Come June, one of Nerve’s most enduringly popular features will return. I Did It For Science follows the sexy, occasionally humiliating, and often hilarious adventures of two Nerve writers who’ll try anything once — as long as it’s for science. All-new installments, by a fresh pair of writers, will hit your screen in just a few short weeks. In the meantime, enjoy this refresher course: a classic installment by original reporter/victim Grant Stoddard. Click here for more.
Trying to find a massage establishment that offers a "happy ending" is no easy task, especially if you’re not intimately familiar with a city’s seedy underbelly. Luckily, Isabella just happened to know a "friend of a friend" who was aware of such a place. As directed, I went to a faceless building in midtown Manhattan, feeling more than a little sheepish. Although the thought of being interfered with by a beautiful, skilled masseuse was exciting fodder for my teenage dreams, by the day of reckoning I was a bundle of nerves.
I walked into the building’s lobby and was greeted by a rotund man in a crumpled blue shirt that sported a blob of every condiment in the Heinz rainbow. I asked where the massage place was.
He gestured to the basement, his verbal skills compromised by the two or three knishes he seemed to be masticating simultaneously. I headed down a flight of stairs that ended with an unmarked gray door. This led to another flight, and another and another. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought as I opened the final door into the softly lit lobby of a spa. The room contained a counter and a plush leather sofa that snugly accommodated four attractive Korean women between the ages of twenty and forty. "Hello," chirped the most senior both in age and standing, and she hopped up to get behind the counter. "Hi, I’d like the full massage," I stuttered, placing a clumsy and unnecessary-in-hindsight emphasis on the word "full." The younger women smiled at each other and me with a kind of curiosity that I would encounter on several more occasions this afternoon.
I was asked if I had been to the spa before. It was then that I became conscious, nay, extremely paranoid that anything I said could blow my cover. I said I hadn’t. "Seventy-five dollar, cash," said the woman, who handed me a fresh towel, a crisp robe and a locker key affixed to a comically large chunk of lumber. "You follow me," she ordered and led me into the men’s locker room. I use the words "locker room" loosely, as I’d never seen its like before. The "lockers" were made of an ornately carved, heavy dark wood; the floor was granite. A large marble sink and counter was covered with expensive soaps, aftershaves, deodorants, razors and shaving gels. I don’t know what this says about the circles I run in, but this was the fanciest joint I’d ever seen! In the middle of the attractively lit room was a low bench with twenty pairs of sandals underneath it. "You shower, lock locker real good and keep key all time," the woman commanded. I nodded a little too much. She left the room, and I got changed. Looking around the changing room for signs of any other clients, I spied a pair of large black dress shoes tucked into the row of sandals. I hardly recognized my reflection as I stared back at the kimono-wearing dork in the mirror. I was just a ponytail and a copper bracelet away from becoming Steven Seagal.
Wearing a pair of grossly oversized sandals, I shuffled through an opaque glass door into a large granite-and-marble shower room. Five huge shower heads — the ones the circus uses for hosing down elephants — adorned the walls, and a steam room and sauna were nearby. With the Japano-futuristic look of the place, the gaggle of uniformly dressed Asian beauties around and the perception that I was several miles below the Earth’s crust, I started to believe that I was living out one of my numerous James Bond-inspired dreams: Trapped in the belly of an evil corporation’s lair, treated with the utmost courtesy while my movements are monitored by a team of beautiful-yet-deadly double agents.
I made my shower last. The water pressure at my apartment provides little more than an occasional moody trickle, so I took advantage of the high-pressure jet and used every soap, shampoo, conditioner, exfoliating body scrub, washcloth and loofah at my disposal. Feeling fresh as a daisy, I left the changing room and was assigned a masseuse. She was one of the older women, possibly in her late thirties, short and slight with a bob haircut and dressed in a clinical white uniform. She led me down a hallway to a small, demurely lit room, then told me to disrobe and lie stomach-down on the table, where there was an opening for my face. I skimmed my hand against the starched white tablecloth to see if there was a corresponding hole for my unit. Until this point, I hadn’t really thought about how the pleasure would be administered. Simultaneously, all my daydreams about being on her majesty’s secret service evaporated as I realized how quickly I crumble under questioning.
"My name Jung, what your name?" asked my inquisitor as she began to rub my neck . "Er . . . Jeff," I replied. Jeff? Where the fuck did that come from? "Oh," she said, sounding surprised and skeptical. Had she been through my locker and seen my ID? I started to sweat. "You live here, work here?" she asked as she covered my body in a thin, crisp linen sheet. "Yeah, I said, "in . . . Soho," "Oh," she replied. "What you do?" Butcher, baker, candlestick maker — any of those would have sufficed, but instead I blurted out, "I work for a magazine." Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! What a total fuckwit. I might as well have told her that I was with the NYPD vice squad. I quickly followed up by qualifying that I worked for a publication about fishing. "Oh ma gah!" said Jung, sounding disturbingly interested. Christ! Who was Soho Jeff from Rods and Reels? What’s with the third degree already? I decided that as long as Jung didn’t start questioning me about the ins and outs of koi carp, I would shut my stupid mouth and get this experiment back on track.
Jung went to work, digging her fingers into the painful nooks of my neck and shoulders.
