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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Immigrant-run sexually oriented massage parlors embody the intersection of important planning issues, including inequitable distribution of controversial land uses and economic functions of illicit businesses.

In NYC, clustering occurred mostly in Manhattan and was negatively associated with household size. Local regulation did not appear to affect clustering. Study findings hold lessons about both more effective regulation and enabling economic development in immigrant populations. Sexually oriented massage parlors, which primarily employ Asian immigrant women workers Bungay et al. As such, studying how economic forces of customer demand and labor supply, and local regulation, relate to the spatial clustering of sexually oriented massage parlors provides a way for planners, scholars, and advocates to better understand some key planning issues.

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Filling the gap in our understanding of massage parlor clustering is vitally important as planners work not only to regulate and control unwanted and controversial land uses but also to create enabling environments for formalized economic development and growth, especially for immigrant populations.

The first two issues noted above center on the inequitable distribution of controversial land uses and the regional impacts of local level planning efforts to push out such uses. If local planners and other government agencies de regulations to direct the location of sexually oriented massage parlors, they should also consider how to avoid reproducing inequitable distribution of controversial land uses.

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Technological innovations, such as the internet, have created conditions that promote dispersal of sexually oriented massage parlors and other sexually oriented businesses beyond traditional red light districts Murphy and Venkatesh In a context already primed for dispersal, planning practices can have the unintended consequence of simply displacing sexually oriented massage parlors to neighboring communities.

Research on the social ecology of sex-related businesses indicates that higher income and more socially organized communities have the political clout to prevent the siting of sex-related businesses and control the ways such businesses operate, ostensibly to mitigate negative secondary effects Edwards ; Weitzer Consequently, uninformed attempts at regulation may shunt unwanted uses to neighborhoods with higher levels of social disorganization and less political clout, leading to an inequitable concentration of unwanted uses in vulnerable lower income, minority and immigrant communities.

Planners should also consider possible benefits of sexually oriented massage parlors in terms of immigrant livelihoods and urban economies in general.

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We are not referring here to trafficked women workers or coercive sex work. However, for many immigrant women working in this industry, sexually oriented massage parlor businesses, though illicit, provide income for them and thereby their families.

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Research has shown that immigrants play an essential, but often unacknowledged, role in servicing a wide range of needs in urban globalized financial centers, both in formal and informal economic spheres Sassen Ashworth, et al. Planning departments have, however, routinely sought to encourage specific forms of economic activity, such as promoting the siting of supermarkets in food deserts NYC Department of City Planning and protecting urban manufacturing space, or conversely, deciding to re-zone urban manufacturing areas for evolving residential and commercial uses Zukin Thus, if planners are to more fully understand the dynamics of local economies, and the impacts of economic development strategies, they should consider the economic function of sexually oriented massage parlor businesses, both for immigrant workers and owners and for the larger urban economy, and how such functions can be replicated through alternative legal and empowering business activities.

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To illuminate the relative role of market forces and local regulation, this study examines clustering of sexually oriented massage parlors — that is, massage parlors where sexual services are provided — in Los Angeles County LAC and New York City NYC.

In particular, the study seeks Looking for a massage Rockville non sexual assess the factors associated with clustering and whether those factors indicate that massage parlors cluster to maximize customer access or labor access or for other reasons. The analysis tests the following hypotheses: 1 sexually oriented massage parlors cluster in LAC and NYC; 2 sexually oriented massage parlors in LAC and NYC cluster in proximity to Asian female work force massage parlor workers ; and 3 sexually oriented massage parlors in LAC and NYC cluster in proximity to male client population demand.

This paper uses geocoded data on sexually oriented massage parlor location to analyze the degree of clustering in LAC and NYC, and to examine the influence of local jurisdictional boundaries as a proxy for local regulationsdemographic factors, and economic factors on clustering. The analysis seeks to examine, albeit in an indirect way, whether local land use ordinances and regulations affect sexually oriented massage parlor location decisions and clustering as much as market forces e. Although not conclusive, our analysis suggests that regulation may have very little to do with where massage parlors choose to locate and the degree to which they cluster.


