This is a topic of great discussion in the Massage Therapy field. I found during my research one particular individual that seemed to be forcing me to address this issue. I realized that the issue of what is offered during a massage therapy session and what is requested goes beyond the massage room. What I discovered spans our globe and victimizes some of the weakest and most vulnerable of our world.
In this individuals response to a post on female happy endings,he states,
“I enjoyed the article. Just returned from vacation in Thailand. I got used to paying $9 for 1 hour full body oil massage (I had 5 of them in 15 days). Since the girls wanted a good tip, they all teased me by rubbing the inside of my thighs, purposely grazing my a** and (scrotum). Eventually they all asked if I would like them to masturbate my c**k, which of course I did. None of them was good enough at it to make me orgasm, but I still gave them a good tip for trying. We both enjoyed a “happy ending.” Same thing is standard practice in Costa Rica when I visited in March. Philippines, Korea, etc.
Frankly, it’s culture shock to return home to the USA and have to deal with LMTs on their high horses. I have listened to their arguments and understand their reasons. They do NOT want to give their clients a happy ending and they do not want to be asked. BUT… many of their client WANT a happy ending and will continue to search for MTs who are willing.. I know I will”. Bill Sanders
I believe that we as Massage Therapist are tired of having our beautiful profession hijacked by ignorant, misinformed individuals.
Individuals who believe it is acceptable to commit a felony not only by soliciting someone for sex, but also for possibly having sex with minors.
Now you may be asking, when did he mention minors in his comment? When he stated that this occurred in Thailand.
Thai women and girls are trafficked within their own country and other countries like Japan, Malaysia, South Africa, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, Europe, Canada and yes the United States for sexual and labor exploitation.
Thailand is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. This means that they use their women and girls for sexual and labor exploitation in their own country. And with the help of criminal syndicates see these women and girls, including women and girls from other countries, shipped into and through their country for the purpose of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is not limited to women and girls but also on a smaller scale affecting men and young boys as well. Notice that he mentions Costa Rica, Philippines and (South) Korea, all hold the same distinction as Thailand as being top human trafficking violators.
Many of these women and young girls are lured to other countries from their own through recruiting agencies with promises of a career and security and after arriving find themselves in debt and living the life of an exploited slave.
Let’s look at this from a historical standpoint. I have heard many times that prostitution is the oldest profession on earth. I would have to disagree, I believe that distinction belongs to hunting, farming, gathering. But I will agree that it has been around since the idea of “trade for goods” was established.
The first recorded history to mention prostitution is in the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th Century BCE, which included provisions to protect the inheritance rights of prostitutes, the only women other than widows who had no male support.
The Greeks established classes for the prostitutes of their land while state run brothels were established by the ruling Solon in the 6th Century, BCE.
These cultures differed from those like Spain, which banned prostitution in 590 ACE, or Italy in 1586 when Pope Sixtus V mandated the death penalty for acts of prostitution.
So from this we know there is an extensive history for prostitution with writings dating from the 18th Century, now we should have a brief history on Massage Therapy.
Massage Therapy has roots in the traditions of India, which were not recorded until sometime between 1500 and 500 BCE, but the deep history of this practice may go back to sometime around 3000 BCE or earlier. Hindus used this art in the holistic practice of Ayurvedic Medicine and still do today.
Egyptians are credited with the pioneering of Reflexology around 2500 BCE, including paintings on the walls of their burial tombs depicting massage as part of their medical training.
An invaluable tool in the massage therapy training field is a book from ancient China titled “ The Yellow Book of Internal Medicine”, first written around 2700 BCE and published in the English language in 1949.
Looking at the history and time lines for these two professions tells me they evolved alongside one another, but just because I evolved alongside a sea turtle does not mean that I should be considered the same, just as Massage Therapy should not be considered the same as prostitution.
