The Proposal Harms Businesses & Clients

Some of the reference materials may be a little out of date. This page was developed in 2020-21.

We all want to help trafficking victims. It’s an emotional issue and no one is for human trafficking. But at what cost? Elsewhere we discuss how these ordinances don’t work. When they don’t work, the ones the ordinance affects pay the price and are left holding the bag, not the traffickers. We believe that there are other better solutions out there, which we discuss under myth #2 on another page.

This info is intended to show just how much harm this ordinance could do. And what you can do.
You might get tired of all the reading – We get it – BUT there’s a LOT that’s wrong with the proposal.
Scroll down anytime you want to see what you can do.

Read the city’s proposed ordinance here – updated to new version for First Draft Reading

Read the massage therapists’ re-write here.

The proposal goes THROUGH massage therapists to address trafficking

We’ve been told that the law is targeting the brothels disguised as massage businesses (what we now call sex parlors) and not those legally practicing. We’ve even been told we don’t need to follow the law. That’s not how laws work. If we don’t follow the law, we can be fined/jailed too. And it violates our state unprofessional conduct rules.

Human trafficking is a societal problem and needs to be addressed in a societal way – not make it one profession’s responsibility.

Sex parlors represent only 10.8% of the entire trafficking problem. It makes more sense to go after trafficking generally, not us. These are criminals that have infiltrated our profession. If a theft ring disguised as plumbers robs houses, do you regulate the plumbers or go after the criminals? We go after the criminals, not the profession. This proposed ordinance doesn’t do that. Instead it goes through us to get to them. And that’s not right.

Multiple human trafficking experts specializing in trafficking in sex parlors or who study sexual violence in massage businesses agree: These laws burden the wrong people (legally practicing massage therapists) and put massage therapists in danger from sex buyers.1

We emailed one of them, Vanessa Bouché, PhD, to discuss the local ordinance and our solution, which is simlar to hers. We pointed out that her article echoed much of what we’ve been saying about the city’s proposed ordinance. Here’s what she said: 
“That is the intention–we need to draw attention to the fact that this flurry of legislation is burdening the WRONG people while the real perpetrators continue to operate with impunity.  Sorry your profession has been the scape goat for misguided anti-trafficking efforts!”

Unlocked door provision

  • Clients have already told us they won’t be back if we can’t lock our doors during a session. They don’t feel safe. This will cost us business.
  • Therapists complain of theft and trespass. When they’ve forgotten to lock their doors, products were stolen, even a car (the keys were left in a purse that was stolen). A drug addict shot up drugs in the bathroom. It’s just not safe for us or our clients if we can’t lock our doors.
  •  If multiple therapists are working behind closed doors with no front desk person, the business is vulnerable. 
    The city says they’ll grant  exceptions. But how can they do that? How can they grant an exception to some businesses (the so-called good ones) and not others? Give it only to white people? Deny it for those with poor English skills or are Asian or Pacific Islanders (after all, the anti-trafficking groups say that this demographic is being trafficked)? We don’t think the city can grant exceptions without being racist or discriminatory.
  • Fines & Jail Time: Each day the door is unlocked? $500 a pop and 6 months in jail. It’s going to cost a lot, but we can’t not lock our doors.

Sexualized language

Massage “intended to arouse”… genitals… contraceptive items… sex toys.

This language is patently offensive to legally practicing massage therapists. Rather than separating the practice from the traffickers and prostitutes, this language binds us to the problem. And assumes that there are those in our profession doing this behavior and it must be stopped. No. It’s the criminals doing this behavior. 

Increased jokes, inuendoes create a danger

Massage therapy is a healthcare profession and we’ve worked hard to gain that status and be respected for what we do. This ordinance has undone all that. Since the ordinance hit the news, we’ve seen increased jokes and innuendoes about sex and happy endings – in a way that we haven’t seen in years.

This tells sex buyers that this is the place to look for sex and emboldens them. The day after the press covered the council meeting, we learned that a sex buyer showed up at the back door of a legally practicing massage therapist asking for sex. And calls for sex have dramatically increased. So don’t tell us that the ordinance will help put a stop to this. It won’t. It will endanger us and our clients.

