Thai Massage and Commercial Sex Work: A Phenomenological Study
Turner, Charlie G.
Many researchers have suggested that commercial sex work in Thailand has gone into massage establishments. This paper explores how the experience of receiving massage in Thailand differs by four types of establishment (street front, massage schools, spas, and high-end resorts) and whether or not unsolicited sexual services are offered. The current study aims to expand our understanding of both massage and prostitution in Thailand and the relationship between these activities. In order to explore this research question, we utilize a phenomenological approach and aim to relate the essence of the massage experience and whether or not unsolicited sexual services were offered. In total, 100 massage establishments were visited in major resort cities in Thailand over a period of several months. We suggest that massage establishments, especially street front establishments, offer clients more than massage especially if one requests an oil massage. Sexual services are much less likely to be offered to massage clients at spas and high-end resorts; however, the massage experience at these establishments is perhaps not as authentically Thai as at other venues. Further work might explore how sexual services differ within street front massage establishments as well as how much discretion therapists have in declining to participate in such activities.
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