Tag Archives: asian spa

Happy Turkey Day

For the past 4 years, one of the spas I was familiar with gave Turkeys and the fixings to RI’s food bank.  The women working there liked Thanksgiving, it was novel to them.  In 2005 they gave 10 turkeys, 10 stuffing mixes, 10 cranberry cans, basically they gave the whole setup for dinners for 10 families in Rhode Island.

The donation changed in 2006-2008, where they donated just turkeys.  Probably about $300 worth of turkeys.  RI Food bank said they needed the turkeys more, so that is what they got.

This year the RI Food bank will not be getting any donations.  It is sad because the need for food is up dramatically in 2009 due to the economy.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank says from September 2008 to August 2009, emergency food programs served more than 13 million meals, an increase of 30 percent over the previous year.

The report said 11.7 percent of Rhode Island households are considered food insecure, which means they’ve had to reduce food intake or skip meals. It says 4.2 percent of households have run out of food or experienced hunger.  (See the full article here)

It is not like the spas do not want to donate anymore, it is because they do not have money to give.  Since the change in the law, there has been a decrease in customers.  The RI Food bank is just part of the domino effect. Lets hope it doesn’t get any worse for the women in these spas.



And then there were…

GoodbyeActually I don’t know how many there were to begin with, but I know that many of them are leaving at a record pace.  I know they are not all going to Nevada, so I think they are most likely either getting out of the business or going to hawk their wears in other states where it is also illegal (but no media an police pressure on the women).

The Providence Journal reported

Word that Rhode Island’s governor signed legislation Tuesday afternoon to outlaw indoor prostitution traveled quickly through the state’s community of sex workers, leaving many of the women who work at Asian “spas” on edge and their employers angry and without customers.

Neon signs outside some spas went dark; employees at others said they were open, but many of the women, fearing a police crackdown, had refused to come to work.

I guess this is the first impact of the law, the human impact.  I am going to pick up the Phoenix tomorrow and see if any of them stopped advertising, the first indicator of the economic impact.

What is that I smell??

bullshitA few days ago I  blogged about the overwhelming response to Donna Hughes letter against the 50 Acedemics who wrote to the General Assembly to advise them against passing a prostitution law.  (Just recently the British Medical Journal published a report that prostitution laws lead to violence against sex workers, so they must be radicals too)

While most of the response to the letters showed how Donna Hughes does not base her assumptions on fact, one blogger went beyond the letter and dissected the last few months in the debate.  Almost Diamonds writes “This is about sex, right?” a post where the observations of Donna Hughes schizophrenic right wing agenda are incredible, and the best part about this blog is not only the time line or the translations, but the fact that it  is written by a complete outsider.   Someone who could just smell the intense odor bull shit and had to comment.

It is the Fight of the Coalitions!

When I started “Happy Endings?” the National Association of Jewish Women RI Chapter decided to start the “RI COALITION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING” or RICAHT.  I went to a bunch of their meetings.  It is obvious that I am against Human Trafficking.  I testified in favor of  the bill against Human trafficking this year.  This Coalition had a wide variety of people, men and women from various backgrounds.  Some were social workers, some from religious organizations, all were citizens of RI concerned about trafficking.  They were very adept in politics, and with-in one year they passed the first human trafficking bill in 2007.

It is unfortunate that this group had been hijacked by Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro.  People began to drop out.  Nancy Green, a nurse, Providence resident and concerned citizen was one of the first to go.  She wrote about her experiences in her blog calling the transition from their good work to a Big Anti-Trafficking Tent.

“I never wanted to be a part of a moral crusade using law as a weapon. All I cared about was legal protection for people who are trafficked, and punishment for the traffickers.

To fight immorality, I would use other weapons– reason, persuasion and example. Laws against immorality have never been very effective, and have often been cover for worse crimes. Remember the Scarlet Letter?

Morality, like patriotism, provides a convenient cover for other agendas.”

This year RICAHT decided to work for a new trafficking law.  They also maintained that they would not take any position on the two prostitution bills.  This angered Donna Hughes, and she spoke out against RICAHT bill, (yes the bill against Trafficking).  She then left RICAHT and began Citizens Against Trafficking with Melanie Shapiro.  From the CAT website:  “ This year, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT)  failed to advocate for the essential prostitution law needed to make sex trafficking law work.”

It is obvious that we have 2 coalitions.  One against Trafficking, and One against Prostitution.  I don’t understand why the “Citizens” group gets to use Trafficking in their title when the are actually focused on prostitution.  (And I think you should be required to have more than 2 people to have an official Coalition)   It is really unfortunate that a good group like RICAHT could be torn apart by radicals, and when the radicals couldn’t control it they could start their own off shoot with a similar name.  What is ironic is people think it is the Asian massage parlors that set up “Shell Corportation” to hide what they are doing.  It seems that this coalition is a shell corporation for Hughes xenophobia and hatred of prostitutes.

