Nakedness and what it evokes is a real issue for bodywork therapists, especially female therapists because of how some clients, men or women, will use the massage session to display sexual behavior.
For this article we are not dealing with how bodywork therapists and massage persons can attempt sexuality with their clients, but only about clients displaying sexuality during the session.
I speak as a former Licensed Marriage, Family and Child Relationships counselor in the State of California, USA. I have done bodywork myself as part of the therapy I do. I have had many years of bodywork done with me, as well as a number of training courses in bodywork therapy.
I speak from counseling massage therapists in my own practice. I also am familiar with psychotherapy for sexual uses, including therapeutic sexual massage that is effective.
Sexual massage is more practiced outside the United States than in the States because of severe sexuality issues and attitudes in the United States differing from Canada and Europe.
Here is a sexual issue example:
A man asks the woman massage therapist over the phone: do you include the genitals in your massage work? This is rather direct. The presenting problem may be more, do you work with sexual problems as part of your massage work?
How is a male or female massage therapist to respond? Is this a sexual come-on? Or is this a cry for help?
A massage therapist comfortable with their own sexuality may be willing to take on a client who does have sexual problems. Many females are upset that they cannot orgasm. Males may easily get erections, but while in a woman be unable to orgasm.
It would be unusual indeed if at least half the people who come in for massage treatment do not have sexual problems. What is the massage therapist to do?
Some forms of massage do include massaging the naked body of the client, with a towel over the pelvic region or not. Other forms work with light clothing on and consist more of stretching movements.
Rolfing works with the naked body so as to see the alignment. There is hardly a chance in this form to feel pleasure responses because Rolfing itself is to break up muscles and facia that have been emotionally tense for years, and so the work can be extremely painful.
It is rare that a male client will directly attack a female massage therapist, but it is still considered good practice not to give massage to persons you do not know fairly well in places where you have no protection should you need to call for help.
Of course a male client may not tell you he has sexual problems on the phone, but just come in and then tell you.
One female massage therapist reported to me about a male client who would get an erection every time and have spontaneous orgasm. She never touched his genitals. She had to have a box of tissues nearby so that he could clean himself up. This was Essalen massage combined with Shiatsu pressure-point massage, which deals especially with freeing blocks in the body.
The male client did not try to have sex with her or get her to touch his genitals. Was this a genuine case of being too orgasmic? What would be the best treatment?
I advised her to instruct her male client to practice full-body awareness as he was being massaged.
Indeed, a chief value for anyone being massaged in many different styles of massage is to relax totally into sensual, bodily awareness. Some fall asleep during this relaxation, which is not necessarily healing for the client but acceptable.
For this male client orgasming he was either impressed with his ability to orgasm spontaneously without touching himself, and needed a female to witness this, or he was indeed a seducer.
Men who fixate on being seducers are only interested in getting a female so open to them through their ways of seduction that they do succeed with having intercourse with her.
Thus some men have developed a seduction technique and try to make it work to perfection on female massage therapists. They are not interested in an ongoing life relationship. They want only seduction and conquest and are willing to pay the massage fees to set up these kinds of situations.
To my knowledge with the female massage therapists I have known, they were never trained through role-playing in how to handle seductive clients.
The massage therapist should keep a massage session always on a professional level with a client, not just for reality reasons of keeping one’s license to practice, but to keep the massage situation objective and therapeutic.
With the man who spontaneously orgasmed while his body was being massaged he was emotionally and physically too focused on his erect penis and its ability to display sperm.
So what, we might say. The therapist has to accept many peculiarities with clients, whether it is a massage session or not.
I also counseled the massage therapist to take the first five or ten minutes to talk objectively about the client and his behavior. How does it feel to orgasm here? Are you making it happen? Is it spontaneous? What happens with your own lovers?
These simple questions make the client an object of treatment. They de-potentiate the session of its potential sexuality. The female therapist asserts her professional role as a helper and not a partner. Things are kept within structure. The client is made to feel responsible for his own behavior.
The bodywork therapist is also responsible for the effects of her treatment with any of her clients. A bodywork therapist should not think of themselves as just giving a good massage. The effect on the client is also their responsibility.
Thus I have counseled therapists on the issue: can you as a therapist handle this behavior on the part of a client and work with it to some resolution?
If you are a real therapist of course you want to take on challenges and handle every situation. But can you?
Working on the body is often a temptation to be or feel sexual. Relationships have started up between client and therapist, and always will, such is the human condition.
It is important to keep the therapeutic situation non-sexual, unless you are trained in sexual massage therapy and can practice this form, certainly a developing form in Europe and even America, despite repressive attitudes everywhere.
Thus our advice is to keep defining your boundaries as a massage therapist. It will not be just acting out sexuality that you will sometimes be dealing with. Other clients may be more into anger and you will have to structure your relation to this other great instinct as well.
We have raised some issues here. Instead of giving rigid rules we have explored the issues in terms of their human meaning and trying to be the best massage therapist you can be. You know full well it is more natural than unnatural to face the issues of human sexual feelings and expression inherent to living in a body, your body, and the bodies of your clients.
When faced with unusual or intense situations in your practice, do your best to bring the dynamics into reality.
Oh, what happened with that first male client who was orgasming on the massage table each time?
The female massage therapist did take the first ten minutes to talk objectively and without judgment about her client orgasming, and what his internal experience was. She shared with him her therapeutic approach involving awareness and responsibility of self.
The man never came back.
Was he then just a seducer, using as his field of available women female massage therapists, some of whom might well be seduced by his genital expression? Or did he simply get the point that maybe he could get over his fascination with his own behavior and seek intimacy with a sexual partner he also ate dinner with, showered with, and slept in bed with.
For in the end much of sexual expression is the expression of the need for bonding and intimacy with another human being. The goal of most massage therapy is not simply bodily expression but body-awareness that is relaxing, pleasurable most of the time, and balanced in its expression, sex, sports, sensual expression, caring, anger expression, whatever.
For other articles and talks by Strephon Kaplan-Williams, retired psychologist and writer, please visit at his sites: http://www.strephonsays.com/
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