- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged Friday with two counts of prostitution in relation to an alleged sex-trafficking ring run through spa and massage parlors in Florida.
- These types of parlors are openly discussed in online forums like RubMaps, which police used to track the Florida locations.
- On RubMaps, many users are staying away from the parlors they frequent, fearing a larger crackdown.
- Many users deny the widely-reported relationship between erotic massage parlors and human trafficking.
The Robert Kraft scandal has the erotic massage parlor community on edge.
On online communities where people discuss these parlors, the police activity is seen as cause for alarm. On Friday, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, allegedly at Jupiter, Florida, erotic massage parlor.
His arrest was part of a larger sting against an alleged sex-trafficking network of ten spa and massage parlors in Florida. In total, 173 different people were charged. (Kraft, through a spokesperson, denied he did anything illegal.)
The site police used RubMaps, a self-described site for “erotic massage parlor reviews,” to locate the parlors. In its forums, users said they’re afraid they’d be similarly charged and have their identities made public.
“I for one am going DRY for awhile. This is bad, as normal people (including my wife) who do not know anything about these places, will now be talking about this with friends, etc,” posted another.
Sites like RubMaps, AMPReviews, and MPReviews have a flourishing database of spa and massage parlors that offer illegal erotic services. Vice called them the “Yelp of Asian Massage Parlors.” The sites also have communities where people post reviews, exchange advice on how to evade law enforcement, and talk about their personal lives. The community has its own slang and set of acronyms. “AMP,” for example, refers to “Asian Massage Parlor.” (It costs $19.95 a month to read reviews, but the regular message boards are free.)
A look through RubMaps, the most well-known of these sites, shows a largely misogynistic community that isn’t concerned with potential sex trafficking at the establishments they frequent.
RubMaps users generally aren’t concerned with sex-trafficking
Many members are either ignorant about or deny the relationship between erotic massage parlors and sex-trafficking. Police say the Florida network ran a human-trafficking scheme where people would be lured from China with the promise of getting a legitimate job in America, only to be forced into giving sexual services, sometimes while living at the parlors.
Some users on RubMaps dismissed reports about sex-trafficking and massage parlors as “fake news.”
“Honestly I would be the first to be outraged if the middle-age lady that gives me a massage and a hand job was forced to do the work,” one person posted. “The truth is this is the best way for her to make money as she chooses to do this work on her own.”
Many of them are also skeptical that authorities actually care about human trafficking victims. Some believe that politicians are merely “virtue signaling” when they criticize trafficking, and that police want to turn the “national mood” against massage parlors.
“You are giving [law enforcement] and politicians too much credit,” one user wrote. “They know they are spewing lies about ‘human trafficking at [Asian massage parlors]. Their purpose is to get reelected and so they virtue signal to the public with their crusade to rescue the mythical enslaved [Asian massage parlor] minority women from their cruel masters.”
Several users also said they wouldn’t be surprised if Kraft goes free, given his wealth and friendship with President Donald Trump.
“He’ll get off scot-free. Money runs this country,” one user wrote. “Wait for the Trump pardon.”
They’re afraid this is the beginning of a larger crackdown
As the news about the charges against Kraft unfolded on Friday, RubMaps users weren’t initially aware that police were monitoring the site for information about the alleged sex-trafficking ring. They became aware late in the afternoon, when a pair of Business Insider articles that mentioned the site.
“Yikes, makes you think twice about taking ‘the evidence home with you,'” one user posted, sharing a link to one of the articles. “Silent wave to the undercover police officers reading this as well.”
Some users spoke of their fear of Kamala Harris winning the presidency in 2020. She’s well-known in the community for shutting down a sex-trafficking ring run through massage parlors in California when she was the state’s attorney general in 2014. Users are concerned she’ll crack down on massage parlors nationwide with the power of the presidency.
While most users of the site seem spooked by the crackdown in Florida, others insist on continuing to attend these parlors as if it’s business as usual. Some believe they’d have to pay just a small fine if they’re caught.
“I talked to two owners and its business as usual,” one user posted.
Otherwise, there’s widespread speculation that this is the beginning of a larger crackdown on erotic parlors. The Department of Justice views human trafficking as a serious issue in the United States, and recently allocated $67 million to give to local municipalities pursuing trafficking cases. The RubMaps users, they say, just want to be left in peace.
“Where does our persecution end? Is anyone fighting for us?” one user lamented. “What legal documents can we draw up to demand an immediate change? … Or do we all just start leaving the U.S. in huge groups like the refugees for countries that aren’t controlled [by] morons who change the laws to benefit their corrupt agendas??”