“Strippers, massage parlor attendants, and hookers, oh my!”
Dorothy uttered the once famous line in the movie the Wizard of Oz, “Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my!” as she exclaimed in exasperation in response to the eclectic mix of creatures that laid before her in the surreal realm of Oz.
Similarly, this essay should encapsulate the consortium of different girls who use sexuality as a barter for cold hard cash, available to be called upon for the purposes of serving horny men. I want to actually make clear distinctions between these three subgroups of the main parent group of sex workers. The words whore, slut, skank, are sometimes used interchangeably between strippers, massage parlor attendants, and prostitutes. A venn diagram can be drawn illustrating how characteristics of one group may overlap with characteristics of another group. However, each of them have their own distinct features, with ability to separate one typecast from another typecast. It’s interesting what the opinion of one group has of another one as well.
First off, we’ll start off with strippers. What are the requirements for strippers? By this, I don’t mean formal, legitimate, educational qualifications. What is implied by this are the actual skills you need, that you don’t necessarily get from formal schooling.
Stripping is commonly legal. It is legal in my city. However, you need to pay a fee of 400 dollars in order to get licensed. Yes. A license to strip. You can call it the government’s way of dipping their hands into the pockets of strippers. They make enough money as it is, right? What’s 400 dollars to them. This 400 dollar fee is actually a barrier to some girls, who just don’t want to pay that much for this kind of thing.
You do need quite a bit of stamina and dancing skills in order to become a stripper. There are strip classes out there for those to try out, perhaps to impress their boyfriends. There are also poles one can install in their rooms for more practice. You know what they say, practice makes perfect. Pole dancing competitions are commonly held inside strip clubs. It is a good way to keep your body in shape as well, as it offers up a sweat. Only the veterans grace the stage with their repartee as they work the pole with their magic. If you are a newbie or amateur, you do not want to go up on stage and perform in front of the pole, nor do you need to.
The atmosphere in strip clubs among the girls can be fierce. All of the girls are there, and they’re there for one reason only: money. They have to hustle. They eye an unsuspecting horny bastard, walk up to them, unleashing their prowess as they flirt with them, donning their bright red lipstick, halter top, and high-heeled shoes. Chit chat is just a means to an end. Banter might be involved between the girls and the men they want money from. A girl may chuckle and laugh and then innocently brush their hands somewhere it may not belong, perhaps below the belt, to arouse men. Maybe that’s kind of like the magic password in order to get the men to give into paying for a lap dance.
A lap dance is something that is usually 20 dollars for a song. The time can go by, and the man can end up paying in excess of 100 dollars if they’ve spent more than half an hour with a girl in the lounge. The stripper is there to take off her clothes and flaunt her sexuality in a provocative way, but she does not go all the way with the men. That is not allowed.
Communing with the other girls, or striking up a conversation, can be seen as an underhanded ploy to distract a stripper from their prey. “Oh hi, how are you? How long have you been a stripper for? Do you like this job?” with a mischievous smile are undertones with the underlying message-“hey, he’s mine, or hey hun, you’re not getting anything today”.
So it’s a jungle out there. You have to be on the ball when it comes to hustling and making money. You have to really play the seduction game in order to catch your prey. You are distracted by other girls who want money as well. It’s all about competition. Who can work the pole the best. Who spends their off-time mastering their craft. That’s what it’s like inside a strip club. It’s a playground and free for all for one to eat one another up. It’s hard to befriend other women. The ultimate objective is to filter out any underlying distractions in order to seduce a man into paying for a lap dance. The aggressiveness through which these girls approach men can be seen as overt assertiveness, which may backfire or entice, depending.
If you’re not a fan of paying a 400 dollar license fee, or you just don’t want to walk around and compete with other women to find men to give lap dances to, there is prostitution as well. Prostitution is different from stripping. Like stripping though, there are no educational requirements.
Prostitution is actually hailed as the oldest profession in the world. It seems as though the only constant over time is an inordinate amount of men who want to have sex a prostitute. The demand will always be there.
For one, prostitution is more stigmatized by society, and labelled as much more dangerous. It is something that differs from stripping, and falls at the extreme end of the spectrum. Prostitution is illegal. Police can charge one with a ticket for solicitation if they are caught exchanging sexual services for money. Prostitutes don’t congregate together right in the middle of an open, public venue like a strip club in order to flaunt their sexuality.
