Just a reminder--please read the statement to your right about how I do NOT represent anyone important. This post will contain some sexual content, though nothing explicit and I would rate this as a PG-13 post at the most (I'm a prude). So if you are younger, please ask your parents to review the post before continuing, or most likely, look over your shoulder to check where they are and keep on reading. It really isn't that bad so I don't want to hype it up with the promise of Extreme Oriental sex. That's next week's post.
This post, to my knowledge, is "true" as I remember it. EAG, EAG's Mom, and my Mom...read at your own risk. If you find this offensive or inappropriate, just remember this is reality for some people and try not to judge.
There, all the politics out of the way. This post will be about my encounters with three female masseuses in Viet Nam, who turned out to be female sex workers. I know a lot of work has been done on this subject (Nguyen-vo Thu-Huong's The Ironies of Freedom: Sex, Culture, and Neoliberal Governance in Vietnam and
My adventure started about last week when I was in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC aka Saigon) and my cousins took me to a massage parlor . I have gotten massages before in Viet Nam, both in HCMC and recently in Hanoi but for some reason, this was quite an interesting week. The first of three massages started normally--I was lying on my stomach while the female masseuse did her thing on my back and legs, a combination of Thai, Swedish, and Acupressure techniques, while I am wondering how such a small woman is able to produce such massive amounts of force. After about 30 minutes of pain/pleasure (though my ego didn't allow me to show it), she (I don't know her name--Sorry!) flipped me over and started to work on the other side of my legs.
Here is when it gets fishy. She started talking to me. Normally, my conversation with masseuses amount to "Hi," "No, that's not too hard," and "Thank you." I tend to let the massage and money exchange do the talking and save therapy/conversation for other situations. But this masseuse was pretty forceful in engaging conversation. Unfortunately, I talked to her a bit before we started in Vietnamese and had been responding to her instructions so there goes the "I have no idea what you are saying option." So, what's the harm I thought.
M: So, how old are you?
Tony: I'm 24. How old are you?
M: 21. Where are you from?
T: USA (USA! USA!)
M: Have you been to Vietnam long?
T: No, not that long, only 2 months.
M: Oh, do you like it?
T: Yeah, it's been nice.
M: Where do you live?
T: I live in Hanoi. I'm studying and going to school there.
M: Oh wow. That's nice. Do you have any siblings?
T: Yeah, an older and younger sister. You?
M: Yeah, I have a younger sister. [I think...I may have messed up this detail with another person.] So, is your older sister married? Any babies?
T: No, not yet. She's getting married in May. And no babies, not yet.
Pretty innocent right? Just working it, trying to make is personal so I tip more. No shame in that.
M: So do you have a girlfriend?
Hmmm....this conversation might be taking a turn.
T: Yes. I'm actually married. [Me trying to be proactive]
M: Oh, how long?
T: Two years.
M: What nationality is she?
M: Where is she right now?
M: Oh you must miss her a lot.
T: Yeah, I guess [HAH. Just joking EAG...]. Do you have a boyfriend?
T: What do you guys do for fun in Saigon?
M: Oh, you know, go out, dance, you know, have a good time. If you're in Viet Nam, you should have a fun time right? Even if you're wife isn't here.
T: Sure. [I was a bit unsure how to answer that--she said it awkwardly]
M: Yeah, in Viet Nam you should have lots of fun..
I think this should be about the time that I mention that she's massaging my inner thighs through most of this conversation (I'm wearing boxers in all of these situations) and, let's be honest, getting real close to "special" area. And me, being naive and hiền as hell (hiền - kind, gentle, meek with underlying currents of naive) just now realized she's been trying to get a rise out of me--literally. (I remember this moment very clearly because I thought "This bitch is trying to make me have an erection!" Ahem, excuse the language).
Anyways, my body has now become a battlefield (Oh, my body is being exploited!). On one end, is my Me and my brain, and on the other end is tiny, Sexy Asian female in short skirt with really soft skin. Between us is land we are trying to conquer, also know as my "crotch." Whoever occupies this land has the high ground advantage in this battle. So for about 2 (probably shorter but it seemed like FOREVER) minutes of both of us staring at my nether regions, I am proud to say that I won (? I think some would say I lost). And I'm not saying this to sound like a holier-than-thou good guy who is ashamed of sex, but this situation was very uncomfortable for me: I don't even know this girl, I can barely see her face (no glasses), and like I told her, I'm "married" (really long-term relationship). Also, I began to think about everyone else here, how many handjobs are being done right now, and if my masseuse washed her hands. Call me weird but this is not exactly my preferred method for arousal. I even got cocky (pun?) at the end thinking to myself, "Yeah, you ain't getting nothing!" (How many guys are proud they didn't get an erection? I am SO hiền. I think my mom would get a laugh out of that. Yes, I have a slightly unique relationship with my mother.)
After awhile when she realized she was getting rejected (no offense to her, she was very pretty--just not the right conditions) she finally asked me if I wanted my baby to be massaged. Again, me being naive, I asked her "What?" "Your baby!" "I don't have a baby...?" "No." She then pointed to my "baby" and I, of course, decline although slightly embarrassed. I was also confused because we were just talking about babies when she asked about my sister, so that's another turn-off. Incest is not high on my list....
