Be CLEAR – Body-rubs lead to increased exploitation

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The above photo was taken by Quan Diep of Calgary and posted on the Red Dress Photography page October 20, 2019.  Used with permission.  Thank you.

The election is finally over, for better or worse, and sexual exploitation remains an important non-partisan issue.  I applaud the recent decision of Edmonton City Council to consider a 5-year phase out of body-rub facilities.  I am delighted such a move is being considered and hope people will take time to understand the issues at stake.  Already the media have found a few women who claim to feel safer in licensed premises and want them continued.  Of course, women’s safety is important.  This is not an either/or situation.   It is about how to ensure safety for the majority of women.   Please consider the following 5-point position  developed for discussion over the next few months pending the spring decision.

BE CLEAR – A Position Paper in Support of Closing Body-Rub Facilities

Edmonton City Council recently agreed to study the merits of a 5-year plan to end the licensing of body-rub facilities.  A decision is to be made in the spring of 2020.  This guide provides five discussion points to help people be clear about the issues.


If there were no buyers, there would be no sexual exploitation.  Research by Victor Malarek suggests about 15% of men are sexual consumers.  This means that in a population of 350,000 adult men such as Edmonton, there are probably over 50,000 consumers.  Of course, they are a hidden population.  It is incomprehensible to imagine enough women, no matter how lucrative the reimbursement, willing to provide services.  Lack of available providers leads to pimping, coercion, and trafficking. 


Through history exploited women have been blamed and criminalized for their abuse by men. This changed for the first time in Sweden in 1999 when legislation first banned the purchase of sexual services.  Such acts were considered part of the continuum of violence against women, and supports were provided to victims.  This is the Nordic model.  Canada in 2014 joined many other countries around the world by passing a version of this legislation.  Unfortunately, the City of Edmonton chose to skew language and circumvent criminality by creating bylaws to allow access to women’s bodies for “erotic” purposes.


ECONOMIC ALTERNATIVES are the best way to ensure empowerment of women. Around the world, economically disadvantaged populations are recruited and trafficked.  United Nations reports indicate over 10 million women and two million children are bought and sold into commercial sexual servitude.  Basic human rights such as equality, dignity, and freedom from slavery are denied for these citizens.

AWARENESS is critical:

Many citizens, who are fortunate not to be impacted and who are unaware of underlying issues, may be soothed by superficial claims of “harm reduction” presented by City Council.  There will always be a few outspoken providers who justify their choice of “profession” but we must speak for the millions of trafficked persons who never see the money exchanged for the violation of their bodies.


Reality is that selling sexual services is inherently violent and degrading, and exchange of money does not imply “consent.”  While some women may be safer in protected sites, this is “rule of thumb” logic.  The more disturbing reality is that increased tolerance leads to greater demand because of the illusion of acceptance and legality.  Protecting sexual consumers leads to increased exploitation and creates new victims.

Recommended Video (5 min): “Survivors of Body Rub Parlours” produced Sept 2019 by Defend Dignity.

Rec book: “The Johns: Sex for sale and the men who buy it” by Victor Malarek (2010)

Rec book: “Paid For: My journey through prostitution” by Rachel Moran (2013)

Stay tuned as advocates develop support for the 5-year exit plan!