This week, opponents of human trafficking took to the Internet to celebrate some new signage adorning a Dupont Circle "massage parlor" allegedly operating as a brothel: "Sky Spa Closed Permanently." Meanwhile, in other online forums, clientele of the shuttered parlor are lamenting their decreased access to Asian women who will have sex with them for money.
In January, D.C. police targeted Sky Spa in an undercover sting investigation that police say yielded evidence of "criminal solicitation of prostitution and performing illegal massages" inside the business; the spa's website was also peppered with not-so-subtle hits, including a tropical-themed oral sex reference. So last month, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan filed a civil suit against the parlor's landlords to force the immediate shut-down of the operation, and push for the permanent closure signage.
Sky Spa—along with other District parlors targeted by the city for investigation recent years —catered to johns looking for a particular kind of sexual experience. One online advertisement for the business reads "GREAT ASIAN MASSAGE! come to me! YOU WILL LOV* me!!"
Sky and similar "massage parlors" around the District have been repeatedly dinged on prostitution-related charges, but actual evidence of human trafficking—which in D.C. requires proof that an agent knowingly recruited or transported the sex workers via threats, kidnapping, abuse, blackmail, debt coersion, deception, drugs, or simple employment of a minor—have failed to materialize.
Despite the lack of formal charges, anti-trafficking organization the Polaris Project is hailing the shut-down as a victory for anti-trafficking forces. "The location has a consistent modus operandi to similar brothels where human trafficking has been found by federal authorities in Washington," a Polaris report reads. "According to court records, Sky Spa also has links to management in Flushing, NY, the well-known East Coast hotspot for recruiting women into Asian sex trafficking networks, based on evidence from previous federal investigations." But while two women working at Sky were arrested as a part of the D.C. police sting operation, Polars claims that investigators did not have "sufficient time to build trust and interview them," making it impossible "to know the conditions they faced, or how they came to be in the brothel."
Trafficked or not, local massage parlor enthusiasts express a particular interest in paying for sex with foreign women who are sufficiently alienated from American culture. "I've been just about everywhere and just can't seem to find a single woman here who doesn't act like Helen Hunt on Mad About You constantly berating poor Paul Reiser," one user wrote of American women. "I've never wanted a woman to wait on me, all I've wanted is a little mutual respect and partnership in life, but damn it if women here in DC can't find some way to blame you for every little unhappiness in their lives. And for such a sensitive gender, don't they have a way of just being vicious and emasculating in their attacks?" He added: "If I were to ever get married it would probably be to a nice lady from South America, Thailand, or the Philippines. No swearing, no false pretense about football, but someone who can honestly be relied on to share an equal albeit feminine role in a relationship."
Another local massage parlor frequenter complained about the "training going on in our schools and culture to make any American woman whiney, demanding, and high maintenance pigs. My first wife was one and I will never see another," he wrote. "My [current] wife was born and raised in the Far East and even after being an American for all these years she was raised right and still does most things right." (The poster says he continues to frequent Asian massage parlors).
But as Asian massage parlors shutter across the city, some johns are positioning another group as the victims of recent anti-human trafficking efforts. "Really, I'm sorry the [massage parlor] scene has these ebbs and flows here in DC. And moreso, I'm sorry the ladies who work in them are losing their livelihoods, their inability to send their families remittances, subsidize educations, etc.," wrote one user. "Sucks for the game, but really boyz it sucks for the girls we enjoy."