The City of West Hollywood’s Code Compliance Division has partnered with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to conduct inspections of six of nine local massage parlors staffed largely by Asian women who provide illicit massages.
Daniel Rivas, the city’s code compliance manager, said the inspections began on May 23 and that all six massage parlor businesses have been notified that they are in violation of city law and will be inspected again to ensure they meet the city’s requirements. Rivas declined to name the businesses or state what specific parts of the city’s massage parlor ordinance were being violated. The Sheriff’s deputies involved focused on violation of state laws. No one has been arrested.
Sheriff’s Capt. Ed Ramirez has said that the inspections focused on the massage parlors cited in a story published on March 16 by WEHOville. That story noted that reviews of nine massage parlors in West Hollywood have been posted on a website called RubMaps.com that describes itself as offering “erotic massage parlor reviews & happy endings.”
“Re-inspections will occur in the near future to ensure corrective action has been completed; if not, citations will be issued,” Rivas said in an email responding to an inquiry from WEHOville. “The remaining massage parlors in the city will likewise be inspected as part of this operation. The city has zero tolerance of unlawful conduct in massage parlors.”
The city ordinance governing massage parlors stipulates things that must be done to ensure the premises are clean and healthy and that the masseurs and masseuses do not expose their genitalia or breast. The ordinance also requires that the parlors close by 10 p.m., a requirement that is frequently violated. Some parlors on RubMaps actual state later closing hours, with one listing its as 2 a.m.
The more than 700 highly erotic reviews posted by customers of the West Hollywood and La Cienega Boulevard massage parlors on RubMaps describe paid sexual encounters with young and middle-aged women, most of whom are Asian or Latina. On RubMaps the parlors are described as offering Asian, Chinese, Dominican, Korean, Latina and Thai massage, with only one labeled as offering “Caucasian massage.”
It is likely that many of the women, who commenters note often don’t speak English, are victims of sex trafficking. One Caucasian massage parlor worker interviewed by WEHOville said that the women are required to offer sex to massage parlor customers. The parlor owners keep the basic massage parlor fee, which can be as little as $40 for 30 minutes or $60 for 60 minutes. However the masseuses are allowed to keep most and in some cases all of the fee they charge for performing sex on their customers, money they wire back to their families in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Korea. Typically, the masseuses do not have the certification under city law, which requires completing training, undergoing a background check and paying a fee.
The New York Times published a story on March 2 about the preponderance of massage parlors in the United States that are staffed by Asian women who offer sexual services. The Times story describes a “$3 billion-a-year sex industry that relies on pervasive secrecy, close-knit ownership rings and tens of thousands of mostly foreign women ensnared in a form of modern indentured servitude an industry.”
That story revealed that many of the foreign women are essentially held captive, with the massage parlor owners holding their passports and requiring them to sleep in the parlors or in other buildings owned by them. Some of the women are said to have been lured to come to the United States to earn money that they could wire to their families. Some were tricked into believing they were being recruited for work that didn’t involve giving sexual favors.