I’ve wanted to get a massage for awhile, but I’m nervous. I don’t know much about finding the right massage therapist, including whether I can limit my selection to a particular gender. I’m a woman, and I don’t think I would be comfortable if my massage therapist was a man. Is there some way I can avoid having a male massage therapist?
Absolutely! You always have the power to choose the massage therapist you want, and the gender of their massage therapist is one of the first criteria for many massage clients. It’s easy to understand why. A stranger rubbing oil on your skin creates a level of intimacy that makes some people uncomfortable.
The reality is that women make up an overwhelming percentage of massage therapists, if you look at the membership of the three largest professional organizations. The American Massage Therapy Association reports that 84 percent of its members are female, with the Associated Bodywork Professionals and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork reporting similar figures (83 percent and 82 percent, respectively). This massive gender gap has made it difficult for male massage therapists to find clients, and many male massage therapists have reported losing work because of their gender.
Many women prefer female massage therapists simply because they feel closer to other women, a sense that they are kindred spirits. But most female clients polled by a writer for Massage Bodywork magazine brought up sex as the real issue they chose a female therapist over a man. These women were concerned that a male therapist would be looking at their bodies, or thinking about sex while working on them. To get the full benefit of a massage, you have to trust your massage therapist. If you don’t feel you can trust a male massage therapist, you are entirely within your rights to avoid them.
It’s worth noting that all massage therapists are professionals and will respect any boundaries you set. You don’t have to fully disrobe if you’re not comfortable being nude – your massage therapist will respect that. If you do fully disrobe, you will be draped with a sheet or towel to cover the private parts of your body. You should also keep in mind that you can have your massage therapist come to you, so you can get your massage in a setting where you already feel comfortable.
Whether male or female, it’s important to talk to your massage therapist before the session and carefully delineate your boundaries. If you feel uncomfortable at any time during the massage, speak up. A massage should be a pleasurable and relaxing experience, and if you’re tense or embarrassed you won’t get the full benefit.
 Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals: “Male Bodyworker Issues” http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/726/Male-Bodyworker-Issues
 Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals: “Gender in the Profession” http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1376/Gender-in-the-Profession
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