The term "Asian massage" can refer to a few vastly different treatments you can request at spas and resorts, depending on where you are in the world. As a result, it's important to understand what locals mean when they offer an Asian massage: Eastern practices or a "full-service" treatment.
Eastern massage can refer to Amma Therapy, which was first practiced in China as early as 3,000 B.C., Thai massage that Buddhist monks created 2,500 years ago, or Japanese shiatsu, which was developed by Namikoshi Sensei in the 20th century. You can find massage therapists offering these services all across Asia as well as in some of America's larger, more diverse cities.
However, Asian massage has also come to mean something quite different in recent years—a "happy ending massage," which includes sexual services. Also marketed as full-body massages or "full-service" treatments, these are often found at seedy "spas" with handwritten signs and boarded up windows, or chair massages at malls.
The Traditional Option: Booking an Eastern Massage
The best places to find authentic Asian massages are overseas in countries where the practice originated like Japan, Thailand, and China. However, you can find real Eastern massage therapists in the United States, too.
You'll have your best luck in cities with large communities of Asian-Americans like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. Korean spas, frequently found in these same urban areas, are another good place to get quality Asian massage. Domestically, prices can range from $40 for inexpensive Asian-owned salons and parlors to $120 for day spas with more amenities like locker rooms, robes, and saunas.
Asian massage techniques tend to be stronger than Western massage and use acupressure points, which may hurt a little, but you often feel results from a single session. If you have a low tolerance for pain or sensitive muscles, you might want to avoid this type of treatment and go for a lighter Swedish massage.
A New Meaning: Erotic Asian Massage
Although it's unclear when the term changed from referring to Eastern massages, underground spas across the United States have begun to adopt the term Asian massage for a massage that ends with a sexual release.
Erotic Asian massages don't typically involve penetrative sex, instead focusing on a concentrated massage of the genitals and sexual pressure points to stimulate a release. As a result, the practice falls in a legal gray area, but many spas that offer these services are also houses of prostitution that get raided on occasion, resulting in customers' arrests.
Another version of erotic Asian massage that is legal and available at special clinics in the United States is tantric massage, which requires a masseuse that specializes in sex therapy. These treatments allow clients to discover their sexual boundaries in a safe environment but set very clear boundaries before, during, and after the appointment to maintain a professional yet open session.
The Dangers of Erotic Asian Massages
There are a number of other dangers involved with using these happy ending services at massage parlors, including unintentionally being involved in human trafficking abuse by an establishment not sanctioned by the United States government. Promised a way to enter the United States and a job upon arrival, women from around the world have been tricked into coming to America by human traffickers who charge them for getting them here then make them work off their debt as sex workers.
According to a study by the Urban Institute on the commercial sex trade in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Miami, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., the compensation at these erotic massage parlors varies. Sometimes the women get half of their earnings or the service plus tips, and often the house keeps the "house fee" while the woman keeps the tips. While it wasn't work they initially chose, many of the women keep doing it even after their debt is paid because the money is good for someone with few jobs skills and minimal English.
The report also said that some of the Asian massage parlors are highly organized, sending women to work on a circuit between different cities, primarily Dallas, Flushing, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, California, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, which makes it hard for federal authorities to track these immigrant sex workers.