I heard a muffled guy’s voice in the room next to mine. First, it sounded like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons, but after a few sentences, I could pick out certain words. "Wah wah wah Wall Street," "Wah wah banking wah", and, most memorably, "wah wah you’re a very beautiful girl wah wah" Ew. Other than that, all I could hear was the purr of the air conditioning and the popping sounds emanating from each of my joints that were subjected to Jung’s digitry. During a few neck adjustments, I thought I could hear an offensive line prancing over ten yards of bubble wrap.
Jung rubbed my body through the sheet, first with her hands and then with her feet. She walked on my back, steadying herself by holding onto a ceiling-mounted pole. I couldn’t enjoy her mastery; my mind was too preoccupied with the impending transition from massage to handjob. At one point, she stopped touching me for about fifteen seconds, and I couldn’t tell where she was in the room. Out of nowhere, she grabbed my thigh, and I flinched. "You nervous!" she chuckled and gave me two firm pats to the buttocks. She wasn’t wrong. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Jung’s touch felt great, but I wasn’t turned on in the slightest. She removed the sheet and traced her fingers up and down my legs, bum, inner thighs and any parts of my undercarriage that she could get her crafty fingers on. I could hear the door to the little room open and close. Being face down and looking the opposite way, I couldn’t see what was going on. Was Jung exhibiting some unnoticed birthmark to her co-workers? "You sunburn!" said Jung, and she started picking at the peeling skin atop my shoulders. "Oh ma gah!" she whispered.
That’s not sexy. For a second I thought she was going to have a pick at my bacne too. She turned my head to inflict some more pain to my neck area, and we saw each other face-to-face for the first time in forty-five minutes. Jung was very attractive and kind looking; she wore plum-colored lipstick. "Oh ma gah!" she exclaimed. "You just boy! How old you?" Jeff, like me, is twenty-five.
"You want everything?" she asked in a slightly hushed voice. Thank Christ for that. I was almost ready to employ the same downward-pointing motion the slob at the door had used an hour earlier. "Yes!" I said. "Really?" she sounded surprised. "Young boy like you? Oh ma gah!" She told me to turn over and I did. As Jung turned her back to get the necessary lotion, I looked down, horrified at my uninterested rig. My nerves had gotten the better of me, and it seemed that I wouldn’t be giving Jung much to work with. She sat her bum down on the table, her feet either side of my torso. She applied the cream to my twig-and-berries and gently started to run her fingers around them with a motion that was, in truth, a little too effective. I propped myself up on my elbows to get a better look. I stared at her face and tried to make eye contact, but Jung was looking at what she was doing: a rubbing, coaxing, snake-charming type maneuver, in absolute silence. In a matter of seconds, I had gone from willing my old chap to look alive to thinking about baseball. But Jung had a mind to get it all over with, and within an embarrassingly short period of time, she took me from a standing start to an orgasm. So deft was the operation that I wasn’t even at full mast when I dropped sauce. It all felt pretty weak, the ejaculation rather unexplosive. Jung pointed my knob up and off to one side until I was all done. She cleaned up with a paper towel as I closed my eyes and tried to come to terms with her brand of blitzliebe.
I opened my eyes and saw her leave the room. I felt like calling out, "This is the bit where I like to hug," but it probably wouldn’t have done any good. Jung was all business.
I got back into my robe and padded out into the main area. Smiling, Jung handed me a fresh towel and directed me into the shower room. Passing one silver fox in the changing room and another in the shower room, I headed straight into the sauna to think about what had just happened and gleek onto the hot coals. I looked through the sauna’s window at the tan, manicured moneymen whiling away another Tuesday lunchtime. A coiffed gent joined me in the sauna for a minute, going "phew" every few seconds and spreading his legs as if he were exhibiting some rare breed of plum in a nest of salt-and-pepper-colored pubes. After the heat and steam, I took a cool shower and got dressed. Jung was waiting behind the counter. I gave her my fold of bills, which she unabashedly counted twice before giving me a wink, a thank you, a business card and a "we see you again soon, I know!" Her smiling co-workers waved goodbye as I began my climb to the Earth’s surface.
I really felt like a fish out of water at the spa, considering that I was a decade or two younger than most of the clientele and didn’t carry enough pocket lettuce to buy Belgium. My excitement and arousal during the experience was somewhat compromised by a creeping feeling of sleaziness despite, or perhaps because of, the spa’s ritzy ambience. The whole geisha-girl feel of the place — and the way the high-finance geezers lapped it up — made me feel like more of a john than I would have liked. I was left with questions about how Jung and the other women view the happy ending. Sure, it’s probably pretty non-sexual and mechanical for them, like helping someone scratch an itch. But for most of their clients, it’s undoubtedly more than that. I wondered how far the girls go in accommodating their clients’ needs. In my case, Jung treated me to a couple of suggestive, "Oh ma ga’s!" and a series of winks, but she stopped short of casting her eyes anywhere near mine when doing the deed. I wonder how the women’s husbands and boyfriends deal with their profession. Are they as pragmatic and unimpressed as the women seem to be? I wonder if the full massage is viewed differently in Korea. In India, for example, it used to be common for barbers to fellate their customers after a shave and a haircut. Ultimately, I had to deal with the fact that I crossed a line. It’s a terrible clich