing criteria for prostitutes as well.  So by the author’s own logic, that makes our profession every bit as “legitimate” as hers.  I might also point out that if our profession were decriminalized, nobody would need to use hers or any other as a “front”.

Nevertheless, criminals have continued to sully the profession’s good name and in California an investigation by the state’s certification board has uncovered their latest tactic:  phony massage school transcripts.  Amazingly, prior to the investigation by California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), it was legal to sell a fake transcript in the state.  Transcripts – along with criminal history records – are key credentials in the state’s massage therapist certification system that allows therapists to practice legally.  The investigation began when the CAMTC discovered patterns in which certain “schools” seemed to have large numbers of graduating student[s] with prostitution arrest records.  Armed [with] this and information from other sources, the CAMTC brought in an undercover investigator who would discover that these “graduates,” mostly women of South Asian and South American descent, were part of a vast network of human traffickers profiting from prostitution.

Since it’s no longer fashionable to attack whores as criminals merely for being whores, the author dresses them up as “human traffickers” instead.  And not just plain old garden variety “traffickers” either, oh no!  They were “part of a vast network”! You saw it here first, readers; the California Massage Therapy Council did what the FBI couldn’t:  uncover PROOF of a “vast network” of traffickers!  Maybe we should put the CAMTC in charge of federal criminal investigations, since they’re so good at it.

The undercover investigator found that human traffickers were selling phony massage school transcripts so prostitutes could pose as legitimate therapists and work or operate massage parlors that are nothing more than fronts…”Police departments who work with us, gave us every prostitution arrest along with the name of the schools they claimed they had gone to,” said the investigator.  Information was also obtained from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, as well as states like Texas that maintain close records of prostitution arrests.

The horror!  The horror!  We’ve gotta keep them dirty whores out of every other profession…oops, I mean rescue them from human trafficking by preventing their holding down other jobs in the future…oops, I mean rescue them from enslavement by keeping them out of trained jobs so they can only work the most menial…hmmmm…what do I mean?

At a visit to one of these “schools,” the investigator was taken to the back to meet with the Assistant School Director.  “This one in particular looked nothing like a school.  It was an ordinary house.  Not to be stereotyping, but she looked like a madam with very provocative clothing and makeup.  I told her I was interested in (buying a transcript) and she said ‘yes, no problem’ and asked me to come back in a few days with a check,” said the investigator.  “Some operated that way, at others, I was in and out with a transcript in two hours”…The investigator told Massage Today that in one waiting room, there were “many young women of Asian descent dressed provocatively.”  The investigator also said several of the bogus schools that came under scrutiny were also clearly houses of prostitution.  “At this one place, it was pretty obvious they were conducting prostitution on the premises.  The men who ran the place were lecherous and disgusting and had no qualms about commenting on my appearance,” the investigator said.  “In one of the schools, I was in an office with a sliding door to the exterior.  Men kept coming in that way saying they were there for massage appointments, but they looked and acted like johns,” the investigator said…

My jaw literally dropped on reading this section; I’m picturing the writer as a 90-year-old schoolmarm clutching her pearls.  The pervasive racism of the entire article, the obsession with the women’s clothing, the use of tortured phraseology (“conducting prostitution on the premises”), the incredible subjectivity of the “investigator’s” statements (“the men…were lecherous and disgusting”) and the asinine 19th century stereotypes (how does she know what a so-called “john” looks or acts like?  Personal experience perhaps?) would make me think this whole article was a bad joke if it hadn’t been published in an actual trade publication; I honestly had to check to make sure I wasn’t reading The Onion.  But what do I know about prostitution?  I obviously can’t be a “real” madam, because I’m not Asian or South American and don’t wear “very provocative clothing and makeup.”

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