BY JESS RHODES
When I was 18, I spent a few months working in a “happy ending” massage parlour in Sydney.
It was the best job I’ve ever had. I was a student, I’d just moved out of home, I was saving to go overseas, it was an easy way to make a lot of money really quickly. I loved my time there.
I played with a wild smorgasbord of cock and cum, sure, but I didn’t have to fuck anyone and I didn’t have to dance in public. It’s a part of the industry that I’d recommend for anyone interested in sex work.
Less threatening than a brothel, less public than a strip club, it really is the perfect sex work limbo.
Let’s make one thing clear: from my own experience, massage parlours are truly not brothels.
Not only was it illegal, but a house rule; no sly winks, no management turning the other cheek.
If a girl was caught soliciting sex (I remember it happening twice), they were immediately fired, and on one occasion the police were called. Legal issues aside, it just wasn’t the place for that.
Massage parlours like to think of themselves as a more sensual, intimate environment, and to some level it was totally true.
The warm lighting, blushing red walls, faux-classy nude paintings and “champagne” so awful you usually mixed it with juice, managed to place a fairly charming-if-obvious veil over the reality, which was simply that dudes wanted to pay me to strum their skin-fiddle.
Here’s a brief outline of what goes down: guys walk into the bar area and sit down, peruse a magazine, play pool, or peruse the extremely kitsch wall decorations.
Once settled, we’d introduce ourselves one by one. If we were keen on them, we’d pull the moves, start a conversation, you know the drill.
After a while, a manager would sit with them and they would select a girl. They pay, you take them to a room, they shower and hop in the spa (clients would pay for 15, 20 or 60 minutes with an option to extend), where you could drink, smoke, rub up against each other.
Yes, drugs were a regular feature, usually coke. After another shower you’d get through to the massage.
You’d lather them up with oil and off you go, starting with the shoulders.
Occasionally they’d pay you extra for stuff like a “body rub”, which was where you’d rub your body against their own during the massage, or for them to touch your tits or pussy. After you make them cum they’d shower yet again again, and that was it.
It was a weird place for a number of reasons, one being that it’s remarkably hard to define.
There was no sex, but was it still prostitution? What was my official title? How might the customer describe their experience? Where exactly did a massage parlour fall within the sex work spectrum?
It’s hard to label something that lives in limbo. But I feel like that ambiguousness was appealing, especially to the men who had clearly considered going to a brothel and ended up here instead.
Many, many clients (especially first-timers) would spend a great deal of our time together essentially convincing themselves that what they were doing was Fine and Okay and Morally Acceptable.
It became annoying pretty fast, but only until I remembered that I’d spent a long time while wrestling with the same questions.
To that effect, that same ambiguousness was equally great for someone like me, a fresh-faced 18-year-old private school girl in her first year of uni, discovering her sexual desires and limitations and freedoms, but still feeling too nervous and apprehensive about going the full hog.
The job itself was breezy. All kinds of girls from all walks of life worked there, from PhD students to dominatrices to girls from Japan and Taiwan who could barely speak English.
The owner was creepy but the managers were cool, there were no contracts, it was all cash in hand, you could choose your own hours and leave whenever you liked. It was perfect for my full-time study schedule too, as I could exclusively work from Friday to Sunday and bring home anywhere between $1500-4000.
It might sound strange, but I gained an incredible set of skills during my time there.
I learnt a lot of valuable communication tools that would go on to benefit me in the corporate and retail jobs I’ve since held; I learnt how to empathise with a stranger, I learnt how to really read someone, how to know if they needed a counsellor, a shoulder to cry on, a slutty minx or just a [naked] mate to have a beer and a laugh with [in a spa, followed by an oily full-body massage and an orgasm].
The girls and I mastered a particularly unique brand of sales and marketing. I learnt a lot about myself, I became more accepting, less judgmental, kinder, and far more confident and self-assured.
Call it vapid if you want, but knowing that a lot of men were happy to pay a lot of money to spend time with my naked body was a magnificent, empowering boost of confidence that sticks with me to this day.
For anyone looking to get into sex work, get a job in a reputable massage parlour. Even if, like me, you’re just in it for the easy cash, you gotta crawl before you can walk.
On top of making a fuck-tonne of money to do basically nothing, it was the perfect place to figure out your own thresholds, confidence, personality, and the ability to deal with total strangers in such an intimate setting. I fucking loved it, I got off on that fact alone; the anonymity, the tantalising sin, the power trip.
And let’s not forget the fundamental factor: skill.
Without doubt, I’ll give you the best wristie you ever had.