In massage, what is appropriate?

Last year I had two clients at my practice in Cambridge who have experienced inappropriate touching by massage therapists.I  have also had people who are  not clients ask me about what is and isn’t appropriate. I encouraged the clients to report their experiences to both the police and to the therapists’ professional bodies. (I am assuming they were actually registered with one of the many bodies that do this.)

The answer I gave the people I met who were not clients was, “Anything that you do not want or do not feel comfortable with is inappropriate.” That is of course on top of any touching that is clearly of a sexual nature such as touching of breasts or genitalia.

I have had a small number of clients who are not comfortable with stomach massage. For me to try and persuade them otherwise may or may not be inappropriate depending on how I went about it and the information I already had about why they didn’t want it. Some clients are happy about the  muscles in the buttocks being massaged some are not. However, for me to massage there without checking out how the client felt about it would be inappropriate. I make a point of telling my clients what parts of the body I do and do not massage as part of my normal routine so that they have the chance to tell me if there is anything they do not want massaged. (Most common is head though in every case so far that has been about not wanting oil on hair so if I wash my hands before doing the head  there is no problem.) Feet is one that crops up occasionally and as I said stomach.  I have had other parts of the body crop up occasionally, sometimes due to scarring from operations.

The bottom line is that the client is in control and I make a point of finding out about what they are comfortable with first as many clients fall asleep during a massage and I don’t want to have to wake them up to find something out or to start massaging an area inadvertently that they are not comfortable with.