Even anti-trafficking experts agree.  Vanessa Bouché, PhD, an internationally known researcher on sex parlors has said that these laws put massage therapists in danger.2

Healthcare, cosmetology and other businesses affected

The massage facility definition includes “any business where massage therapy… are practiced, administered, or advertised.” It goes onto list several exemptions including “5. Offices, clinics… at which medical professionals… provide massage services to the public in the ordinary course of their medical profession.” And in exemption 7. It uses similar language for cosmetologists, barbers, and estheticians. Here’s how we read it: If a chiropractor provides massage – like trigger point work – incidentally to their chiropractic work, no problem.  The same is true if an esthetician massages the face during a facial. But the moment they hire or contract with a massage therapist to work in the business, they have to have that establishment license. We work in hospice, which is not exempt. We work in medi-spas, and physical therapy offices. None of them are exempt either.

And what about other businesses where a massage therapist “administers” massage? The senior center or eldercare facility where a massage therapist regularly administers massage? The farmer’s market? Would all these places need to get an establishment license too? Technically the answer is yes.

And think about it this way: All of these businesses would be subject to an inspector coming in to look for condoms.

And those cosmetology businesses? Cosmetology inspectors are not allowed to enter into a massage-only room. So if they don’t have to get the license, traffickers could use a nail salon as a front and put a non-inspected room in the back for their nefarious activities.

Solo Practitioners (NOT) exempted

Solo Practitioners are supposedly exempted – but they’re not. AND it really doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  • An exemption is not really an exemption if you have to follow all the same rules as those who are subject to the law. And that’s what happens here. Not only that, these solo practitioners have to follow more laws than those who have to get the license! 
  • In addition we don’t even know what a solo practitioner is because it’s not defined. That’s confusing. Because a lot of massage therapists are sole practitioners (a tax status), but they office share and don’t have their own individual office. Because of what the city says about who they want the law to apply to, We think that solo practitioner means those working alone who don’t office share with any other massage therapist. And heck, we don’t even know how this particular provision interfaces with massage therapists working in medical offices or clinics either. It’s just plain confusing and clearly underscores that the city and the anti-trafficking groups know nothing about the profession they are trying to regulate.

Bodywork loophole is restored

The city tried to close a common loophole that we’ve been telling them about for years. Instead of asking us how to go about it (some of us wrote the state law on this topic) they did it in a way that put bodyworkers in legal jeopardy. Again, this is because they just don’t know how the state massage therapy law works (we do because some of us wrote it).

And now, in the final version they put the exemption for bodyworkers back in… meaning that bodyworkers don’t have to comply with the ordinance in any way, shape, or form (not even like the solo practitioners do above).

And so we point out that sex parlors will rebrand and call themselves bodywork or reiki. The city’s response? – Our research doesn’t show that they do that…


  • When the local city attorney appeared before the State Board of Massage Therapy to talk about the city’s proposal, a member of the board told him that they would rebrand: At a national meeting that this board member had attended, representatives from Utah said that sex parlors simply rebranded by calling their services reiki to get around the law.
  • This happened in Boston and was widely reported in the press that sex parlors rebranded to call themselves bodywork.
  • Even Polaris, an anti-trafficking group, says in their report on sex parlors (p. 56)  that they will do just that: “… if a city regulates massage businesses, the trafficker will register a similar, unregulated business type such as bodywork, reiki, or a modeling studio.” 

Who are they kidding? They just want to sell this thing and will say anything to do that.

Lack of enforcement

The city decided not to charge massage therapists for enforcement. So, they are passing a law that won’t be enforced. We’ve never seen such a law work.

Discriminatory practice

No other business in the city is required to provide fingerprints or a background check as a condition for getting a city business license. This is blatant discrimination. And it treats massage therapists like the criminals they’re hoping to catch… with a law that won’t be enforced.
Massage therapists are not the problem. The criminals are. There are over 200 massage therapists locally contributing to the economy whose practices will be affected by this proposal.

