As you’re standing at a bus stop downtown, steps away, behind the walls of an unassuming strip mall, there could be something freaky going on. Sure, this is conservative little London, Ontario, but that doesn’t mean its inhabitants don’t have needs. Thus, even in London, exotic massage parlours — known as rub and tugs — can exist.
These late-night masseuses quietly set up shop near strip clubs or adult bookstores and, due to the fact that they stay open until 4 a.m., attract clientele without ever having to do any advertising beyond word of mouth.
After all, advertising the sort of service they provide could potentially scandalize adjacent family establishments or draw unwanted police attention.
According to Amy Phillipo, London Police Service media relations spokesperson, there has not been any recent busts by police on these “body houses,” but they are not unheard of.
“We haven’t laid charges against massage parlours or body houses since 2006,” Phillipo said. “We haven’t had any [cause to lay charges] since, really, we haven’t had any complaints.”
Though the sign in the drab, palm-treed lobby might list half hour and full hour massages as the only options for a customer, the types of services offered at such massage parlours vary widely depending on how much a customer is willing to pay. The services are then negotiated with the women in the back, not with the person at the till.
A 20-year-old Fanshawe College student, who preferred to remain anonymous, has had several experiences at one such London massage parlour — the most recent of which he said occurred in October 2008.
After beginning the night casually drinking with his housemates, the student and his friends went to a local strip club.
“We spent some cash there, got onstage a few times, dropped some money on lap dances ... but the bar lets us out at about two o’clock and connected to it, right next door, is [a rub and tug] which is conveniently open until four. Of course, a lot of people are going to go and spend a little more money.”
On a night with so few inhibitions as the one he describes, the temptation that these businesses can be to inebriated young males is not hard to understand. It’s not like going to these places is solely the practice of introverted fiends.
“It was [a friend’s] birthday, so he went to [the rub and tug] and because it was his birthday he decided to pay for us too,” he said.
The prices for such services are no secret to patrons of these establishments. A mere $40 will get you both rubbed and tugged, while $50 will get you a reversal or privilege to touch the masseuse, according to the student.
His first impressions of the parlour do not connote wild recommendations.
“I thought it was a sleazy little joint,” he said. “The lady at the front acted professional about the whole thing even though, once you got into the little rooms they have set up, you can look up and see that the ceiling is all pipes. That’s when you realize it’s kind of a seedy operation they’ve got going.”
According to the student, the process of arranging for a ‘happy ending’ is covert but only in a superficial kind of way.
“When [the masseuse] came in, she asked me if I wanted a massage or a ‘massage’ — so obviously I said I wanted a ‘massage.’”
Like any seasoned retail salespeople, the women at these parlours are not afraid to try to up-sell their clientele.
“She mentioned — a couple times — that I could ‘buy other things’ and that ‘whatever happens in here stays in here.’ I wasn’t looking to drop anymore cash so I didn’t care, but, obviously she was suggesting further action for further dollars,” the Fanshawe student said.
Of course, even setting foot into one of the back rooms at these places puts you in the position of being possibly being caught in a police raid.
“The charges that [would be laid] would be keeping a common body house ... which pertains to the owner,” Phillipo said. “There’s also being found in a body house ... it [would be laid on] employees and customers.
“According to the Criminal Code, the owner is liable for imprisonment not exceeding two years — but it depends what happens in court. For being found in [a rub and tug] it’s a summary conviction that could result in jail time or a fine.”
Going to a rub and tug “is definitely not something I’d ever do sober,” the student said.
“I was completely wasted so I wasn’t feeling too concerned about anything. There was no sense of [worry about the police] ... It was just business.”