Here in Camberwell, we like to think of our town as New England's most progressive community. In other parts of America, people who practice the oldest profession don't have the same rights as other workers. But in Camberwell, if they're denied their rights, they'll go to court.
Aurora Van Brook heard the doorbell ring, and checked out the man at the entrance of the Exotique Massage Studio. He looked okay, so she buzzed him in. From the back, the three associates who weren't occupied came to reception to line up.
Aurora had worked the streets of lower Manhattan in her younger days. Later, she ran a massage parlor in Times Square. But a new Republican Mayor made business difficult. She heard about a town in New England where the police were very understanding. So she closed shop and reopened in a former yoga studio in downtown Camberwell.
Aurora greeted the client. "Welcome to Exotique. Is this your first time?"
He was short, young, and wore a bushy mustache. "It's not my first time," he said. "I just never been here before."
Aurora smiled. "Then you're in for a treat. We have three associates for you to choose among today."
A brunette in fishnet stockings and leather smiled and said, "I'm Jolene."
A blonde wearing a miniskirt and a halter-top stepped forward and said, "Hi, I'm Brittany."
Another blonde wearing gym shorts and a Camberwell U. sweatshirt, said "I'm Lily, and I'm a college student."
The client leaned over and whispered to Aurora, "I can get more than a massage, can't I?"
"Sure," Aurora said. "A standard massage is 50 dollars. But most of our clients ask for the Exotique. That's another hundred."
"I want the co-ed," the client said.
The client followed Lily to room #5. He spent ten minutes there before he burst out of the room, red in the face. He shouted at Aurora, "Gimme my money back."
Lily came running after him, wearing only a towel.
"Calm down now," Aurora said. "Don't make me call the police."
The client laughed. "A brothel can't call the police."
"We can," Aurora said. "The city is very accommodating. We go into the schools each year to do a safe sex presentation."
"All I want is my money back."
"Did he get what he paid for?" Aurora asked.
"Not yet," Lily said.
Aurora took the client by the arm. "If you're not satisfied with Lily, why don't you try Brittany?"
"Does she have a thing on her stomach?"
"I don't know what you mean," Aurora said.
She led the client to room #4. "Brittany, this young man has decided he'd rather have you."
Then Aurora dropped in on Lily, who had returned to room #5. "What's with him?"
"He's whacked," Lily said.
"Lily, open your towel."
Lily loosened her towel, revealing a foot-long, jagged purple scar above the navel. A few months back, Lily got into a car accident. She'd been drinking. Fortunately, her face had been spared. Aurora wanted her to return to work, but Lily asked for time off, supposedly so she could "get her head in the right place." Today was Lily's first day back.
"They cut out my spleen," Lily said.
"You should have told me," Aurora said. "You can't work here with that. Pack up your things."
"I need this job."
"A new gig will come along," Aurora said.
The following week, Aurora buzzed in a client who proved to be a process server. Lily was suing her for wrongful termination.
Aurora called Lily and offered her a severance package if she dropped the lawsuit.
"I want my job back," Lily said. "I need to feel beautiful, to help with my recovery."
Camberwell Legal Services represented Lily at no charge. Her lawyer managed to locate a woman who Aurora had turned down for a job--a morbidly obese woman trained in shiatsu massage. That generated a second lawsuit, and the two cases were joined.
The trial was held in Camberwell District Court. Judge Susan Aikins ruled, "Neither obesity nor a scar over the midriff are obstacles to adequate job performance in a massage studio."
Aurora's lawyer asked for permission to approach the bench "Your honor, I'm not sure if you realize it," he said softly, "but these associates provide sexual favors."
"I'm perfectly aware of the situation," the judge said, in a loud enough voice for the entire court to hear. "I'm also aware of the defendant's history of discrimination on the basis of beauty. "I order Lily La Bamba to be reinstated. I further order that the second plaintiff shall be hired to fill the next available opening at Exotique."
Judge Aikins removed her eyeglasses. "I'm concerned that allowing clients to preview the associates will perpetuate the shameful practice of beauty bias. It is the ruling of this court that clients shall not line up for inspection by clients, and shall be assigned instead in strict rotation in the order they become available."
Aurora closed the Exotique Massage Studio the next day. The business has now reopened in Rhode Island under another name.