When a client comes to see a massage practitioner or most health professionals if it comes to that, they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position. In massage the practitioner is fully clothed while the client is usually wearing only underpants/knickers.
During the 1960’s some establishments attempted to redress the power balance by the practitioner also being naked. However, this in itself led on occasions to an abuse of power in the relationship.
From my perspective of having had training in various forms of psychotherapy over the years, I will say that it is the responsibility of the therapist to manage this imbalance. In massage I do this by reminding clients that anything that makes them feel uncomfortable they have the right to say no to. This applies to pressure that is too much for them and equally to which areas of the body are massaged. I recently wrote about a client who had been bought a voucher as a present and clearly had issues about being massaged by a man.
On this occasion I reminded her more than once during the session that it was her right to only have me massage what she wanted and that if she wanted even more draping than is normal that was fine too. Yes it did mean that the massage was not as, “full body” as normal but any benefit she may have gained from having those bits massaged would have been totally wasted because she would have felt very uncomfortable with it.
In the same way that when working with patients in a psychotherapeutic was they were laying their soul bare to me, those laying their body bare need the same respect, not uncovering the bits they wish not to uncover or not to uncover yet.
As a therapist of any kind I have to respect my client’s limits and respect that they are trusting me to do this. I also have to respect the fact that cultures differ in these things. Some from Scandinavian countries find nudity normal. Most in UK at least do not while many other countries are somewhere between the two. Also there are some who for religious reasons would not see a massage therapist of the opposite sex at all. Perhaps this last is one boundary that is enforced by the client most of the time so that I do not need to worry about it!