This week, as I reported a story about websites that have replaced Craiglist.org as sources of sex-for-pay advertisements, I received a call from Warren Newsome, who said he was a spokesman for rubmaps.com, a site that features an interactive map and user-submitted reviews of adult massage parlors throughout the United States.
Unlike many websites I found out about through police, rubmaps.com has a clean and modern website design. User reviews for each massage parlor appear beneath a map and photograph of the facility. A form and drop-down menu allow users to describe, in vivid detail, their experience with each masseuse, including age range, breast size, pubic hair style and the types of sexual services offered.
Newsome was the only spokesperson, out of several sites I contacted, who responded to a request for an interview. Here’s our conversation, condensed for clarity.
Warren Newsome: Let me just say up front, I’m not the owner of the site. The owner of the site is named Halen. She does this as a sort of personal hobby site. I help her out as a spokesperson for free because I’m her friend.
The Bay Citizen: Who is she?
Newsome: Halen has an extensive history in the adult industry as an independent marketer. She did this for fun about a year ago. She never thought this site would turn out to be as big as it is right now.
TBC: What’s her last name?
Newsome: She has a family, and she’s not looking for her three kids to know she’s involved in this activity.
TBC: How did rubmaps start?
Newsome: What happened was she noticed there was a huge gap [on adult websites]. People didn’t have a medium to share their experiences for physical locations, like massage parlors, strip clubs and whatnot.
TBC: Who runs the site?
Newsome: I believe she has a design team. I think imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery, and so she originally designed it to look like Yelp. I think Halen has about 10 employees. We have a staff that goes through businesses one by one.
There’s 10,000 places licensed in the U.S. We add about 20 to 50 daily. Users add them, but we have to approve them to make sure they’re not some public property, like a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop.
TBC: That sounds like a fairly big operation. How do you support it?
Newsome: A lot of it is volunteers. Some of it may be incentivized in certain ways. Surprisingly, the site hasn’t made a dollar. It’s 100 percent just community-based, out of the kindness of her heart. Once the company believes they have a lot of readership, then they might try to add advertisements here and there.
Right now, we get like 100,000 unique visitors a day. Halen gave me the stats, and we have politicians, doctors, people in the military using our site. She showed me their email addresses, so we know. We have guys who are in their 20s and 70s, and females who sign up.
TBC: A lot of law enforcement officers say rubmaps.com is basically facilitating sex trafficking at massage parlors. On the site, there’s a form for users to specify a masseuse’s breast size, how her “kitty” is groomed, and whether or not she performs oral sex, etc. How would you respond to law enforcement’s concerns that rubmaps is helping facilitate prostitution, potentially of trafficked women?
Newsome: We, at rubmaps, we’re strictly against facilitating sex trafficking. Being a female, the owner is not for that at all. We work closely with law enforcement to help shut down massage parlors that facilitate sex trafficking.
TBC: Do you have examples of that?
Newsome: Well, if you go to Google News, and plug in rubmaps, you can see several examples… [Ed. Note: A Google News search performed by The Bay Citizen did not produce any examples of massage parlors that had been shut down with the help of rubmaps.com.]
The interesting part is that a lot of the reviews on the site are fantasy. There’s no way to validate that any of the stuff is actually true. I know that Halen, when she made the site, it looked a lot different than how it does now. She had an open forum where people could submit what type of functionality they wanted. People were saying, “We’d like to know what color hair the provider has.” So we added a drop-down menu. If 90 percent of the users tomorrow said we want to know which girls eat pepperoni pizza, then we would put that as a drop-down menu. It’s all very user-generated. If law enforcement goes into one of these massage parlors and conducts a raid and busts the johns, then you know what? Those johns put themselves at risk for being there.
Basically, it’s sort of an open forum. They have the option to leave those fields blank, too. Let’s say, as a lot of guys do, I went to this massage parlor and I just got a massage. That’s all I wanted, and that was my happy ending because the massage was so excellent. Those boxes are there for convenience. And this site is actually pretty useful for women, too, who want to avoid these types of places.
TBC: Are you at all concerned about being held liable for what happens between provider and john?
Newsome: I believe that Halen has an international law firm that represents her on retainer. There’s a couple different laws that protect the freedom of speech and also insulates the website owners from any repercussions.
TBC: So what do you do for a living, Warren?
Newsome: I do some real estate, some investing on the side. I’m just across the board. I’m actually located in Romania. I’m here for about six months.