Well, it wasn’t the most pleasant story I saw on TV news last night: A report about multiple incidents of women receiving massages from male therapists and complaining of sexual touch.
It’s tough to talk about what’s an ugly truth in the massage therapy field. Some people in our field may not be doing massages because they want to relieve pain and stress. They may be getting sexual satisfaction from massaging clients.
I don’t believe in bashing male therapists – Some of the best therapists I have met are men. But in 20 years all of the therapists I know whom have expressed sexual aggression in massage have been men.
Well, there it is.
What should we as a profession do? What should employers do? Not hire men? Not get massages from men? Prohibit cross-gender massage? (Some states do.) I’m not comfortable with any of those ideas. I don’t know.
But I do know if we are to have a public perception as the only healing profession that involves vulnerability and touch we have to be careful about who does massage.
The TV news story was a bit grim. The clinics where the men worked did fire them, but their statewide practice credentials were not affected. Technically, these men could find jobs at other massage clinics fairly easily. At least one did.
No criminal charges resulted from the incidents, which, of course, means that these workers had no opportunity to defend themselves or be found not guilty or guilty. No convictions, no revoked credentials, no closure.
Is unwanted sexual touch a gender issue? I hope not. But many male therapists tell me how hard it is to get hired on at a spa or clinic. Many places seem to want one, only one, male therapist on staff.
And those men had better be thick-skinned. They have all had clients suddenly back out of a massage when they find out their therapist is male. When the front desk asks for gender preference when booking massages, the men lose income and feel discriminated against. And if the front desk does not ask, the spa loses money and suffers schedule nightmares as clients back out of appointments at the last minute.
I’m not offering solutions here, just a heads-up. I don’t want people to be afraid to get a massage at any spa or clinic. Ideas anyone?