Sex Work

Virginia Bill Targets Massage Parlor Workers

Lawmakers want to get tougher on touching "with the intent to sexually arouse."


Legislation moving through the Virginia state legislature aims to make it easier to arrest and prosecute massage parlor workers for sexual touching. The bill—which passed the state House on February 11 and is currently in committee in the Senate—would amend Virginia's prostitution law to include any touching of "the intimate parts of another with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify for money."

As it stands, one must engage in or offer to engage in anal sex, "fornication…cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus" for pay to be guilty of prostitution. The new law would give police more room to prosecute massage-business-based sex work, which often involves erotic touching but not sexual penetration.

The authorities are (of course) pushing this as a way to combat "sex trafficking." But in reality, it would simply make it easier for police to arrest people engaging in prostitution, whether or not they are being coerced or exploited.

Should the law pass, it will give Virginia law enforcement more ammunition to harass other massage business workers too, and to accuse them of prostitution on highly subjective grounds.

Proving an intent "to sexually arouse or gratify" may be a tough slog. But even if many convictions under this law prove elusive, it could still mean jail time for those arrested—significant amounts of jail time if they can't pay bail. If the workers are immigrants, it could also mean trouble with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even if they have legal status and even if no prostitution charge actually sticks. Simply being accused can be enough to run afoul of "good moral character" clauses in immigration law. And language barriers and lack of resources to pay a good lawyer also make it difficult for many immigrant masseuses and sex workers to get a fair shake.

In addition to making sexual touching sufficient to trigger a prostitution charge, the proposed legislation would make it a felony to employ anyone "for the purpose of causing such person to engage in the touching of the intimate parts of another person with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify."

Henrico Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Feinmel told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that going after the operators of massage businesses where prostitution takes place had previously proved too hard. He complained that prosecutors can often only charge them for "maintaining a bawdy place" (a misdemeanor).

This isn't for lack of laws to punish more severe behavior, mind you. It's that—despite time and again pursuing prostitution stings as "human trafficking busts"—Virginia police have failed to find evidence of human trafficking or other things that would warrant more severe charges.

A less punitive and panicked system than ours might conclude that police have been doing due diligence and that their worst fears are, thankfully, unfounded for now. Instead, the authorities have decided that if there are no felonies to be found in these businesses now—just some unauthorized handjobs—they'll change the law to make it a felony to own a place where unauthorized handjobs take place.

NEXT: Why Libertarian-Leaning Reps. Massie and Amash Voted Against the House's Anti-Lynching Bill

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  1. So non-working women who give hand jobs to their breadwinner husbands are now criminal, even if they deny them penetrative sex?

  2. This bill will not have a happy ending.

    1. When I target massage parlor employees, it tends to escalate into an explosive confrontation. Usually turning into a sticky situation. Then they just have mess on their hands.

      1. But I thought I was paying for a full body massage.

  3. It is so nice to know that violent crime in VA is so low, that they can go after illegal hand job operations.
    Are there really enough fucking prudes of both left and right that these politicians gain political capital by going this?

  4. Just another example of how a government “War on (whatever)” never ends. If they can’t find enough “criminals” they just manufacture them.

    1. Gotta have a “War” on something. Otherwise, where’s the outrage?

  5. Democrats want to limit civil rights and freedoms.

    That’s the bottom line. The Party of slavery lost the Civil War but they wont stop enslaving people to burdensome government.

  6. “ The new law would give police more room to prosecute massage-business”

    I foresee a lot more cops getting massages, to collect evidence of course, until the girl refuses to do something he demands.

    Oh, and please tell me this is being sponsored and passing through democrats. I’d love to rub it in all my die hard dem friends faces.

    1. “Oh, and please tell me this is being sponsored and passing through democrats. I’d love to rub it in all my die hard dem friends faces.”

      Ok, but be warned. That costs extra.

      1. I’m sure there will be an amendment that allows sexual massage between two or more same sex or transgender individuals.
        Va dems right now only care about banning guns and allowing as many abortions as possible, so they are happy to allow other socially conservative laws to pass

  7. “fornication . . . ”
    AKA any sexual activity outside of marriage. So already covered.
    No new laws needed. But there is no such thing as too many laws to a democrat.

  8. Why don’t they just outlaw birthdays.

    1. Jack Benny approves this message.

      1. Jack had many birthdays. 39 of them to be exact.

        (psst: We’re old.)

  9. They are gonna have to outlaw prostate exams and my dental hygenist

    1. Your dental hygienist does prostate exams?

      1. Hopefully they do that after the cleaning.

  10. If politicians could just outlaw all sex (except for themselves) I think they would.

  11. Let’s give the police more power over … them? Us?

    Good idea!

  12. Why OFW Pinoy Tambayan become the victim of such issues?

  13. Christ, what assholes.

    These are exactly the same type of people who defended Bill Clinton getting a blowjob by pointing out that we should all be adults and Americans really need to stop being so hung up on simple matters of sex. Yeah, right. These moronic politicians are so sexually repressed they could give Freud enough material for a new book if he were still alive.

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  17. The authorities are (of course) pushing this as a way to combat “sex trafficking.”

    despite time and again pursuing prostitution stings as “human trafficking busts”—Virginia police have failed to find evidence of human trafficking

    REALLY tired of these fucking language games. Unfortunately, many people I speak to seem to have bought this narrative en totalis.

    It’s consensual sex for pay. Fuck you if you don’t like it.

  18. I love how “My Body My Choice” encompasses exactly one issue, and for everything else the government is gonna be up in your shit.

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  20. “touching ‘with the intent to sexually arouse.’”

    That reminds me of the closing arguments in the Westerfield trial (San Diego, 2002). The prosecutor stated that a photograph of a fully-clothed minor was illegal if the pose was intended to stimulate the viewer. In other words, “child pornography” can include fully-clothed children.

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