Sex-based massage law rubs Clarke wrong way

Posted: October 24, 2008

A little-known city law says that every time a masseuse gives a member of the opposite sex a professional rubdown, it could have an unhappy legal ending.

City Councilman Darrell Clarke yesterday moved to lift an almost four-decades-old legal ban on men massaging women and women massaging men.

Clarke asked Council's Committee on Licenses and Inspections to amend the law, which has been in effect but apparently not enforced since the early 1970s.

"I couldn't believe it when they told me that," Clarke said before the committee meeting.

The subject matter drew giggles from the committee as Clarke sheepishly noted that he was acting on a request from a constituent.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas is opening a branch in the 10 Rittenhouse Square high-rise now under construction.

Neil Sklaroff, an attorney for the spa, said that he had previously represented six other high-end massage outlets, which require adult-use variances to operate in the city. Still, Sklaroff had never heard about the ban.

"It's not enforced," Sklaroff said. "Nobody knows about it."

The law provides no way for a massage business to seek a waiver or variance on that ban. It does not list a fine or jail term for any violations cited by the city.

Sklaroff described the ban to the committee as a "dinosaur regulation" that should be lifted. He added that massage businesses are still required to seek variances and hire licensed staff.

Clarke agreed, noting that his legislation would recognize that men and women massage each other in the city every day.

"It just basically legalizes what's been taking place in the city of Philadelphia," he said.

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