Massage Therapist, just like other health care professionals, are held to very high ethical standards, established code of ethics and their own moral code which all agree that we are not to exploit our clients in any way including any sexual act of any kind. This does not make me an “LMT on my high horse”, It says I am an ethical professional who recognizes my role as a Therapist and my boundaries set under the current laws.
This is not a subject that is up for debate. Massage Therapist from California to Maine and all states in between are held to the same standards. We entered this field, not to be exploited, but to follow a path of health, healing and balance.
I want to make very clear that the United States is not exempt from any involvement in human trafficking, as I said before the United States is in the illegal import/export business of human trafficking as well.
In a recent news report from The Kansas City Star from August 27,2009:
“Police have arrested a Kansas man who is accused of helping run a network that brought teenage girls to brothels to perform sex acts.
Presley is one of six defendants who were indicted on accusations of running a human-trafficking network that brought teenage girls to Houston for prostitution”.
For those who believe it is a harmless thing to ask your Massage Therapist, who is educated and certified, to service you in some way out of their scope of practice remember this, she or he is a Therapist not a brothel worker.
So what can we do?
I have heard some say that prostitution should be legalized. Making a clear distinction between the two professions and those who work in their fields. I can agree to some degree on this. There are people, not being exploited under slavery, that are willing and able to offer this service to the public.
It could be regulated in a similar way to current Nevada law which was established in 1971 when it allowed brothels in specific areas of the state. Having enforceable laws for the protection of those involved is of paramount importance.
On an individual level you can address any questions of your scope of practice in a kind but informative yet firm manner.
As one Therapist said when I asked him about this subject and what his response to the client would be,
” The difference between myself and a ‘masseur’ that offers such things, I am a therapist. If I gave you the impression that I offer more than massage I apologize, but I am a serious professional and could not engage in illegal conduct. If you would like to continue the massage in the manner it is intended, we can, otherwise we will have to stop the treatment”. Darren Peck
He also said, “As male therapists, I think we see a lot less assumptions of our profession than female therapists do”. This is an excellent point because of the ties between illegal brothels disguised under massage parlor fronts predominately employing females. Another interesting point, Darren as a male Massage Therapist, still gets the “tongue in cheek comments”, those comments that every massage Therapist inevitably gets…
I received a response from a female therapist that really made the point clear and precise. I was happy to hear it stated so assertively from another woman. In her response to the question of how she feels about her field of choice being associated with prostitution she said,
“The assumption that a Licensed Massage Therapist would in any way be associated with prostitution is based on ignorance and the unfair social influence they have yet to think beyond. Everyone understands that a Fake Rolex is just that- A Fake. And a “Masseur” that has no education, no certification, no license and no respect for the work that real trained practitioners do – is not a Massage Therapist”.
From an individual perspective these are two responses that give you examples of how to address the issue both inside and outside of the massage room.
On a local level, good examples of getting the word out would be places of business offering safe, legal, Therapeutic Massage. These places can work with local government, serve and or participate in local business boards. While in those positions their voices will be heard loud and clear about the issue of prostitution and the association it has with the field of Massage Therapy.
On a national level we could encourage the AMTA and ABMP to establish a more precise defense for the profession itself. Encouraging ad campaigns that make it very clear that these two professions in no way have anything to do with one another.
On the AMTA web site it states,
“Legal recognition of massage therapy through licensure protects the public in other ways as well. It establishes a consistent standard of practice, which is enforceable by a professional code of ethics. In addition, it establishes a formal grievance process for consumers that helps prevent unethical and/or non-compliant massage therapists from continuing to practice”.
This is an excellent statement regarding their code of ethics that all Massage Therapist are required to adhere to, but in my opinion it falls short of taking a firm stand on the issue.
We are seeing more local governments enforcing the law in regards to illegal massage parlor fronts. It is a process that will require patience but when it is complete, I believe we could see respect being given to a field that, at its core, provides health, well being and therapeutic balance to all who seek its practice.
If you would like to learn more about human trafficking and its affects on a global scale, you can read more at:
As always, “Choose each day to be blissful and complete, a whole person well cared for by you”