Massage and Gender discussion

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Breathe
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Massage and Gender discussion

Post by Breathe » Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:30 am

This topic was split from this thread Pro-Bono Massage ~ Masthera

Caoimhan wrote:If you can find someone female on the cheap (female relative?) to do your appointments for you for a while, maybe that would help?

So, when someone calls in, they answer "Serenity Massage. How can I help you?" "Well, we have an available time on Thursday, 3 PM. Is that good for you?" Never mention that the MT is male. When they show up, they'd have to be pretty uncomfortable with a male MT to walk out of the appointment that they have already cleared time on their schedule for, etc... They're probably likely to just go ahead with it, and find that it's not as bad as they thought.

What do you think?
Wow. Unethical. Really unethical, IMO. I would be terribly angry to have that kind of bait and switch pulled on me, and I have no personal discomfort with getting a massage from a male practitioner. However, if I thought I was booking with a woman, and I arrived to find a man instead, I would absolutely and with no hesitation, turn around and walk out. AND, I would tell everyone I knew that this kind of deception was going on with this particular business.

We all know it's more difficult for men in the massage profession, but what they need is more transparency, not less. Hiding behind the screen of a female voice on the phone is really shady, so it calls into question other business practices too. How many of your potential clients making an appointment with a "female" therapist may have issues that you are unaware of that preclude seeing a male MT at this time? Do you really want to trick them into getting on your table? Do you really think they will be able to relax and enjoy the massage? What if they have body issues or abuse issues in their past? Are you equipped to deal with the possibility that your subterfuge might seem like a total loss of control to an abuse survivor? might trigger her? she might be incapable of saying no?

Honesty and openness is what I would always recommend, but critically so for a male massage therapist.
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Post by Caoimhan » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:38 am

BreatheBodywork wrote:
Caoimhan wrote:If you can find someone female on the cheap (female relative?) to do your appointments for you for a while, maybe that would help?

So, when someone calls in, they answer "Serenity Massage. How can I help you?" "Well, we have an available time on Thursday, 3 PM. Is that good for you?" Never mention that the MT is male. When they show up, they'd have to be pretty uncomfortable with a male MT to walk out of the appointment that they have already cleared time on their schedule for, etc... They're probably likely to just go ahead with it, and find that it's not as bad as they thought.

What do you think?

Honesty and openness is what I would always recommend, but critically so for a male massage therapist.
This is why I asked, "What do you think?"

So, what's your alternative? In other posts, I think we agreed that we don't ask if it's okay if their MT is male. That implies that there's something wrong with a male MT. Do we have our appointment-maker say, "Okay, I have you scheduled with Kevin for 3 PM on Thursday." and then just hope that they picked up on the masculine name of the MT and alert us right then and there that they have a problem?

I am totally against the appointment-setter mentioning the gender of the MT. It's absolutely irrelevant to the quality of the service provided.

You may think it's dishonest to use a female appointment-setter, but that's what most spas have. No one assumes that the person setting the appointment at the spa is also the MT. If I am operating my private MT practice under a DBA name, how do they know that we don't have several MTs? What I am saying is to treat this situation just as a spa would. Receptionist takes call. Receptionist schedules appointment. Receptionist doesn't mention gender of MT scheduled. To do so would be unprofessional and unfair. IF someone mentions a preference for a female MT when they make the appointment, so be it.

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Post by Breathe » Thu Apr 20, 2006 10:06 am

A spa setting is very different from a private practice. People assume, (right or wrong) when they call a private practitioner that the gender of the practitioner is wysiwyg. If a male MT uses a female answering service that doesn't disclose the gender of the practitioner, this is deceptive. I think when you get into practice, you will find that working this way will cause you problems with client retention, as well as reputation, even if you do get the initial booking. Of course that's my opinion, based on how I would feel if I thought I was booking with a female MT, and got a male.