The National Media

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

When the national media hits, I hope it is more than a 20 second reference on the News.  I hope it isn’t just some broadcaster saying, in “National news, Rhode Island made prostitution illegal today.  They were the only state in the union that had decriminalized prostitution behind closed doors for the last 29 years.”  I hope they do at least a few minutes on the story.

First, lets look at the reason that prostitution became legal in RI.  In the projo article, you can read the history.  The article goes into how this “loophole” was created to clean up the streets.  The best thing about this article is the comments, majority of the people don’t want the law to change.  The results of the poll are the same, over 63% of the respondents say they do not want the law to change.  So why was it changed?

To help the victims of human trafficking you say?  The prostitution bill is not going to help any victim of trafficking, it will only hurt them.  Women who work with trafficking victims have asked that we do not pass the bill.  Women from the spas who, lets face it, are the whole reason they have been trying to change the law have also spoken out.  The National Organization of Women and Human Trafficking Experts have also spoken out against this new law.

Well, there is a bill to be voted on for human trafficking.  I supported that bill.  What I really liked in that bill was the training for the police.  I think the police need training, especially since just over 2 weeks ago Police found a 16 year old girl beaten and confused outside a strip club who had been kidnapped from Boston and sent her to the training school.  (For those of you not from RI, that is our prison for kids)  You can read that story on the projo.

Now the legislation has two separate bills before them, and a hell of a budget.  It all comes down to money, we all know that.  After throwing a 16 year old victim of trafficking into prison, I guess money training the police not to do that is too much to ask.

State Police Superintendent Col. Brendan P. Doherty said Tuesday before the Senate hearing that he was concerned that the training could be time-consuming and expensive. But the new version of the bill states that it’s up to law enforcement to determine the necessary training.

OK, you don’t want to spend your time or our money to help the victims?  But lets now change the prostitution law?!?  We have money for the additional impact on our prison, money for the impact on our legal system, and money for the “massages” undercover officers can get?  We have money to criminalize commercial sex but not to protect or help victims?  We don’t even have money for schools!!!

I heard someone at the state house said we are the laughing stock of the country.  I think it is true, but not for the same reason as he thinks.

The Women who are arrested

Lets take away all the labels.  Lets stop using labels like “victim”, “prostitute”, and “sex worker”.   Lets look at what is really involved here, WOMEN.

We can argue all day about the choices women make,  but let me assert this, I believe it is a woman’s choice. More often than not, it is the circumstances of life that have led the woman to make this difficult decision.  Single mothers who need to support children, daughters who need to help with medical payments for parents, women who want to pay for college education, all different reasons for a woman to choose to sell her body.  I know that a woman would not do this work if it was not financially beneficial.

A man, he is making a pretty easy choice when he chooses to buy sex, yet we basically ignore him.

In RI, with only street prostitution being illegal in 2006 the rate of women to men being arrested was not 10 to 1.  It was not 20 to 1 or even 50 to 1, it was 107 to 2.  We put 107 women in prison and only 2 men.  107 women who made the difficult decision, 2 men that made the easy one.

Now, please, don’t take this out of context.  I actually think the situation in RI where only indoor prostitution is decriminalized is good.  Indoors is safer for the woman, and residents don’t have to deal with the “industry”.    I am just pointing out the irony of the situation.  How can the legislation say they are trying to stop prostitution when only the women are arrested?

I attached a clip I put on youtube about the raids on the spas in Rhode Island.  Also, lets keep in mind these are raids on women who are working indoors where they have the legal right to do what they want to do.  Some people have said that they have to change the prostitution law and make prostitution illegal indoors too.  I disagree with that.  How can we expect anything else but more women to get arrested?  People who say we must change the law say we have to “help” the women.  How are we helping the women by arresting them and putting them in jail?

A letter from behind closed doors…

Dear State of Rhode Island,

I have worked in the Rhode Island spas for the past seven years.  I know there is a lot of talking on the radio and in the newspapers about the spas so I am dictating this letter to Tara with my point of view.

First, the women are not slaves.  Nobody is pushing anyone to make money.  It is our choice to do this.  Nobody holds anyone’s passports.  I work there, I know how it works.  There are no sex slaves.  When women make money they keep it and no one takes it.

Second, the spas are businesses.  They pay taxes and provide a service.  The customers come when they have a problem with their relationship and are not being satisfied.  We are not forcing the customers.  They come to us.  They come and have fun for one hours and leave.  We don’t have a relationship with the customers.  We are helping them.

Third, the newspapers and tv stations are using us.  They just want to make money and don’t know or don’t care about what is really going on in the spas.  Every report talks about mattresses on the floor.  People who visit Korean people’s houses will see a mattress on the floor.  This is how we are comfortable.  We also take off our shoes in the houses.  It is the same thing.  The tv stations always focus on us and never the customers, and that is not fair.  You never see a John on the news.

Forth, I don’t understand why the police have been bothering us when we are not breaking the law.  They look at us in a different way because we work at the spa, but we are the same people.  They look down at us.  I think they should spend their time catching bad people, people with drugs, murderers, gangsters, or even real human traffickers.


Danielle dictated this letter to me as she packed to leave for another state.  After writing this letter, I brought “Danielle” to an interview with the Providence Journal.   It is yet to be determined if that interview will ever be published.