Rather, some prostitutes can be street prostitutes, who come out late at night to look for clients. They can be lonely women who walk the streets, who may be desperate to make any kind of quick money to get them through the rest of the week. Prostitutes can be ones who dress up in a certain way, and approach men on the street to indicate the kinds of services they offer. They are completely independent.
There are also prostitutes who might work for an escort agency, forming some kind of community with other sex workers and management who work in the sex industry. There are also those who work in brothels, such as the legal Bunny Ranch in Nevada, where there is also more of a sense of community among the girls. Among a brothel, clients step in and choose among several prostitutes whom they would like to spend an hour or two with, for a paid hourly rate.
Prostitutes provide full service, unlike strippers. A lot of them can make outcalls and incalls. Believe it or not, men are more likely to respond to incall ads rather than outcall ads. This is a testament to how stigmatized prostitution is. The men seeking these services want to physically escape their usual physical environment in order to spend a few hours with a prostitute. Perhaps they are hiding something from a wife, a girlfriend, a roomate, the rest of society.
Prostitutes charge, on average, about 200 dollars an hour. That would work out to be 10 lap dances. It is easier to get clients because they don’t have to outright compete with other girls in an open venue like a strip club, and on top work their magic on men in order to get them to pay them for their sexual favors. Both parties enter into an agreement knowing that sex is implied and almost guaranteed.
Prostitution is an economically more profitable industry than stripping, but it is also dangerous due to certain circumstances surrounding prostitution. Sexually transmitted diseases are a risk factor for prostitutes. Since prostitution is more discreet and private than stripping, the risk factors such as physical abuse, drug abuse, are even more of a concern for them than for strippers who work inside strip clubs. Drugs are commonly associated with prostitution. Some prostitutes may have pimps who handle their finances and the kinds of clients they may get for the night. These are men with power who may or may not abuse the prostitutes who work under them.
Somewhere in between stripping and prostitution are massage parlors. I can probably explain the massage parlor industry in more depth and detail than stripping or prostitution, since what I’ve shared about prostitution and stripping was based upon hearsay from friends who have immersed themselves into these lines of work.
Are you a whore if you work as a massage parlor attendant? Well, massage parlor attendants go a little further then strippers, but stop short of being prostitutes by withholding from full service. This is where the lines get blurred. They are not whores, but rather, semi-whores, with their own attitudes about anyone who does provide full service and has sex with clients.
There are also different kinds of massage parlors. There are the fully legitimate ones, with registered massage therapists who provide a massage, and that’s about it. They don’t give ‘happy endings’, they don’t give blowjobs, they don’t provide ‘full service’(implying sex). For the purposes of discussion, we are going to exclude the legitimate ones with registered massage therapists. A lot of massage parlor attendants who do give happy endings, who work in a type of spa, called a holistic spa, will hide under the guise of legitimacy. They advertise themselves to the public as being a legitimate, holistic, spa.
The holistic spas I worked inside gave off the illusion of being a legitimate one. It was common practice to answer the phone by saying the name of the spa first. If the person on the other end asked whether full service was provided, we usually said that we didn’t provide full service. If they asked about the rates and what kinds of services we offered, we said we couldn’t discuss that over the phone. In fact, we couldn’t discuss those things even when the clients were at the front of the spa, in the reception area. They had to be inside the actual massage room first. This was met with much chagrin to those clients who push for more information, who wanted to know exactly what they are getting.
Sometimes an undercover cop would call. Once, the spa I worked at received a call from ‘Toronto Police”. The man on the other line blatantly asked in the most obvious, scrutinized, blunt manner, ‘so, do you give bbjs, bareback?’. My friend had to answer that she didn’t know what the man was talking about, it gave out hot stone treatments, and then hung up. Other times, an undercover cop can show up at the front door. If they weren’t undercover police, the first course of action was to check whether these girls had their holistic licenses with them. If not, then the girls got charged with a ticket. For undercover cops, it was standard protocol to walk into a room with a girl, and then urge them for full service. Some of the girls at the spas had run into this before. They said that it was obvious it was an undercover cop. Usually, police never take off their underwear, and ask for sexual services right off the bat, being very pushy about it.