Here's another example: I have a potential client call me. She wants massage because she's having headaches from working at the computer all day, and asks if I do deep tissue. When she gets there I inform her that I will be doing Shiatsu. She did not think that's what she would get, but she has taken the time out of her day to come get relief. Now I know that Shiatsu may help her as much or more than deep tissue, but I didn't give her a choice. She has lost control, and I have taken it from her by my choice. Chances are, she will stay for the massage, but she will be distracted, thinking that I am not listening to her or paying attention to her needs. She has alot of created mistrust to overcome to make a followup appointment.

This is milder, IMO than gender bias. If you book at a spa, with several therapists, most people are aware that if they have a gender preference, they need to make that clear. If you book at a private practice, most people assume that the one booking is the one massaging. If the one booking is a woman, why would they assume that the MT is a man?

Yes, saying "you have an appt with KEVIN at 2:30 on the 5th" gives them an opportunity to either object or to acknowledge. But non-disclosure of the practitioner's gender is not the way to go, IMO. Obviously it's silly to make a big deal of it. I saw plenty of that in massage school, and you could just see that those men would not make it in the profession.

You may be comfortable with either gender, your sexuality, nudity, etc, but our clients, for whatever reason, may not be. They may need time to prepare, they may need all the details. Some don't, and those clients are a blessing, but most do. This fact was brought home to me very forcibly once when I was sitting in a chiropractor's office waiting my turn. A lady came in for her first massage appointment, and when the MT came out to greet her, she burst into tears, started trembling and said "I can't have a massage by a MAN!" She was terrified! Who knows why? But she should have had the opportunity to decide, rather than having that decision made for her without her consent.

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Post by Caoimhan » Thu Apr 20, 2006 10:59 am

BreatheBodywork wrote:A spa setting is very different from a private practice. People assume, (right or wrong) when they call a private practitioner that the gender of the practitioner is wysiwyg.
And if you have a DBA name such as "Serenity Massage", how are they to know that you're not a multi-MT practice?
BreatheBodywork wrote: If a male MT uses a female answering service that doesn't disclose the gender of the practitioner, this is deceptive.
And if it was a man answering the phone and it was a female MT? How about a man answering the phone and it was a practice of 5 female MTs and one male MT? How about a woman answering the phone and it is 5 male MTs and one female MT?
BreatheBodywork wrote: I think when you get into practice, you will find that working this way will cause you problems with client retention, as well as reputation, even if you do get the initial booking. Of course that's my opinion, based on how I would feel if I thought I was booking with a female MT, and got a male.
What makes you think you're booking with a female MT? If the name of the practice is "Serenity Massage"?
BreatheBodywork wrote: Here's another example:
This is milder, IMO than gender bias. If you book at a spa, with several therapists, most people are aware that if they have a gender preference, they need to make that clear.
Exactly.
BreatheBodywork wrote: If you book at a private practice, most people assume that the one booking is the one massaging. If the one booking is a woman, why would they assume that the MT is a man?
They shouldn't. They also shouldn't assume it's a woman. A receptionist is a receptionist is a receptionist.
BreatheBodywork wrote: Yes, saying "you have an appt with KEVIN at 2:30 on the 5th" gives them an opportunity to either object or to acknowledge. But non-disclosure of the practitioner's gender is not the way to go, IMO. Obviously it's silly to make a big deal of it.
So "We have you booked for Thursday, at 3 PM with a male therapist." is what you'd recommend? Sounds kindof odd to me. Or would you rather have the receptionist ask, "Our only therapist available at that time is male. Is that okay?" Or perhaps, "We have a 3 PM slot on thursday available with a male massage therapist. Is that okay for you?"

