The San Francisco Chronicle had one of the best pieces of investigative journalism I think I’ve ever seen last year. They did a four part series called Diary of a Sex Slave where they told the detailed story of You Mi, a Korean woman who was brought into the United States by international sex traffickers and then spent several years working in the business of prostitution. Her story is a sad one. It’s actually heart wrenching. But if you have a few hours and want to know more about how part of organized prostitution works in the U.S. it’s worth a read.
One of the brothels mentioned in the article was the Sun Spa Massage Parlor. After reading this series of articles last year I’d just assumed that the various brothels would have been shut down after such a high profile series in the Chronicle, so I was surprised to see the Sun Spa still open for business recently when I was shooting neon down in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco.
Prostitution, the so called oldest profession in the world, is a tricky thing. On the one hand I don’t think it should be legal. On the other hand you wonder if so much of the worst elements of the sex trade have to do with the fact that it *is* illegal and run by sex traffickers who seem to be some pretty bad people. You wonder if it was decriminalized if that might actually make life better not worse for the women who choose to work in the sex trade. I mean, after all, if two consenting adults want to do whatever they want to do for whatever reasons that they want to do it, why should it be up to society to tell them what they can and can’t do?
But one thing prostitution is not is the glamorous life that Julia Roberts and Richard Gere made it seem in the Disney movie “Pretty Woman.” I can’t help but feel terrible for You Mi after reading her story and I’m glad that she seems to be putting her life on a better track at this point.
And I still wonder why the Sun Spa is permitted to run a business in San Francisco after the Chronicle’s report.