The differences we found in clustering patterns between LAC and NYC appear to be related more to their divergent patterns of economic activity, suggesting the primacy of market forces rather than regulatory constraints. A negative association of clustering with average household size in NYC suggests that sexually oriented massage parlors may be sensitive to potential community opposition.

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Divergent factors associated with clustering in LAC and NYC may call for different emphases in regulation in the two areas. Our finding that regulation may be less important than market forces in explaining clustering may be unsurprising in light of the fact that sexually oriented massage parlors usually purport to operate as legitimate non-sexual businesses. As non-sexual businesses, they would be subject to zoning regulations that govern commercial activity but not by regulations imposed by local governments on sexually oriented businesses to mitigate their purported negative secondary effects e.

Morehead ; Weinstein and McClearyi often through imposing minimum distances of such business from schools or residences and from each other Kelly and Cooper ; Lyons, Schoolmaster, and Bobbitt Ironically, ordinances or local regulations that restrict the location of sexually oriented businesses may have a larger impact on legal but explicitly sexual businesses e.

In this sense, planners and other local government officials interested in managing the location of sexually oriented massage parlor businesses may have a limited set of tools for doing so. To provide more detail on current scholarly knowledge, the data source, and the analysis, the paper proceeds in the following way. First, the paper provides a brief overview of relevant literature on the operations of sexually oriented massage parlors, how such businesses are regulated at the local level, and whether and where such businesses cluster.

The paper then provides details about the data source an online ratings website and the analytical approach.

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from the analysis testing the three hypotheses are presented. The paper concludes with a discussion of the and their implications. Around the same time, an inventory of massage parlors compiled using telephone books, the precursor to the internet web sites discussed later in the paper, found parlors throughout medium and large cities across the U.

The limited scholarship on the operations of sexually oriented massage parlors and other indoor sex work businesses tends to focus on their criminal dimensions. More recently, the Urban Institute released a study in medium-sized cities in the U. Dank et al. The scope and specific nature of these connections remain unclear.

As with other informal economic activity, the sexually oriented massage parlor industry has been dominated by immigrants, particularly Asian immigrants Bungay et al. Although massage parlor workers have widely varying experiences, there is much evidence in the literature that many workers have experienced human trafficking, violence, and extremely negative working conditions. Nemoto et al. The use of overt spatial planning tools in regulating sexually oriented massage parlor location appears to be limited, in large part because they purport to operate as legal non-sexual businesses.

Massage parlors tend not to be subject to the separation requirements or special zoning districts that are typically used to regulate the location of overt but legal sexually oriented businesses, such as strip clubs and porn shops Kelly and Cooper Reliance on individual and business s and permits to regulate massage parlors appears to be more common.

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Because local policy makers have been aware that massage businesses can be used as a cover for illicit sexual business activity, licensing or permitting regulations are sometimes deed with the assumption that sexual activity is likely to occur. Under this strategy, massage parlor operations in general are treated as businesses that might pose a societal risk or provoke community opposition.

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The City of Los Angeles for instance, requires a police permit for massage parlor businesses, along with firearms sellers and escort businesses. Professional licensing or certification requirements for individual massage therapists have also been used to limit illicit sexual business activity in massage parlors by imposing stringent training requirements for licensure as well as requirements that d massage therapists be on site at the massage establishment.

In California, the California Massage Therapy Council CAMTCauthorized by a state law, requires at least hours of training at approved schools for professional massage certification. If all individuals in a massage parlor are certified, the business may be exempted from local restrictive zoning and high fees that some cities have imposed.

However, when not all of the practitioners in an establishment are certified through CAMTC, local laws prevail. Some cities, having experienced an uptick in sexually oriented massage parlor activity, have been more aggressive in enacting and enforcing anti-massage parlor ordinances.

The regulation of sexually oriented massage parlors in the US is shaped by the overarching context of commercial sex work being criminalized, except in parts of Nevada Blithe and Wolfe Some of the methods used in the US to regulate sexually oriented massage parlors may be less relevant in countries where commercial sex businesses are legal since sexually oriented massage parlors in those countries can operate openly as sex businesses.

Internationally, there are Looking for a massage Rockville non sexual wide variety of legal regimes governing commercial sex work, ranging from complete criminalization of sex work South Africato criminalizing only the purchase of sexual services Swedento decriminalization of both selling and buying sexual services Spain Kelly, Coy, and Davenport However, even under differing legal regimes, regulatory practices may be similar.