How do you mention gender, without it being implied that there is something wrong with male MTs?
BreatheBodywork wrote: I saw plenty of that in massage school, and you could just see that those men would not make it in the profession.
Plenty of what? I'm not sure what you're referring to here.
BreatheBodywork wrote: You may be comfortable with either gender, your sexuality, nudity, etc, but our clients, for whatever reason, may not be. They may need time to prepare, they may need all the details.
If they need details, they need to ask. Any good appointment-setting script will ask a couple of qualifying questions... "Is this your first time getting a massage?" "Do you have any questions?"
BreatheBodywork wrote: Some don't, and those clients are a blessing, but most do. This fact was brought home to me very forcibly once when I was sitting in a chiropractor's office waiting my turn. A lady came in for her first massage appointment, and when the MT came out to greet her, she burst into tears, started trembling and said "I can't have a massage by a MAN!" She was terrified! Who knows why? But she should have had the opportunity to decide, rather than having that decision made for her without her consent.
So, the way I'm understanding this is... the answer to a certain percentage of clients having irrational fears regarding male MTs is to perpetuate discriminatory beliefs about -- and behavior toward -- male MTs?

Please do tell me how a receptionist can clearly identify the gender of the MT without implying that there may be something wrong with a male MT. And, if you propose that the gender of male MTs be mentioned, I certainly hope that you would promote identifying the gender of a female MT.

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Post by Fusion1 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:16 am

Oh no a battle of the sexes here is not a good thing. While I disagree with the misconceptions women (and some men that won't want a male MT working on them because of homophobic issues.) have about male MT's working on them, I can understand that there are reasons for their reservations over it. A few bad apples spoil the rest of us that take our profession seriously and professionally. Thats said I know I can't do anything to take away those fears from the world with a snap of the fingers, what I can do is be patient and think positive and continue to work in love and releasing the flow of energy and hope the client has a feeling of well-being that negates any kind of gender bias.

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Post by Breathe » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:21 am

Caoimhan wrote:Please do tell me how a receptionist can clearly identify the gender of the MT without implying that there may be something wrong with a male MT. And, if you propose that the gender of male MTs be mentioned, I certainly hope that you would promote identifying the gender of a female MT.
I think you are deliberately misunderstanding me. I believe that you are trying to think of a way around the acknowledgement that MANY people have gender "bias" when it comes to who will put their hands on them when they are naked. I think my original statement of "I have you down for an appointment with KEVIN," would be sufficient opportunity. This is not an either/or. Either you make a big deal of the gender, OR you are secretive. The third option is to acknowledge as if it is not an issue. That way if it is, it becomes apparent.

It's very much in the tone. Saying "your appointment is at this time with Kevin" is VERY different from saying "I have to make your appointment with a MAN, are you going to be okay with that?"

By all means, try the bait and switch technique. It's bad business, and bad ethics, but it's YOUR business and YOUR ethics, so very well, you have a decision to make. For the record, I would not use a bait and switch with a female therapist either, even though that is generally accepted. There are some people that always choose a male MT, for whatever their personal, social or religious reasons. I would never hide that I am a woman, just expecting it to be okay with the client.
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Post by Texas-gal » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:33 am

How do you mention gender, without it being implied that there is something wrong with male MTs?
Since I work in a practice with a female (me) and a male (husband), I just give the times that are availiable with each of us (depending on what time frame the client is searching for) and we usually ask new clients if they are looking for work in any specific areas. As we both do different types of work, each of us is more than capable to do everything, but we are both better at different things. In the case where someone really needs extra time on their neck, arms or feet, we both suggest I work on them. If they are asking for extra work on their upper or lower back or need stretching, we both suggest him. It is all in the presentation it seems.

However, on occasion someone will say they don't want a male therapist. In that case we assure them that the male therapist is excellent in what he does, but if they don't want him to work on them, we can understand and will be happy to schedule with "the female" (me).

Many times they want the person "best" for their particular complaint and will ask that we just schedule them with "the male" anyway, since obviously he will be better. But, sometimes not.

Also, we have had people call who don't want a female. They always go directly to my husband unless he doesn't have a time slot avaliable. I have found that most people who ask for a male will wait for him to come avaliable than to have me (female) work on them, because they have set in their mind usually that I won't be able to deliver the pressure.