Future costs

  • Therapists leaving the business. Massage therapists have already said that if this ordinance goes through they will quit because they don’t want to be treated like criminals, tied to sexually oriented businesses, or put in the danger that this law will bring.
  • We know how much the license will cost for the first two years. But after that? We anticipate that the cost will skyrocket: The city will figure out that not enforcing the law doesn’t work. And they’ll come back and ask us – scratch that, TELL US – to pay for it. San Francisco and Atlanta charge $2000 to renew an establishment license. Since massage therapists make, on average, under $30k per year, even if the cost came down to $400 or $500, that would still be prohibitive. The sex parlors and corporate massage businesses could afford it though. And with few legal places to work, that can lead to depressed wages, therapists leaving the field, or going underground.

Pushing the problem out of the city

The problem with these kinds of city ordinances is that they push the problem into the county.

Anti-trafficking groups want to “stop” human trafficking and they push these ordinances as a way to do that. Well, they don’t. Sex parlors just move outside the city limits. And these anti-trafficking groups consider this a win. That’s hypocritical. The women aren’t rescued, they are just shipped elsewhere…. That is if trafficking is even occuring in these businesses at all. There is a lot of commentary speaking to just that… and to the racism of assuming that Asian and Pacific Islander women are being trafficked in all sex parlors.

And both a city council member and an FBI agent have said out loud that moving into the county is not in these sex parlors’ “business model.”

Seriously? (we’re saying this a lot).

  • A sex buyer won’t drive an extra half mile to get sex? This is Montana. Seriously.
  • There is a lot of county land within the city limits that is not subject to city rules. All they have to do is move there. 
  • Take a look at the cannabis shops after the city outlawed them. They moved into the county.
  • These businesses make a lot of money (up to $18k per month per woman according to city councilwoman Ronning). That’s their business. They are not going to give that up.

These are just a few of the problems with the proposed ordinance. There are more.
Anytime you try to write a law like this there are loopholes and problems. And criminals are good at exploiting the loopholes.

Massage therapy is a healthcare profession and we expect to be treated no differently than any other healthcare profession.
The offices of healthcare providers are not regulated and neither should ours.

We believe that any ordinance should target the sex parlors directly. Not go through us to get there. Not penalize us. Not sexualize us. Not put us in harm’s way.

That’s why we’ve proposed a fix that will work just as well, if not better, than what the city is currently proposing.
It targets sex parlors specifically and penalizes them for pretending to be massage businesses… or any other business for that matter.

Read the massage therapists’ re-write here.

What you can do (Please!!)

The message:  You support the massage therapists’ re-write. The city’s proposal hurts massage therapists.

First: Contact the City Administrator. Staff is making their decisions now.
Put in Contact info

Second: Contact the City Council
If a call is best, put that number here
Email all council members – council@email address

Third: If you know individual council members
or want to speak to the council member that represents you,  Call them

Put the list with phone numbers here

Thank you for your support!

Questions? Concerns? Need help?  Leave a comment!

  1. Bouché, V. (2021, February 2). COMMENTARY: Texas laws attempting to regulate the illicit massage industry are burdening the wrong people. Fort Worth Business Press. Retrieved from
    Smith, E. (2021, March 26). How to protect massage workers. The New York Times. Retrieved from
    The tag line to the article: “Policing and criminalization of sex work hurts massage workers, even when they aren’t sex workers.”
    Richard, M. E. (2021, March 27). Deshaun Watson’s massage therapy allegations spotlight a misunderstood industry. NBC News Think. Retrieved from
    The conclusion is that the responsibility for fixing the problem should not be placed on massage therapists, but on the clients instead. []
  2. Bouché, V. (2021, February 2). COMMENTARY: Texas laws attempting to regulate the illicit massage industry are burdening the wrong people. Fort Worth Business Press. Retrieved from[]

2 thoughts on “The Proposal Harms Businesses & Clients”

  1. As a licensed massage therapist, I 100% support the massage therapist’s re-write. The wording in the city’s proposal is offensive! We have had to work hard to distance ourselves from the stereo types; the verbiage in the city’s proposal implies we are sex workers. Our required coursework to obtain a massage license is in part medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, pathology, functional orthopedic assessment, ethics, business practices….. Treat us like the professionals that we are! Do you go to a physical therapist and tell them they have to cover their genitals, don’t wear transparent clothing or use sex toys?? NO ! Why then is it somehow ok to talk in such a demeaning manner to massage therapists ? This language tells the perverts that we’re in the same category as sex workers and puts us in vulnerable situations when they are emboldened to act.

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