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An Uneasy Client

By Kenn Howard

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring 2011. Copyright 2011. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

Dear Kenn,

I'm a young, healthy guy and I have never received a massage. I think it would be very beneficial, but I'm nervous. (I can't believe I'm even writing this letter.) I'm nervous because I think I might get turned on. What would my massage therapist think? I think that would really be embarrassing.

--Name Withheld


Dear Withheld,

Dealing with sexual arousal during massage is part of any good massage therapy training program, so your concern will not be a total shocker to your therapist. She (or he) knows this physiological result is something that can sometimes happen during massage, even when you don't want it to.

I sympathize with you and hope to ease your anxiety by telling you that you are not alone in this concern. You must realize that, even though massage is a touching of the body, intention is key to appreciating the massage in the manner it is intended. Remind yourself that there are many ways of receiving pleasure that have nothing to do with sex. For some of us, it's listening to Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, for others it's enjoying the perfect peach. For most of us, receiving a massage is high on the list of nonsexual pleasures.

If you are bold enough, you might want to try this preventive tactic: Tell your concerns to your therapist before the massage begins, while you are fully clothed. Emphasize that you really want to avoid arousal. A good therapist will assure you that the two of you are working toward the same goal. This alone may be all you need to relax. And more, you and your therapist can even agree on what to do if by some chance you begin to feel some stirrings (your therapist will probably leave the room).

One thing must be understood. Before you walk into the therapy room, you must be sure that your intentions are genuine and honorable. You must be clear, inside and out, that you want a massage without any sexual activity whatsoever. Your therapist will help you achieve that goal.

Inappropriate advances are professional challenges for massage therapists who are trained to be on the lookout for unsavory types seeking something other than a professional session. Be mindful of your choice of words and your intent when communicating with your therapist and you will all get the nonsexual, therapeutic massage you want.

Kenn Howard is a massage therapist and instructor of ethics for the past 14 years. He writes A Question of Ethics for Massage Bodywork magazine. Contact him at kenn@panaceainstitute.com.




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