Peterborough Editorial: The grownup salon is by the foundations, prefer it or not

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Therapy and entertainment won’t be the main attraction for clients of a massage parlor likely to open in Peterborough.

But it’s no surprise that the woman who has campaigned to open the first legal adult entertainment store here in a decade feels the need to market it as something other than naked women giving men a rub.

During an online public briefing on Wednesday, Brittany Leigh said her company would “provide therapeutic body massage and conversation support … adult conversation and touch therapy.”

It is highly unlikely that the 35 to 40 women she wants to hire will be certified in any form of therapy, physical or verbal therapy.

Everyone understands: Leigh, the cops, town hall staff, and town councilors who overheard the meeting; the men who, if successful, will be her clients; and anyone less interested in the plan, for or against it.

Leigh said the women will be independent contractors who choose to provide a service.

“Independent contractors” and “the choice to provide a service” are also part of the sales pitch: this is no different from many other gig economy companies, think Uber or a grocery delivery service.

In contrast to the therapy references, these terms apply to what happens in the former industrial building on Kingsway where the company would operate. If it is legal, women will work by choice.

The subject of “choice” is paramount. Sex trafficking and sex slavery are an ongoing problem in Canada and sex trafficking charges have been filed in Peterborough.

Given that Leigh is open and public about her plans, it almost certainly won’t.

She has said she will not collect any of the money the women receive from their clients. Presumably, their income will come from collecting a fee for the use of the space and the provision of administrative services.

The police have to keep an eye on that.

Canada’s prostitution laws were rewritten in 2015 to make it clear that running an organized sex business – which offers sexual intercourse, sexual acts through massage, lap dancing, etc. – is illegal, but women have the right to perform these services themselves.

There is no indication that Leigh intends to circumvent the law by making room for “independent contractors,” but it is something to watch.

Whether the police should be involved is another question. Many people, including many women’s rights groups, believe that, like any business, prostitution should be completely legal and controlled by government regulations.

Now that this is not the law, it is a moot point for local law enforcement agencies.

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The other problem that could arise when Leigh’s zoning and licensing applications are presented to the city council for consideration is the moral issue.

However, whether it is correct that men can pay to be massaged by almost naked women does not affect the council’s power to grant or withhold permits.

The courts ruled years ago that municipalities cannot make land use decisions for moral reasons. You can limit where a business operates – which is why massage parlors are only allowed in industrial areas – but not whether you can do so as long as no laws are broken.

Adult entertainment seems to be making a local return, and Leigh’s suggestion seems sensible and responsible.