Real massage parlours fade in the shadow of sex shops
BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE proliferation of sex shops across the island, particularly in Kingston and St Andrew, has resulted in the closure of what one owner describes as ‘real’ massage parlours.
According to the owner of one of these ‘real’ massage parlours, who gave her name only as Felicia, when she started business 10 years ago, there were more than 20 establishments in Kingston that offered real massage services. However, today the number is down to four.
According to Felicia, the four that now remain have changed their branding from massage parlours to spas, in an effort to differentiate themselves from the illicit sex shops.
“What really upset me is that when they talk about massage parlours, everybody think it is a sex shop. But I want people to understand that massage parlour is different from sex shop,” she told the Jamaica Observer last week.
“Sex shop is when you go to a place and pay straight up for sex. When you go to a massage parlour, that does not include sex. People are getting it confused,” Felicia added.
She was responding to a recent Sunday Observer report on the ill-treatment being meted out to young female workers at sex shops, which advertise massage services.
“Years ago, about 20 massage parlours were in Kinston, not sex shops, and most of them have closed down, because of these people. First time when you buy an Observer and look in it, [it full… and none of them were sex shops. But they slowly went out of business. Now, there are only four of us left in Kingston, three in Montego Bay and two in Ocho Rios,” she said, explaining that she communicates regularly with the owners of other establishments like hers.
Felicia said that she remains in business because she has already established a name for herself, and her clients know what she offers.
“I have a set of clients and even if they go overseas and come back they will be coming back to my place,” she said. “All when I’m dying for hunger I will not go over the phone and advertise sex. I will not. There are times when I don’t even get one client for the day. That is why some people lock down, because they say the sex shops are taking over.”
She said that while the amount of money that her business makes varies, on a good day she can take in $20,000, while on a bad day, only $8,000 is made.
She explained that when they didn’t have the level of competition from sex shops, they made up to $50,000 for the day.
“Now, $20,000 is a good day. So you see we not making anything,” Felicia said, adding that she has to pay rent, water, electricity bills and salaries to her workers every fortnight from the money made, as well as General Consumption Tax, because hers is a registered business.
One girl, she explained, is paid between $7,000 and $8,000 per week.
“People have been asking how the four of us in business so long. But it’s a pity they don’t know we are all struggling, because it’s not like it used to be before,” she said.
“I have heard clients say that when they want sex, they go to ‘those places’, and when they want massage they come to us,” she said. “But the number of clients has decreased a lot over the years.”
Felicia explained that she recently moved to a new location and right now business is “not bad” because the clients follow.
Asked to explain what types of services her parlour provides, Felicia listed sensuous, Swedish, and therapeutic massages, as well as body scrubs, facials, manicures and pedicures.
The sensuous, she explained, is a full body massage which includes massaging the genital area until the client reaches a climax. “But there is no sex involved in that massage,” Felicia emphasised. “Oil or a lotion is used on the body and you have to massage the entire body. Some men say they would rather come and do that than cheat on their wives when their wives are away. Trust me, it is very relaxing,” she stated.
According to Felicia, both men and women will come in for the sensuous massage, which costs $3,000.
The Swedish, she explained further, is a deeper type massage of the muscles and joints, during which the body is stroked.
The therapeutic is similar to the Swedish, except that during this massage the muscles and joints are penetrated, as against stroked. The Swedish goes for $5,000, while the cost of the therapeutic is $4,000.
Felicia said that the masseuses have to be trained and certified in order to be able to perform the services, especially in the therapeutic and Swedish massages.
The body scrub entails the use of a number of ingredients to scrub the body with the intent of removing dead skin. This service is for $2,200.
Today, Felicia has seven girls who, she said, are trained and certified in the art of massage.
She explained that the workers range in age from 18 to 40 and some attend evening classes or university. The money they make is used to pay for their education. Some, however, do the job simply because they like it.
“And you find that the men who come for massage like mature persons who they can talk to,” Felicia said. “So the girls work like psychologists sometimes.
“You cannot walk into our place and ask for private service, because we don’t provide that. But if they do, we encourage them to take the massages that we offer and some will consent. However, there are still those who will walk away,” Felicia said.
“I am not going to be a hypocrite, because at the same time we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but we don’t advertise that and we don’t promote that,” she said.
Felicia explained that the women working for her are required to sign contractual agreements which forbid sexual intercourse with clients on or off the compound. She conceded, however, that it is impossible to monitor who their employees spend time with outside of work hours.
She said that when she just started the business she was offering sensuous massages. However, she sought and did training in order to offer more.
“It’s not a thing where I am selling my body,” she said. “And no one was asking me to. So I said, ‘OK then, this is something I can do’.”
She said that image painted on the business by illicit sex shops is discouraging young women who want to learn the art of giving massages.
“Once upon a time you place an ad that says ‘ladies wanted to do massage’ or ‘massage therapist needed’ and you used to have a lot of females calling. Now, people running away from it, because if they tell anybody that they going to do massage they say is sex they are going to sell. So it’s very hard to get girls coming into the industry,” she said.
“What persons don’t understand is that if 100 men come in for the day, out of the 100, 95 per cent will just lie down and take their massage. They don’t request anything else, while the others will. Of that 100, about 50 will do the sensuous and out of that 50 you will have about five asking for intercourse.”
She said also that in an effort to differentiate her establishment from others, she enforced a rule that the women employed by her cannot dress in anything skimpy. They must wear bush jackets.
“We don’t want to be like the sex shops. So during the day they wear bush jackets and in the nights they can wear anything, but nothing skimpy. We want to be different,” Felicia said.
While the girls are not fined whenever they do anything inappropriate, they are still expected to not do certain things, like beg clients.
Felicia disputed claims that sex is offered for more than $1,000 in the sex shops, adding that two services which include intercourse and oral sex go for $1,500.
“I don’t understand why they are selling their bodies so cheap,” she said. “When you are in a massage parlour like ours, you get a tip. The men will look at you and say ‘well done’ and you get a $1,500 or a $2,000 for a tip. And if you do three clients for the day and you add up that plus your pay, then come on! So I don’t know why they would go and sell their bodies for $1,500 and the boss gets 50 per cent and they get 50 per cent. They have to have sex with 10 men to make $5,000,” Felicia reasoned. “They will tell you that they make more money, but it’s a lie ... is shame dem shame; is $1,000 they charge for sex, and they can make more than that at the straight massage parlour.”
Interviews with two regular male visitors to sex shops revealed that intercourse can be had for $1,000 in the establishments, $1,500 for two services and $3,000 for anal sex.
Felicia said that certain prices will attract certain men and there are some she would not want to attract.
“I don’t like to take girls who used to work in those places because they are coming in with the expectation of seeing many men coming in.”
She said that if she does employ girls exposed to sex shops they leave soon after because they say business is too slow there.
The massage parlour owner said that should she find out that one of her girls has been having intercourse with a client, then she would receive a warning.
“Guess what, you have private investigator and you have police who will come into the place to check. So we have to be very careful. And sometimes you don’t even know them because they come in as a client. So that is why we have to have the contract and the contract has been from a long time,” she said.
Felicia said that she also offers an escort service.
“Escort is dating, or if someone wants to go to a function. It’s not sex. But I get to understand that some people do it now and it includes sex. But it’s better they were doing that and charge the men $15,000 or $20,000,” she said.
“We provide escort service because you find that people who come in the island may want someone to dine with or go to functions with, she said. “But we don’t have that a lot now. Back in the days we used to have it a lot.”
She added: “I want people to know that there are real massage parlours and they are good massage parlours.”