Today, your WoWasiscorrespondents visit North America to report on Apartment Asian Massage Parlors. Also, read the WoWasis post on commonly used AAMP acronyms relating to practices at North American massage parlors). AAMPs, as they are commonly known, are most typically found in large apartment complexes, although a few “float” in hotels. Part of the service consists of a body massage, typically 20 minutes, generally given during the first part of the hour. The women are all Asian, in ages ranging from roughly 23-50. They either come from Asia or are residents in North American countries. If the latter, they often come from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, or Vancouver, areas with high local Asian populations. A very small percentage of the women work out of their own apartments, but most often they work in apartments rented or owned by the companies for whom they work. In the latter case, apartments are changed frequently, particularly in areas where adult massage is illegal. How these women creat an instant “home” in a motel room is a story in itself.
Women come into the business in one of two ways, either by answering a newspaper ad in a foreign country or being told about the work opportunity through a friend.
If hired through answering an ad
If overseas, in China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand, it often works like this. Women answer an ad to work in North America, generally for domestic help positions (they are not being “trafficked against their will, see section below on Trafficking). At the interview, they’re frankly told that it’s sex work, and they can chose to do it or not. If they agree, they pay a fee, generally $1000 (all examples in this article are in USD), to arrange transportation, visas, any necessary bribes, and lodging in a North American city. They can either pay their own airfare or the company will buy it for them. If the latter, round trip open-end airfare to North America is charged at $3,000. In Korea, all potential masseuses must take a class in traditional Korean massage before they leave for North America. They will pay for their lodging in North America at the going rate, generally $1500 per month for a clean, modern apartment, the rental of which may be shared by two or three women. They are expected to work off their debt, generally around $4,000, and may not keep any profit until their debts are paid. This is paid off in a surprisingly short amount of time (see “revenue models” below).
If hired through a referral by a girlfriend
In these cases, the woman is introduced by her friend. This is the standard method for Asian women already residing in North American cities. They incur no setup charges, provide their own transportation (often using their own cars), and essentially pay $60 to the company for each successful transaction. If the referral occurs in a foreign country, the referring girl gets a commission, yet another way for a masseuse to make money. Charges to the new woman may be lower, since her friend will tell her how to buy her own airline ticket and help with other incidentals.
There are three common revenue models for the women:
1) Freelancers work for themselves, and hire a phone operator to field their calls. They pay $5-$10 per call, and keep the rest of the client donation.
2) Women working for a company to which they do not owe debt money keep $100 of a typical $160 fee, and turn over $60 to the company in return for phone operators and scheduling services. They pay standard rents on their apartments (often shared with another masseuse), pay for their own food, and decide the hours and days they’ll work.
3) Indentured women pay their travel debt, commonly $4,000, through working, typically at $140 per working hour. After that, they may set their own rates and may even elect to freelance. How long does it take for an AAMP masseuse to pay off her debt? Women at these establishments, as a rule, see between 2 and 5 clients a day. They mostly work 7 days a week if they’re at an establishment with lower traffic, where the lion’s share of the day is spent in leisure activities waiting for customers. Therefore, on a slow week, therefore, they’ll see 14 clients @ $140 per visit, or $1,960 per week. That pays off the debt in a little over 2 weeks, thus after the first month, the woman who just arrived from overseas has paid all her debt, paid her share of apartment and food, and has made some profit.
If a woman is not indentured (see above), she may move to another house with another employer. All she has to do is leave. Word gets around fast among the masseuses as to who is best to work for, and companies find it’s in their best interests to keep them happy, to prevent churn.
Sending the money home
Since it’s a cash business, the women open accounts in local banks, and transfer money to banks in their home countries. The money is often used to fund their children’s education and lodging with relatives, or used as a nest egg to start a business when they return home. As an example, one Chinese woman, a doctor in her own country, worked in AAMPs to fund construction, equipment, and supply costs for a clinic she was going to open in her own country when she had enough money saved up.
Are AAMP masseuses being trafficked?
In a word, no. Asian-based AAMP masseuses come to North America of their own free will, and understand and agree to the terms of the contract. If they are working in a North American establishment where erotic massage is illegal, they will truthfully tell arresting law enforcement agencies that they originally answered an ad for domestic workers. As was discussed above, this is no lie (although they cleverly obfuscate that they were aware of the ruse), and more importantly, allows them to be treated as victims, rather than perpetrators, and their arrests can then contribute to international law enforcement statistics on women trafficked for sexual purposes.
They can’t help in interrogations much, either. They don’t know the true names of the real companies for whom they work, or the names of the owners or its agents. The faces of those who collect the money from the women can change frequently. And the owner of the apartment, when told of the activities occurring there, is “shocked, shocked!” that any of this occurred in the apartment he or she was renting out.
Read the WoWasis post on commonly used AAMP acronyms relating to practices at North American massage parlors.