Human Frailty, That's the Rub

September 23, 1991

Some in Anne Arundel County government will remember 1991 as the Year of Human Frailty. First came bingo. Next porn shops and peep shows. Now it's massage parlors that, as a headline writer so delicately put it, "rub the county the wrong way."

After discovering organized crime ties to part of the county's commercial bingo industry, county government began reexamining ways of regulating this vestige of legalized gambling. New law seems probable by year-end.

No sooner was that problem shuffled off to a task force for study, up popped proposals for two "adult entertainment" shops whose owners wanted to include sexually explicit peep shows as part of their "service." Residents in Glen Burnie, particularly, sent up a roar of protest and, bingo! (we couldn't resist), another task force, another study and later this year, probably another new law.

Then, in early August came reports of two purported Linthicum spas providing massages and more for men, legally. County police said that in recent months they had regularly observed masseuses manually stimulating male clients -- sexual activity that isn't illegal. The women didn't break prostitution or solicitation laws, police said. One "spa" has closed; the other is reopening, this time with equipment to qualify it as a health club.

County Council members are to vote Oct. 7 on a bill giving local government power to regulate massage. The measure would make it illegal for those who give massages to work on clients of the opposite sex or touch clients' "erogenous areas;" it would require clients to cover those areas during massage. As proposed, the bill would require massage-providers to be licensed and to have at least 100 hours of training from a nationally recognized institution. Medical professionals, including trained massage technicians, would be exempted.

Short term, it is easy to smirk at Anne Arundel County's wrestling with these coincidental issues of human weakness. But long term, if it takes another law or two to turn away those who would taint the community's quality of life in the name of "adult entertainment," the effort is worthwhile.

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