I can also say that geriatic ladies tend to do better with a male, from what I have experienced. Something about the male energy and feeling of being "safe", possibly. In my experience, sometimes they need help moving around and feel steadier with a solid male that can help them up and down as needed.

Just a few thoughts on that.

Hope I don't cause us to get too sidetracked.
Last edited by Texas-gal on Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:41 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by Breathe » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:33 am

Caoimhan wrote:
BreatheBodywork wrote: I saw plenty of that in massage school, and you could just see that those men would not make it in the profession.
Plenty of what? I'm not sure what you're referring to here.
Plenty of male MT students being fearful of being seen as frightening just because they were male. Unnecessary qualification of the gender... "are you sure you're okay with a male MT?" "Are you sure you don't need a female?" "Are you sure you know that I will drape you properly, even though I'm a man?" They were so fearful of being taken the wrong way, by the time they were done talking, the otherwise comfortable client DID have a problem and suspicions about the male MT. I can't see how those men would ever manage to book an appointment, it was as if they took gender bias and talked the client into having one.

On the other hand, I saw several men build very successful practices very quickly by making it a non-issue. "My name is ALAN, I do this kind of work, this is my specialty, how do you think we can help you?" or like the practice I spoke with this morning: "I have an opening for Friday with Benjamin, he specializes in injury recovery and massage for chronic pain." There was no "are you okay with a MAN massaging you?" If they act like there's something to hide, would YOU want to go to them for treatment? What else are they hiding?
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Post by Caoimhan » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:45 am

No, I wasn't deliberately misinterpreting you. It seemed to me you were saying that mentioning the name of the therapist wasn't good enough... that you should explicitly identify the MT's gender. Thanks for clarifying that you don't think explicit mention of the gender is necessary.

But now I need to ask you... what if the MT's name is Chris? Or Stacy? or Cary? Any of those names can be male or female.

Here's how I see it...

1. There are people who definitely want a female MT. (Many of those are men who want this to be the case for an inappropriate reason, but there are also many men and women who want this to be the case for a valid reason, too.)

2. There are people who PREFER a female MT, but in the end, quality of service is more important to them.

3. There are people who simply don't care.

4. There are people who PREFER a male MT, but in the end, quality of service is more important to them.

5. There are people definitely want a male MT.

SO... given that 3, 4, and 5 are not an issue in this particular discussion, we're left with 1 and 2. While there may be a slim chance that #5s and #4s will be turned off by a female appointment-setter, they'll probably end up asking if the MT is male and stating that as their preference.

Studies show that a very large percentage of massage clients fall into case 2. What I'm trying to propose is that we reduce the visibility of the "maleness" of the experience... and turn the focus back onto the quality of service. If a feminine voice answers the phone, it will put the caller at ease. As they get into the appointment-setting process, the caller may or may not bring up their gender preference. People in category #1 almost certainly WILL bring up their preference (even if there are anecdotes such as the case you related, where this did not happen).

The whole point I am trying to make is to minimize the issue of gender. I think people have come to expect a female voice answering the phones in our society. If a male voice answers, we immediate become conscious of it, because it is unusual... something "different" that our brain picks out and raises our conscious awareness of...

If you're a #2, you hear that male voice, and you have a conscious awareness, "I'm talking to a man", and it puts you off immediately.

If you're a #2, and you hear a female voice, there's no conscious awareness of "I'm talking to a woman", and you procede as normal with making your appointment.

Going further... if the person on the other end says, "The MT is a man", the same conscious awareness occurs, which then seeds other kinds of thought... "why did they mention that?" "am I okay with that?".

It's a psychological awareness thing. The best way to make people ignore your presence somewhere is to act like you belong there, going about your business. If you act like you're out of place, then people will perceive you as out of place.

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Post by maestra » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:41 pm

Caoimhan wrote: But now I need to ask you... what if the MT's name is Chris? Or Stacy? or Cary? Any of those names can be male or female.
I think I've answered this question before.

"Your appointment is Friday the 21st at 4 PM with Chris. Please arrive a few minutes early to fill out the health information for HIM. HE specializes in treating low back pain..."

