The truth about 'rub and tug' parlours
WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT
They came to Australia to make money in massage parlours, but have ended up giving handjobs for $20 and offering the "full service" for $150.
Thai massage parlours, offering more than a chance to get the knots out of your back, are being targeted - and the crackdown is proving detrimental to the people working there.
The health and safety of workers at illegal massage parlours are especially at risk because they are rarely given condoms - afraid they'll be used by private investigators as "proof" of a "full service".
PIs, tasked with getting "services" from non-compliant sex workers, generally use condoms as "evidence".
'IT'S OK, IT'S FOR MONEY'
The hidden sex culture of Australia's Thai massage industry isn't always something the workers immediately embrace.
A report by SBS Radio Thai, that will air tonight on Viceland's The Feed, found that Thai women fall into the "extra service" side of massage after being enticed by the extra money.
"I came to Australia to expand my opportunities in life. I want to save more money here in order to set up a business back in Thailand," Joy, a 30-year-old Thai masseuse, told SBS.
Joy, whose name has been changed for hide her identity, started out as a legitimate masseuse but found the temptation for extra money was too strong. She can now make up to $1700 cash a week, for five days of work.
"The first time I offered a 'handjob', I was scared and panicked because I had never done it before. I asked myself 'why do I have to do this?' But at the same time, I told myself, 'it's OK, for money, for money'," she told the program.
Joy, who offers handjobs for as little as $20, said "full service" can generally cost $150 but it's up to the worker to negotiate the price.
She also said most people do the job "of their own free will" but not out of want, they do it for the money.
Thai massage parlours are increasingly offering a "bare-back" service, which are sexual acts performed without a condom.
Countless websites advertise exactly where customers can get this service in Australia. The websites even list reviews of the women who work there.
"She wanted to give a blowjob with a condom but no way to do that," one reads.
"She gave a really good bare-back blowjob," another says.
But it's not just the customers encouraging it - the websites even advertise bareback services.
"As a leading brothel, we concern your experience here, so some new services are available now, including girlfriend experience, cover blowjob (CBJ) and bareback blowjob (BBBJ)," one website reads.
And sometimes, even when the workers say no to bareback, clients continue without consent.
"She offered to have full sex and the client secretly took off the condom. She cried and didn't know what to do. The client didn't care about her at all," Joy told SBS in regards to a friend she knows that has been abused.
'A LACK OF WILL'
As local councils and police within each state announce "crackdown" plans on Australia's sex industry, they're having to become increasingly crafty in their methods.
"Rub and tug parlours", as those in the sex industry call them, have a notorious pop-up reputation, meaning no matter how many times the police close them down, they'll just keep popping up.
In an interview with The Gold Coast Bulletin last month, a senior police officer said the crackdown on massage parlours hadn't happened "probably because of lack of will".
The Gold Coast, the centre of Queensland's party and night-life scene, has one of the highest numbers of illegal massage parlours in Australia.
One of the last big citywide raids on the illegal sex trade was in 2014 when police raided 50 shops suspected of fronting as therapeutic Asian massage parlours.
Cameron Cox, the chief executive officer of Australia's Sex Workers Outreach Project, told news.com.au the issue wasn't as simple as vilifying the illegal parlours.
"It's particularly difficult because if you walk into council saying, 'I want to open a brothel', they know you're going to spend months and a fortune in land and environment court," Mr Cox said.
"So now, council instead tell you, 'It'll be knocked back, so apply to be a massage parlour instead.' Then an old lady or someone finds out and complains and then the same council worker that was giving you that unofficial tip is turning up on your doorstep to close you down," he said.
And while it's often difficult to prove whether or not sex is happening at the venue, it is easy to check visas - which many workers are in violation of.
Lachlan Jarvis, the head of Lynswood Private Investigators, a firm employed by various councils to bust brothels in NSW, told news.com.au there's always more than one illegal thing happening in non-compliant brothels.
"More than 99 per cent of the time councils or law firms ask us to investigate, we always find some other form of improper action going on at the brothel in question. We've seen illegal dumping or improper use of firearms or even sex trafficking and workers living in slave-like conditions," Mr Jarvis said.
Lynswood has been in the business of brothel busting for almost 15 years, and while Mr Jarvis doesn't engage in the busting himself, his firm looks into everything from venues set up without council approval to completely legal ones that might be staying open past approved operating hours.
Mr Jarvis said they see the work as "entirely reasonable and necessary" and if brothels "weren't doing anything wrong, we wouldn't have to do it".
Senior Sergeant Richard Farrelly, who works with Victoria Police's Sex Industry Coordination Unit, said the police force see similar issues in non-compliant brothels.
"We get reports to us of physical and sexual assaults, sexually transmitted infections. Our main concern is that there are a lot vulnerable people that work in the massage industry," he said.
Workers operating on restrictive visas also means they're less willing to approach police when something goes wrong - a sentiment Jules Cox, the CEO of Australia's peak sex worker association Scarlett Alliance, agrees with.
"Police definitely aren't the most appropriate people to be regulating the sex industry. The crackdown isn't good and cops heavy-handedness hasn't helped," she told news.com.au.
Happy Endings premieres on The Feed tonight at 7.30pm on SBS VICELAND and read the full story online at the SBS Radio Thai website.