When Does a Massage Become Illegal?

Who doesn’t like to unwind with a body massage to relieve stress and tension? But sometimes, this unwinding can land you in jail. So beware because there are times when engaging in such practices becomes illegal.

when does a massage become illegal? A message becomes illegal once it involves sexual acts. Any sexual massage for a fee is unethical and illegal in the US.

If there is any “rub and tug” in the massage, know that it is not allowed. The laws in the US prohibit massages involving any contact with the private area (genitals, breasts) of the body.

Additional happy time services:

Refrain from a massage that comes with additional happy time services. Some people may have unheard of the term “happy ending massage.” In a happy ending massage, the masseuse provides an orgasm to the client at the end of the session.

It is illegal if a massage implies or includes sexual services such as oral sex, manual release, or intercourse. Spending on these sexual services is an offense. Some massage parlors use coded words to imply sexual acts that a layperson would not understand.

The masseuse does not discuss any sexual acts or payments at the beginning. But at the end, the masseuse subtly asks for permission to incorporate private parts into the massage. On affirmation, the act becomes sexually arousing.

If you get caught in such a situation, immediately ask to terminate the massage. A happy ending massage falls under the definition of “prostitution.” It is not a minor misdemeanor anymore. Sexual massage is illegal and a serious felony.

Illegal massage industry fuels sex trafficking:

Rampant sex trafficking and prostitution hide behind the curtain of the erotic massage industry. Supporting illicit massages encourages human trafficking.

If you are paying for “additional happy time services,” it becomes an act of prostitution. In California, if you get caught in a police raid, authorities can charge you with:

  • Agreeing to engage in the act of prostitution (regardless of if the act was conducted) – Penal Code 647(b).
  • Pandering (encouraging, threatening, or scheming with the intent of engaging in prostitution) – Penal Code 266i.
  • Loitering with the intent to commit prostitution – Penal Code 653.22(a)

Is it Illegal to Go to a Massage Parlor?

It depends on the place. When people talk about massage parlors in the US, they usually refer to brothels. These places register and operate under the pretext of being massage centers. Polaris reported an estimate of 9000 illegal massage parlors functioning in the US.

US laws prohibit such businesses under prostitution laws. In addition, it is unlawful to go to a massage parlor in most states of the US.

It is especially illegal to ask and spend money on sexual services. Not only is it a legal violation but a moral one as well. These illicit massage businesses facilitate sex trafficking.

The Anti-Trafficking Initiative says that 1 out of 5 workers arrested at massage businesses says they have been trafficked or have experienced some level of coercion.

Let’s keep the legality of these businesses aside for a bit. Choosing to go to these parlors means you are fueling the trafficking industry. This is highly unethical, if not illegal. Human trafficking is a punishable crime as the honor, dignity, and safety of victims are at stake.

Where to Go for a legal Massage?

For people wanting a legitimate massage, a professional massage clinic or a day spa is the answer. A professional massage clinic does not offer any sexual services.

Instead, they employ licensed massage therapists. Professional therapists receive medical training before qualifying for a license.

Therapists who qualify for the license can only treat clients and patients. It makes the professional clinics more legitimate. In addition, even if a state legalizes prostitution, these therapists do not provide sexual services.

How to Differentiate Illicit Massage Shops From legitimate Ones?

A shop with signage saying “no sexual services” cannot guarantee legitimacy. Suspicious massage centers are more common than you think.

Some of the red flags are:

  • Odd opening hours, often till late at night.
  • No windows or completely covered windows.
  • Doors opening in the back-alley
  • Service charges are below market price, often relying on large tips.
  • Shops advertising the appearance of their female staff
  • Female workers of foreign descent, with little fluency in English.
  • Tend to male clientele almost exclusively.
  • The front doors are not open.
  • Unusual security at the front door.

If you spot these signs even in a legitimate massage shop, chances are they are involved in illegal practices.


Asking about their qualifications can give you an insight. You can spot a legitimate massage business through their qualifications. First, look up the credentials of their therapists. Then, if you go into the clinic, you can ask questions like:

  • Where did the practitioners get their qualifications from?
  • Are they associated with any professional body?
  • How were they trained?

Illegitimate parlors taint the reputation of professional therapists. They encourage human trafficking. If you suspect any illegal activity or human trafficking, report to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

What if you go to an illicit massage parlor for a genuine massage?

If you are still willing to take your chances at these places, you are putting yourself at a huge risk. Police departments work on cracking down illicit shops.

So, merely being present in an illegal massage parlor is enough for the police to arrest you. It does not matter if you did not engage in any sexual activity. Police will still arrest you even if you have no idea about their practices.

Final Thoughts

Sexual massages are illegal and highly inappropriate. Body rubs are fine as long as there is no intimate touching. According to professional organizations, sexual acts in a massage are unethical. The industry standards state that sex and massage are not inter-connected.

Now it’s time to hear from you:

What are your thoughts on illegal massages?

Have you heard of illicit massages before?

Did you know you could land in jail simply for being in a massage parlor?

You can share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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