Hopefully, I’ve got your attention now.
The sexualization of massage therapy. Wow, if that’s not a SEO field dream.
<<LISTEN, if you don’t want unsolicited requests for sexual services, do NOT put these words on your website.>>
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve seen online among LMTs that are about safety and how to prevent or limit the association we have with sex work. And I’ll be honest, I have a very different take on this than what most were taught.
- Sex work is one of the oldest professions. It’s not going away.
- Safety is a concern but your confidence is your biggest ally.
- Ignoring or over-focusing on this widely known issue is not helping anyone.
The main issue: sex work goes by massage [therapy].
Listen, everyone has to hustle in some way or another. This is just how they do theirs. They don’t want to get arrested so they try to skirt the line. It’s frustrating for us and some could argue for their customer as well. But–this is what we’re dealing with here. In my perfect world, they would be able to advertise their services exactly for what they are and so would we. And forever separating the 2 worlds. This would also allow these sex workers to get the proper support they need to live (for example, the benefits other employment provide along with a safe and healthy environment. I realize this is a very extreme view that the majority of the massage industry does not hold. But I believe in looking at things radically in hopes for a new path to forge.
We could get into more of a conversation about regulation and whether that is helpful for them or us. Honestly, I wish they could just call what they provide by what it is RATHER than massage [therapy]. That would solve a lot of the issues we experience. I’m saying that as a barefoot massage therapist where it would seem we would get more people seeking a foot fetish experience. Which I rarely have that experience.
Then I ask myself, Why don’t I get that experience very often? I hear so many fear that experience. Is it because I have a fancy website? Is it because I screen so much beforehand, they don’t make it through? Or because I’m super quick to let a client go if I don’t think they are a great fit for my studio? Or maybe, it’s just not as common? I can’t wait to see what happens after I post this with all of the keywords to see if I get more unsavory people calling me? I’ll report back if it happens. Or maybe, they get through and they receive their massage and they don’t say anything? And if that’s the case, do I have anything to be upset about? If they pay me what I ask and they are respectful? I’m not here to judge what people are into if they are following my guidelines and my expectations…. what else can I really say about that?
I’ve also seen a lot of judgement slung around when a LMT posts a racy photo or has some kind of extra curricular activity that is skirting the line of what a professional should do. Here’s the thing, there is a line. Don’t use your professional massage space to offer sensual massage. That’s crossing the line. Don’t muddle the line. Find some support in creating clear boundaries for yourself and your clients. But if you put a racy photo of yourself on social media, be prepared to stand up for your credibility. Read that again. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I’m saying, the people around you should be able to clearly see your boundary.
OK-now, there are a lot of people in our industry advocating for Respecting Massage and other noble initiatives. That’s great. But until sex work ceases the use of our terms, we are still going to run into this issue. The best we can do is respect what we do, know our own worth, and educate (not shame) when the opportunity presents itself. Other than that, consider going about your business. And if the situation finds you able, please consider getting involved with legislation like my friend Deb in Montana. We can’t change anything until we get actively involved.
Your confidence is your biggest ally.
You own this job, position, business, session, etc. Yes, the client orders a service and you have good customer service but you’re wielding the experience. A major piece of customer service includes boundaries and clear expectations. If you don’t have that, you’re not really doing your job. I want my client to know *exactly* what they are getting into when they step into my door. There is a lot of communication prior to their first appointment. And you can adopt that, or not.
Essentially, look out for each other. Be smart. Listen to your intuition, if something doesn’t feel right–it probably isn’t. But don’t live in fear. We’re all adults here and a simple conversation can rule out a lot of anxiety. And speaking of other adults…
Clients/customers of sex work, do us a favor–go ahead and state your intent in the beginning. We should be able to politely decline your request without making you feel bad. Because we’re professionals. 😉
**These opinions are simply that–ideas and opinions. And only mine, they do not reflect those of any other organization I may or may not be affiliated with. After many years arguing and watching arguments online. And seeing the action (or inaction) taken after those online arguments. And being deeply involved with social justice and human rights activism.**