During my brief lifetime at two holistic spas, I never personally encountered the police. Undercover cops and getting ticketed for solicitation was a big fear amongst the spa girls though. At one spa, girls were getting into trouble for providing full service a few years ago. There ended up being a raid there, and peepholes had to be installed in order to check up on whether the girls were giving blowjobs or full service. I head stories here and there of girls being charged for not having their license with them, or anecdotes about blatantly obvious undercover cops.
The bottom line is that holistic spa girls took on the collective attitude that any girl who provided full service was a “whore”, and therefore tainted. Even though the attendants who gave happy endings at these holistic spas were already performing sexual services at that point as well, the line between saint and sinner was drawn between handjob and sex.
In addition to holistic spas, there were body rub spas, and asian massage parlors, which held higher likelihoods of investigations and raids. Body rub spas required a body rub license. It costs a few hundred dollars more than holistic licenses, and it was more socially acceptable to go all the way with clients at these establishments. Asian massage parlors are generally known to have attendants who provide more proper therapeutic massages, and were more prone to provide full service. I worked in Canadian massage parlors, where there were an eclectic mix of ethnicities. One girl I worked with said that she worked at Asian massage parlor before that encouraged happy endings. She said that the tipping scales were much lower, and hence, couldn’t make as much as she would have liked per customer.
You were more likely to make the most money at a body rub spa. They were open later, and tended to attract more clients later in the evening. In contrast, holistic spas were open during the day and closed during the night, and played the card of being the unsuspecting legitimate therapeutic massage spas sandwiched between the other credible stores and establishments open during the day. They were near restaurants, grocery stores, mom and pop shops. They were hard to spot for their practices, since no holistic spa would blatantly put up a sign in front of their window proclaiming “We give happy endings. 50% off discount price to new members!”, or something of that sort.
A lot of the holistic spa girls sneered at body rub spa girls. They described them as being whores with no morality, in contradiction to them, who maintained their innocence by doing everything except going all the way with them. It was standard practice to fire girls who dared do more than give an innocent client a happy ending. One spa girl I used to work with, described to me her experience working at this infamous body rub spa at the north end of the city for one day. She said, “they are such skanks! They all said, ‘we love sucking dick!’”. The other girl chimed in and shared her experience there: “I was able to make a lot there, I made about 800 dollars in a week, but these men expected a lot more, and these girls appeared to be the biggest sluts ever”.
The collective attitude of holistic spas demonizing sex within an industry that sold sexual favours was something I did not expect to encounter. Girls would sometimes use the ‘sex’ card in order to pit one girl up against another. “Does she or doesn’t she provide full service to these men? Maybe that’s why she’s getting regulars and doing so well. She’s such a slut, that’s for sure”. These kinds of accusations were not uncommon.
All in all though, holistic spa girls were somewhat more of a tight-knit, closed group. The standard procedure was for the girls to hang around together in the common area, and wait for a client to come in. There weren’t a lot of girls who worked at these spas, on average about 10 or less. I remember the lounges having a main T.V, where girls tended to watch Jersey Shore together and Maury, and shout in front of the T.V screen over which bastard wouldn’t own up to being the father of the child. (As we all know, 90% of all Maury episodes consist of paternity tests). They would help each other comb their hair, put in their weaves, apply some lipliner. If this spa was understaffed, the girls inevitably ended up synchronizing their menstrual cycles, as they spent so much time together in their little dug out, hiding from society.
What was the procedure when a client walked through the door? If a client came in, every girl would one by one, step in front of the man and introduce herself, and her fake name. The man shook hands with each girl, and then had to make a decision as to which girl he was going to stay with for the session. There were never more than 4 girls to choose from at one time. The man chose 30, 45, or 1 hour sessions, each with incrementally higher rates based on time. The standard session involved the man showering, getting undressed, and then getting a massage. About 15 min in, the girl would offer him the options of either a topless, nude reverse, or a bodyslide with the happy ending. The nude was the cheapest, nude reverse was more expensive, and the bodyslide was the most expensive, since it was the closest one could get to sex, but not have sex.
Topless was topless. You had to take off your top to give him the handjob. Nude reverse allowed the man to massage you. Bodyslide allowed you to get up and grind your body up against his, but not go there-sex. Unlike stripping, there were no competitions to see which girl was the best at her craft in session, and had the most skills in sexual seduction. It was a private session between a man and a woman, with the man gauging whether he was satisfied enough with it.