To disclose or not to disclose that is the question…..

I always wanted to give the women a chance to answer the questions and allegations that were being asked and reported by the newspapers and the television stations.  It is difficult for someone to come forward to speak out, especially in the Asian culture.

DanielleThis is “Danielle”.  Actually “Danielle” is not her real name.  Danielle is actually the name of one of my college roommates.  (I changed the names of all the women in my film to women who I had as roommates at the ultra-Catholic Providence College, but that is another story)  When I was making the film I wanted to give the women a voice while not “outing” them.  Many of these women have children.

A few weeks ago the Providence Journal ran a story about a woman who was working through craigslist and was attacked by a customer.  The majority of this story reported how she did not want her name published.  I will not put a link to the story, because I do not want to spread the woman’s name even more, but here is a link to Waking Vixen a blog by Audacia Ray.  In this blog, the article is reprinted and names redacted.

Now the Providence Journal is the biggest and only paper in Rhode Island.  They set the agenda for RI.  They have obviously taken the position that they want to publish names of women, how can I work with them to get the message out that the women in the spas are not victims while protecting the identity of the women?

Today I met with one of the reporters who has been following the progress of the legislation.  I brought “Danielle” who gave an interview with the understanding that her name would not be printed.  Before “Danielle” began the interview, she was told that the story would probably not be printed because she did not want to give her name.  She was told that the only paper that could do that was the Washington Post or the NY Times, and that was for political insiders.  I sat there thinking it was ironic that newspapers could protect the identity of politicians but not prostitutes.  “Danielle” gave the interview anyway, and gave an incredible in depth interview on her own life and the workings of the spas.  She said she would consider allowing her name to be released, because she hopes that her truth will allow people to reconsider changing the law.

Before the interview I had “Danielle” dictate a letter to me that I can read when I testify at the next hearing on the bill.  I hope that her letter will  help a human face on the issue.  I will post the letter in my next blog.

Not top billing..

I guess when you write a story titled “RI in Eye of the Storm in Sex Trafficking, Prostitution” you get the front page.  That article can get front page on the Sunday paper, probably the widest read paper of the week.

Today, there was another article “Suspected Warwick brothel linked to businesses in Central Falls, Providence”. That article didn’t get the front page.  It didn’t even get front page on the website.  RI officials working to to stop invasion of the Asian Longhorn Beetle made the front page.   Not that I think the title of the article was all that great.  I guess that is just the way the newspapers work.

If I was to give the article a title, I would say that what they should have picked something from this:

Meanwhile, the police have found no evidence that three Korean women questioned at the scene of the April 9 raid were victims of human trafficking, Babula said. Two of the women are U.S. residents. The third has an outstanding deportation order but was released along with the other two since she “is not a danger to anyone,” he said, and has attended hearings on her case with immigration authorities.

After all the media keeps linking Asian massage parlors to human trafficking, It would have been nice to give the fact that there is no human trafficking, more prominence in the story.  It doesn’t really matter though.  I usually read the stories on the website for the comments from the users.

The comments are great, most detesting the fact the state is wasting money.

Thisisthecity wrote “the real victim is me and you the ones who pay for this crap to go to court”ing

Lets Think About it wrote “This was a waste of tax payer money to investigate. So they give out happy endings, where’s the crime? That’s right it is legal in RI. There are many other things that could be looked into like the mini mart on Main Ave, where they sell pipes for dope and there is a guy that hangs out all day making arrangements for other to get their supply.”

Island said “Stop wasting tax dollars busting these people. Tax them!”

Mr xyx said “Hey General Assembly…. new license fees? PLUS… 7% sales tax !!!!!”

Other people pointed out the women were in the 40s and 50s, and they knew what they were doing.  The rest of them were hot on the immigration angle.  Everyone has their angle!! But one that was missing was people who believe this is human trafficking, or that the prostitution loophole needs to be closed.  I wonder how the comments represent the general public?

I really wish I could get comments like that!!!

Ticket price…part two

I never liked doing the business part of making films.  They do call it show-business, and not show fun, so I have to deal with the business aspect too.  Deciding the price point for tickets has been a huge pain.  I want the shows to sell out, and let the people of RI make their own decision on the “prostitution loophole”. That is the main  reason I have held the film release until June, right before the legislation will be making their decision.

It is costing me a pretty penny to put the show on, and there isn’t much room for profit.  I have been pressured by some people to change the price to $15 advance/$20 door, and I did change the price for a week.

Today I changed the price back to $10 advance/$15 at the door.  That is the price and it is staying there.  I have seen a few films premier at the Columbus and I paid $20, but I don’t want anyone to be turned away from the show because of the price. (This economy is a pain in the but)  I don’t think the films I saw at $20 were better than Happy Endings?, but they didn’t have a important social message, and the directors of those films were looking for the short term payoff.  I want to fill the seats with people who will go out and talk about “Rhode Island’s dirty little secret” and be able to make informed decisions on how our lawmakers should and should not deal with this issue.