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The combination of policing, land use controls, business licensing, and community opposition created red light districts, where sexually oriented businesses have clustered. Red light districts formed in U. Traditionally, red light districts were characterized by a conglomeration of illicit activities, including sex work, gambling, and other socially unconventional activities of the times. Historically, politics and regulation were intertwined with these spaces, both to enable their continuation and to manage and control their impact on the larger society via local ordinances meant to bound their possible growth and regular medical exams for sex workers aiming to stem negative public health outcomes of sexually transmitted infections Haller Since the s, local governments have used zoning ordinances to restrict the location of legal sexually oriented businesses to areas removed from schools, religious institutions, and homes Kelly and Cooperas well as to specific minimum distances from one another to prevent clustering and the creation of vice districts Lyons, Schoolmaster, and Bobbitt The recent apparent growth and spatial dispersion of the sexually oriented massage parlor industry since the s has been traced in part to more aggressive policing of street-based sex workers Murphy and Venkateshdriving sex work into indoor venues, and to the use of the internet to connect clients and sex workers Venkatesh Online discussion groups of male clients also serve to exchange information about female workers and how they have avoided law enforcement agents Holt, Blevins, and Kuhns These developments may have made locating massage parlors in existing red light districts less important for acquiring customers, and there is anecdotal evidence that indoor sex work venues have taken advantage of increased locational flexibility to move into higher income and suburban areas Venkatesh And further, we argue Looking for a massage Rockville non sexual there is even less understanding of the reasons for spatial clustering or dispersion of sexually oriented massage parlors.

Sexually oriented massage parlor businesses may be dispersing from red light districts traditional clusters and clustering in new areas higher income and suburban areas.

On the one Looking for a massage Rockville non sexual, sexually oriented massage parlor clustering in these areas outside of red light districts may be driven by the same factors that incentivize business clustering more generally. Other areas with potentially higher levels of demand for sexually oriented massage parlor services include locales characterized by high rates of male employment Symanski and active nighttime and adult entertainment Ashworth, White, and Winchester Labor supply also drives location decisions, where areas with larger pools of immigrant female workers with massage and sex work skills could lower costs of finding new employees Dank et al.

On the other hand, there may be factors that drive sexually oriented massage parlors to avoid clustering. Dispersal may also help massage parlors to evade notice by residents and other businesses. A recent of a sexually oriented massage parlor in Queens, New York, for example, described it as being located in a house, rather than a typical storefront business location Robbins Using online searches and informal recommendations from sexually oriented massage parlor clients, we identified the most popular websites for rating sexually oriented massage parlors and their female workers.

We selected one site for analysis rubmaps.

The website clearly specialized in sexually oriented massage parlors, as indicated by suggestive taglines i. The website organizes its data geographically by a list of regions and cities within the U. Because sexually oriented massage parlors may open and close frequently, we limited data collection to include only businesses that had at least one user review posted within a one-year span that we treated as the study period August 11, through August 11, We chose to limit our analysis in this way because the literature suggests that sexually oriented massage parlors in the US are predominantly owned and staffed by Asian immigrants Bungay et al.

For the sexually oriented massage parlors that met the inclusion criteria, we manually logged the business address and user-indicated characteristics e.

We used ArcMap Because all data are user-reported, the website may not accurately represent venue locations. However, the website provides review guidelines, asking users to provide accurate, detailed descriptions of their experiences within 30 days of the encounter, and purports to vet reviews for accuracy. We paired the sexually oriented massage parlor data with data from the U. Census to examine socioeconomic factors associated with clustering.

We chose to use Census data to provide a lag period between the socioeconomic data and the sexually oriented massage parlor data to allow for the time it might take for these businesses to respond in their locational decisions to socioeconomic changes. Any advantages of choosing a shorter lag period by using American Community Survey data from or were outweighed by the greater accuracy of the Census data.

Using the of sexually oriented massage parlors per U. Our next step was to identify locations of hotspots or clustering of these sexually oriented massage parlors. A local indicator of spatial autocorrelation — the LISA statistic — was calculated to identify the locations where sexually oriented massage parlor businesses were clustering Anselin