Creative Arts with Patrick Moore


Radio interview on the Sexualization of Massage
May 14, 2014, 8:56 am
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I was interviewed earlier this month by Mishell Livio and Fook. I asked permission to get the audio for posting here and Mishell sent me the files which I have posted at youtube: http://youtu.be/NF2AMQ5TkPk .

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The video is about 8 minutes of the 10 that I was interviewed, plus one minute of Fook and Mishell’s comments after I hung up, and one of the two callers.

The interview was mostly Fook asking me questions and he did well at getting to this basic point: even at legitimate massage establishments, male recipients often expect sexual massage, and this makes legitimate therapists feel high anxiety. Fook made some jokes about it the interview makes sense.

After I hung up, Mishell and Fook wondered how often innocent men happen to get erections. By an innocent male, they must mean that the guy didn’t book the massage with the expectation of receiving a sexual massage, that his arousal was a surprise to him. I imagine that does occur occasionally. However, men have ways of preventing the first stirrings of an erection from becoming full, as I describe in my previous blog post, Clothed Massage Prevents the Sexualization of Massage.

I notice that part of the interview was edited out. I remember saying something about the media. Fook said something like, oh, its the medias fault? and I said, yes, partially. Perhaps since radio is media, he did not feel this would be good to play on the air, and so this part of my interview was not aired. How much responsibility for the sexualization of massage is the media’s doing? (feel free to comment below).

I notice that in post-production, the sound effect of a spring going “boing” has been added several times. I imagine this is to give the listener the idea of an erection springing up. What is the responsibility of the media here? The image of a spring coiling and releasing gives the impression that a force has been placed upon the spring, and it is simply doing what it naturally must do. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, like a law of nature. I think this media portrayal of an erection teaches us that, once an erection occurs, it must fulfill its objective, like a spring must spring. This probably wasn’t what Fook had in mind when adding the sound effect. Perhaps he was just going for a laugh. But going for a laugh, often worsens the public’s view of massage. That was my point when we spoke on the phone, and that was the part that was not aired.

Several more examples of this come to mind. I am reminded of the TV show, Friends. One character was a massage therapist, and she sometimes had to deal with customers who expected her to provide an orgasm as part of the service. This TV show was the first place I ever heard the term, “happy ending.” The term got a big laugh on the show. It is funny, I admit. I probably laughed, for a few seconds until I realized how the term makes my profession look bad. The phrase happy ending, went viral and now it is commonly used. I wonder if polls had been taken in the 90s prior to that phrase being launched, and now, if the public would have a greater sexualization expectation of massage now than they did before the phrase went viral? If so, then the media is partly responsible, don’t you think?

My wife and I began attending improv shows and learning improv at workshops two years ago. We went to the Phoenix Improv Festival twice. The one last year had an improv troupe doing a game they call “Foxworthy,” where the audience shouts out professions and the troupe says funny things about that profession. Here is the video of that performance, with the skit about massage therapists going from minute 2:00 to 3:10. Someone shouted, massage therapist. The first performer said, “good with your hands.” The second performer said, “happy ending.” The third performer said, “If you’re okay with men getting erections on the table.” Most of their responses to massage therapist, were sexual. Of course this made the crowd laugh, and my profession is reduced in the public’s view with each laugh. Note to improv performers: getting a laugh is not always the highest aim of art.

I do not blame the media entirely. I think equal.. no, greater accountability, should be upon us massage therapists. I don’t mind that Fook or someone at the station edited out my comment about the media. The problem of sexualization, finally comes down to those of us who are licensed to do massage therapy. After I hung up, one caller said that he had dated a woman who was a massage therapist, who did sexual massage as an option for her recipients. She encouraged this by dressing provocatively, and must have charged extra for this additional (somehow nobody mentioned illegal) service, because, he said, she earned $5,000 to $6,000 per month. There definitely are licensed massage therapists who also offer sexual massage as a secret option. These therapists do far more damage to the image of our profession than the media does. Even if the media were to immediately stop associating massage with sexuality, still the fact that it is easy to find massage therapists who will do illegal sexual massage, will continue to strengthen the association.  

Can our profession win the battle for our image? Please comment if you think yes, or no. It appears to me that our profession has been struggling to define ourselves as non-sexual therapy, nurturing, healing, and relaxation. This struggle has been occurring for the entire 20 years I have been licensed and I think we are losing the battle. I think this battle is one that cannot be won, and we need an exit strategy.

The exit strategy I suggest is clothed massage. Four years ago I stopped offering people the option of being nude during their massages. I only work through clothing. I believe muscles relax better when massaging them through clothing. When nude skin is touched, these sensations race to the brain and crowd out the muscle sensations. While a person is partially nude, his brain will be thinking about things other than muscle relaxation. While he is clothed, his brain will only be processing the less-sensual muscle pressure. In this situation, his brain is far more likely to relax the muscles, and relax them more completely. If you could quantify how much muscles relax during a 60-minute nude massage, I believe you could get that same amount of muscle relaxation in just 30 minutes of clothed massage.

When I said “I do only clothed massage now,” during the interview, Fook said, “eww,” like he was disappointed. I am not saying all massage should be clothed. I feel it is my duty to the reputation of my profession, to offer therapy and muscle relaxation in a way that nobody could possibly misconstrue as sexual. I believe if our profession is to continue into the future as therapy, that we must do something to assure the public what we are doing is purely therapeutic. What other options do we have, besides clothed massage?

So I thank Fook for asking me on the phone, if I blame the media. His question led me to putting accountability for the sexualization of massage where it belongs: on us therapists.

Further reading: “Code of Ethics” from the National Certifying Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

Standards of Practice from the NCBTMB

In a future blog post I would like to share what I think is the responsibility of massage schools, regarding the rampant sexuality out in the real world. Shouldn’t prospective students be made aware of this problem, before they spend ten thousand dollars and a year of their life learning the trade?

 

 

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