Afterward it was pretty awkward, I think for both of us--I doubt I was the first one to ever decline her but I think she was somewhat surprised and this had never happened to me before. We somewhat continued our converstation while she popped my scalp by pulling on my hair. Yes, painful and as a person who is slightly balding, a very scary moment. From this experience, I keep thinking about her comments about "having fun" in Viet Nam even if my "wife" isn't here--how many people do this? How many married men do this? I don't want to judge and it is not like I'm completely disgusted by it--I will admit I am a young, virile man who hasn't even seen his girlfriend in person for almost 3 months so I'm not going to act like a saint and say that little red devil didn't appear and whisper in my ear. But still, ultimately the decision was not that difficult...so hiền!
I was invited again to go to another massage place and I wanted to decline but...I really do like the massages. Also, I was a bit curious and more "experienced" this time. My masseuse, number 12--because this job isn't degrading enough--was another small, cute, short-skirt wearing, soft skinned Vietnamese woman. And as expected, our converstation followed the same route, although this time I told her I wasn't married but did have an American girlfriend. However, Number 12 here was a bit more aggressive in her attempt to massage my baby. And when I mean more aggressive, I mean she didn't ask and just went for it. Here comes a "too much information" or TMI as the young kids call it these days, so watch out.
The first time she grabbed "it" over the clothes, me being hiền again thought it was an accident. I wasn't a strong grab and maybe she just brushed it by accident. It happens. Second time, it was not an accident as it felt more premeditated (How I know this, I'm not sure but you weren't there were you? It was a "gut" feeling). So I told her straight up then that I did not want a baby massage. And of course she pulled the "What, you DO want your baby massaged?" technique and I responded with an exasperated "What? No!" that may have been paired with a slight grin because the way she said it was kind of funny--think stereotypical California Blond in Vietnamese.
So the third time she grabbed it, I grabbed her hand so now both of us are holding on to my junk. I repeated my request of "No," and she a few cute "C'mon...," shifted to a cute pout, and then after five or six exchanges started mocking my "Noooooooo." She finally released her death grip and continued the massage, with a few, "Are you sure??" thrown in here and there, which where met with eye rolls and "Nooooo."
However, even though this was much different than my first encounter, I decided to ask more questions about her and her job. I learned that she is 22 and has been working as a masseuse for two years. I then asked how often does that happen. She said I was her first (YEA every man's dream to be a woman's first) to turn her down and that everybody that comes here gets their baby massaged. I asked how much a tip usually is and she said it ranges from 200,000 (10 dollars) to up to 500,000 (25 dollars). I then asked her if she did anything else and she said sometimes she gets invited to spend the night with some men. She didn't go into much detail and I didn't press this issue. She also revealed that these massage places are very popular with Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese business men.
I then asked her if she liked her job and she replied, "Not really." She has a piggy bank that she puts all her tips to save up for cosmetic school and she hoped to do hair or nails in the future. I asked her if she had a boyfriend (This is a very common question in Nam) and she said no because it was very hard to get a boyfriend because everyone knew what masseuses do in Viet Nam. (In retelling this story to a fellow Fulbrighter, he said this massage session quickly turned into a therapy session).
The converstation turned to me and she said it was very weird for a person with a significant other be so loyal when they are far apart. She said I was very cute and had a hiền face, which she then preceded to pinch my cheeks multiple times and repeat how hiền I am. Funny thing is I think she kind of liked me, which, I mean, is no surprise to me (have you seen me?). So if you want to seduce a Vietnamese masseuse, act really innocent and reject her. Though I do find it sad that I am one of the nicest people she has met on the job and loyalty is weird to her. I asked her what her name was and she gave me her middle name, Thiền, which is the same as my little sister...
As we said our good byes, I have her a 150,000 tip, which surprised her since that was very high for her, and I quote her, "having done nothing." I don't know if her piggy bank is real or she just suckered me with her story but I honestly hope the former is true. If not, she got my seven dollars.
The last encounter happened in Hanoi and is perhaps the most weird. I decided to be married again but this time I let my masseuse fill in the other blanks. When she asked me what nationality I was, I told her I was Filipino but she didn't know what that was, so after guesses of Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese, we settled on Singaporean. When asked what I did, I told her I was a teacher and for some reason, she asked me if I taught dance. Well, I do now. Which kind? After salsa and tango, hip-hop just sounded right. So today I was a married, Singaporean hip-hop dance instructor.
Mỹ, my masseuse, is 20 and she has been working in the business for a couple of months. Originally, she is from the countryside and she is only working here to save up money to go to school. (I guess this is the Vietnamese version of "I was a stripper to pay for college"). Similar to Number 12, she has difficulty in finding a boyfriend and apparently Hanoi men tip much less, ranging from 100K to 400K. She actually gave the best massage out of the three. Her technique of asking the dreaded question was a quick tap on the package. After I said no, she took it stride and spent more time on my legs since I was a dance instructor (Yes, I felt bad for lying now.)
I also thought she was the cheeriest one out of the bunch, but she was also the youngest and had the least work experience. I didn't ask about if she did other services as it didn't feel right so I'm not sure about her exact situation. Though, when I told her my "wife" was American, she got a little peeved--She told me I should stick with SE Asian women because they were smaller and cuter. Like No. 12, she was also surprised how loyal I was towards my wife--she also commented on my face being very cute and hiền and pinched my cheeks. Maybe I just have fat cheeks.
She also kept asking me about if somebody told me what to do. I kept saying this was all my decision to turn down the "full experience" and she eventually credited it to my hiền-ness. We said our goodbyes and I wished her luck on getting her education. Again, a relatively big tip surprised her and I really do want her to be happy.
Well, this post is really long so I'll just wrap it up now.