“Well, duh!” is my response to shocker stories about massage schools enabling prostitution. The problem is, why should anyone care?
State regulation of massage is based on two premises: (1) that prostitution is bad and (2) that massage requires skills so specialized that the state must protect the public by ensuring that applicants have them. Both premises are wrong.
Myths About Prostitution
On (1): Never pass up a chance to ding prostitution seems to be the official policy in many states. Why? Because we learned in Sunday school that it’s bad. Now the ante has been raised by invoking white-slavery. The high presence of Asians in the field must mean that they are being trafficked, as opposed to merely trying to earn a living. White-slavery is the latest progressive cause du jour but the number of women who are actually turned into indentured servants — the old-fashioned name for forcing people to work to repay debts — seems to be minimal. It is also illegal. There are large numbers of Koreans who run corner stores, or Somalis who drive cabs. Ethnic over-representation in certain fields is as old as time and not necessarily evidence of exploitation.
But if these young Asian women are working as prostitutes as opposed to selling milk in the Piggly Wiggly? Here progressive sensitivity goes into hyperdrive. We, the woke, are in favour of polyamory but against middle-aged white guys who go to massage parlors for a hand-job? Polyamory doesn’t involve payments; hand-jobs do. They are a form of prostitution.
Listen: Prostitutes are just normal people who have chosen the sex trade to make a living. This is not intrinsically bad, unless you are a Southern Baptist or an associate professor of sociology who dislikes the optics of male sexual desperateness. This American hang-up over sex-for-money is ludicrous in international terms.
Why License Masseuses?
On (2): It is not clear to me why masseuses require state licenses anymore than babysitters require them. Giving regular, non-sexual massages is not rocket-science. Nor is it clear to me why we require barbers and hair-dressers to have licenses, except as the result of guild pressure to reduce competition. Electricians are one thing, but massage? The USA Today piece seems very exercised about this, as though circumventing licensing requirements was comparable to circumventing the electricians’ exam. And the discovery that “massage schools” are actually producing prostitutes! Oh, my!
Some states remove your license if you’re discovered giving hand-jobs. You weren’t licensed to get guys off! This is further evidence that the whole apparatus of state licensing needs to be rethought. We aren’t protecting the public with massage licenses. The public wants sex! If you have a willing buyer and a willing seller, the state should butt out (pun intended).
Those eager investigative reporters should be going after voter suppression or puppy mills. Let these young Asian women earn a decent living.