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Post by Fusion1 » Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:36 pm

Caoimhan wrote: But now I need to ask you... what if the MT's name is Chris? Or Stacy? or Cary? Any of those names can be male or female.

You forgot Pat, haha remember her/him from SNL? Here are some more names, Cory, Taylor, Jamie, Kim, Jerri etc.

I honestly think if a cleint is experienced with massage they shouldn't have an issue either way.

My instructor in school tended to give the impression quite often that there was discrimination towards females in general. In her practice, guys would look at her and she was tiny, and asked if there was a male MT, because they wanted deep tissue massage and didn't think she could possibly have the strength for that. She proved them wrong apparantly, and they were pretty sore getting off the table.

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Post by massageenvyman » Sat Jun 23, 2007 7:31 am

Being a man in this business is tough. I know from experience. It shouldn't be a problem or an issue, but regardless of what things should or shouldn't be, it certainly is an issue for many many many many many many (did I say many?) many, people.

That being said, the quality of the work done can always be better or not as good whether you're a man or woman.

If we're clear about this, we could start to identify the WORK as a gender all by itself, leaving the issue of who is providing that work totally aside. The WORK should become its own entity and should "speak" for itself. If it is great work, then it shouldn't matter what vessel is being used to provide it (there are massage machines after all) and if the work is awful that person or apparatus should be avoided at all costs.

I can't tell any man how to have a better practice. I just joined massage envy not because my work is bad but because I'm tired of the stereotypes that go with private practice being a man. And even when I worked in a high end spa I wasn't very busy for the same reason that people perceive a man (young in my case) with a mixed bag of emotional issues.

We need to educate the people about our profession in such a way that people relinquish their grip on their issues. For those that can get past their mental and emotional barriers and take the plunge on a man more power to them. There will always be the hopeless throngs of people that see a man and think "Bad. Gay. Blah blah blah" etc. I don't see that ending any time soon.

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Post by fey » Sat Jul 07, 2007 8:17 am

I just have to say I wanna take the boys side on this.
When I go to schedule a massage Im always a little put off when they ask me "would you like a male or female MT?".
I mean, in certian situations where you may have some phoba against a certain gender that may be a story, but if you dont have any issue in that area what the MT has hanging off their waist doesnt really matter.

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Post by fudja / aka Greatlakes » Sat Jul 07, 2007 10:10 am

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Post by fey » Sat Jul 07, 2007 10:27 am

You mean the client bill of rights?

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Post by fudja / aka Greatlakes » Sat Jul 07, 2007 10:42 am

No, not exactly the clients bill of rights. Just something short, sweet, and to the point and only about sexual misconduct.

Not all clients have this phobia about being worked on by a male MT. But, those that do fall into three camps. The first camp are those who have been molested in the past. The second camp are women who think a male MT is going to get turned on by them. The third camp are men who think the male MT is going to hit on them. The last two are irrational fears.

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Post by fey » Sat Jul 07, 2007 11:22 am

agreed, the first one is the only situation Id be ok with a male MT stepping down for a women to take over.
The last two are issues that need to be resolved over a period of time because Ive been outted before by the female students in my class for be accused of "innaproprate touch" just because Im a lesbian.
And frankly I think its retarded to believe a gay person is automatically going to hit on/rape a person in a massage.
And its funny because when I work on a girl that I find atractive I dont say anything about that or let that fact distract me, yet I see situations where straight women make comments about a male practice clients body and get away with it.

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Post by Seebs » Sat Jul 07, 2007 11:47 am

GrateLakes wrote: Not all clients have this phobia about being worked on by a male MT. But, those that do fall into three camps. The first camp are those who have been molested in the past. The second camp are women who think a male MT is going to get turned on by them. The third camp are men who think the male MT is going to hit on them. The last two are irrational fears.
Just to throw in another idea of a fourth camp: women who fear THEY might sexualize the experience and want to avoid that temptation...

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