I AM really not one to jump in. I didn't want to post anything. But my soul kept prodding me to, so here goes...
With everything going on around women and all different types of abuse and harassment being outed, it's time to say something from my industry's point of view. From a woman who's been in the business for almost 20 years...
My soul sister, Liz, says I am not like many women. I stand up for myself, sometimes loudly, and defend my tribe fiercely. No qualms about it.
On that note, I feel I need to say a bit from a bodywork/massage therapists point of view.
There are many things not being said by my fellow body workers.
Things we only dare talk about among ourselves...
All women know what it is like to be harassed in some way. The seedy look from a stranger, being followed home from school, men you don't know grabbing your breasts. (Yes, this last one actually happened at a bar on New Years Eve when I was young - WT?? My boyfriend at the time was not too happy with that either.)
As a bodywork therapist, I have had my share of obnoxious, misogynistic, entitled behavior from the opposite sex. In my case - men.
And so have most of my friends (male and female), who are all legitimate therapists.
This is some of what we have encountered and shared with each other. It doesn't matter if it was when we worked at spas, yoga studios, or on our own. It happens everywhere. But that does not mean it is acceptable or okay.
Usually it starts with a phone call with some heavy breathing as they are asking to book an appointment.
Sometimes, I can actually feel that there is sweating going on on the other end of the phone.
There is usually a need to get in for an appointment right away.
Like in an hour - or at 11pm that evening.?!
If we do not give them an appointment right away, we really begin to get harassed.
Again, this is just on the phone -
*Another therapist has done it for me before.
*I don't want to wait a week.
*Do I get anything extra if I wait a week?
*Am I going to be naked? Are you going to be naked?
*I have a foot fetish, do you wear socks or go barefoot?
*Let me tell you about this blind therapist I had in the Netherlands...
*I like my gracilis worked all the way to the top. (FYI - a very intimate muscle that goes up the thigh into the groin. - and this guy was no athlete.)
*One guy even asked me who I thought I was not providing a service for him right away - so I told him who I was - my name.
Table harassment/ non-verbal harassment while on the table:
*I have had men when I worked at a spa leave the sheets off their body and climb on top of the blanket so they have to stand up naked to get under them when I come in. Not just once, but the same guy, on numerous occasions. (Finally told the owner - never saw him again.)
*Leaving the sheets half off, or completely off the body, so we can see the body naked when we walk in the room.
*Gyrating of the hips while glutes are being worked on. Or just in general - gyrating of the hips during a massage. (Come on, as if we don't know what that's all about.)
*A friend had someone actually ejaculate onto the sheets at a prestigious spa downtown after being told many times what massage was about - this guy was not allowed in the spa ever again.
Verbal harassment in person and even during a session:
Is there a special place I can put my underwear?
Do you have a lock on the door?
Men who plead to not be draped before, and during a session. (It's the law in Illinois.)
Oh, (disappointment) since you do Thai bodywork, I thought you'd be Asian and provide "more".
Great job beautiful, but can you work my abdomen deeper and lower.
Hey sweetie, I like it fast and deep.
I am looking for a sensual release.
Overly touching - lots of hand grabbing. ("I can't control what my hands are doing.")
My therapist in Hawaii was almost Tantric. ( I will not even go here. This really annoys us.)
When do I get to give you a massage?
I like to take a shower after my session. Want to join me?
"You are so great with your hands" - said with an knowing smile on the face.
I believe you get the point.
There is a lot of shame and embarrassment around this among most therapists. I am comfortable "standing up" for myself in a straightforward and graceful (hopefully) manner and very grateful to have an excellent support group around me to be able to talk about some of what happens. - And a fantastic boyfriend who just listens and also shakes his head - no no no....
I understand that people need to be seen in certain ways, but the majority of us have professional boundaries and do not go there.
And yes, some of it sounds funny and cute right now, but there is no excuse or reasoning behind this kind of behavior.
Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior.
At this point, I am not sure I have much more to add except thank you for hearing me and my colleagues at this powerful point in history.
Mahalo Nui Loa,
with love, Lisa
Lisa Kai is a licensed bodywork therapist in Chicago Illinois. She specializes in transformational bodywork including Lomi Lomi and Visionary Craniosacral. This blog contains her insights on bodywork and everyday tips for practicing Aloha for the body, mind, and spirit. Lisa also practices Aloha, is a nature loving tikiphile, digs jazz (well, all types of music really!), double dips her veggies, is an artist, and embraces change.