So, with all that’s been said, is the massage parlor industry profitable? It depends on the kinds of massage parlor. To also note, the massage parlor industry was not what it used to be years ago. Girls made at least a couple hundred, or a grand a week. These days, it’s more common for girls to make a couple hundred a week inside a holistic massage parlor if they don’t work many shifts.
In the long-term, if one were to stay in this line of work permanently, they would have to work hard at attracting regulars. It was common for new girls to do really well in the first few months, and then lose clients, since being the flavor of the week novelty had worn off. There were some really well-known regulars with their little quirks that all the girls knew as well. They would come in, week after week, and girls recognized their face immediately, and what kind of perverse fetishes they had. Every now and then, you would get a client who had just heard of the place, and just stepped in to give it a try.
Attitudes and behaviors among the girls were contingent upon money. On good days, when the spa was busy, and every girl made their share of money, they would say to a girl, “okay, I’ll sit this one out. Do you want to walk out and take him?”. During dry spells for the business, the resentments towards one another often boiled down to money. When girls got chosen over other girls a lot, they were more financially successful. Some girls may have gotten the ‘she gives full service card-that’s why they keep coming back card’, or the ‘that’s why she keeps them in there for so long’ card. Little scuffles also arose when girls didn’t do their share of the laundry. This was a massage parlor, with an abundance of towels and sheets that needed to be thrown into the washer and dryer after a session with a client. They needed to be folded properly in order to look nice for future use. Sometimes girls projected their frustrations at not having made enough that week, onto a girl’s cleaning habits. Really, these girls were angry at something though. Not that you didn’t put enough Gain laundry detergent in the washer, but rather, that they didn’t make enough money to pay rent that week.
Sometimes the insatiable need for money would compel a girl to steal, which happened at the spas I worked at. They either tried to steal the clients, or the money, or both. Management, which was usually a man who never really kept a good hold on the girls in terms of restricting policies, often let this slide. Although men owned these spas, it were the girls who were running the show. Since there were no legitimate, legally enforced rules at spas, they let their emotions get the best of them sometimes.
Inevitably, girls quit or got fired because they couldn’t stand a few other girls. However, it was easy to get re-hired sometimes, yet the animosity between one girl and another was enough to repulse them from working there again. Other times, other girls made their exit because they are able to find a stable source of income elsewhere, in a respectable part of society, performing labour they were able put on their resume. I knew some girls who had been there for 10 years. I made my foray into this industry and got my feet wet and stayed for a few months at two spas. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for me, and a lot of my misconceptions about massage parlor work were crushed when I got a first hand look at what really went on inside holistic spas.
More people are commonly aware of what the stripping industries and the prostitution industries are like. Massage parlors are more concealed, even though they operate within the realms of legitimacy and have established boundaries in terms of sexual services. The social groups and the community attitudes formed among strippers, erotic masseuses, and prostitutes can vary too. The sense of community can be disparate, or can be likened to tight-knit bonds molecules may form with one another, which would take the strength of steel to break.
In terms of strippers, these girls are all in the same open venue, who may simply be congenial with other strippers. It is easier to avoid one another, and focus on the job at hand. Then there are massage parlor girls who are forced to spend so much time together, and get to know one another, look out for one another to make sure that a client doesn’t force himself on her, and demand full service. Gossip starts to spread once these girls start to know one other. They may even reveal their real names, and what they do aside from this job. The emotions can run high among girls at holistic spas. And yet, at the end of the spectrum are street prostitutes, who can be street prostitutes, lone rangers braving the streets late at night. They are fending for themselves, scrounging around for clients to appear at the end of the curb while they advertised themselves as street prostitutes with their displays, much in the same way a peacock would display its feathers for sexual invitation from the opposite sex.
Skanks, whores, sluts, lady of the nights- call them with whatever derogatory term you wish. When one looks closely, one will find stark contrasts between one group and another. They are like the assorted colours found in a jelly bean bag. They each have their own distinct colour and characteristic, but offer the same common purpose of fulfilling something for the girls-which is the illusion of money in this industry. The sex worker industry can be smoke and mirrors, because what goes on behind closed doors, and the limitations placed on workers, is often overlooked or not examined closely.