Male Massage Therapists: Survival of the Fittest

According to surveys by our professional associations, males account for less than 20% of massage therapists. From the personal experiences I’ve had with teaching male students, having male therapists in my own practice, and serving on a state board, I’ve made a few observations. I think males definitely have a harder row to hoe when it comes to making a living in massage therapy.

I’ve employed a couple of male therapists over the years who practiced advanced modalities. I’ve had a therapist who practices Structural Integration traveling from out of town to work at my place for six years. I’ve also in times gone by employed a male who did orthopedic massage. Both of them had a much easier time getting new clients than did the male therapist who didn’t have a specialty.

I live in a small town, and have found that many women don’t feel comfortable getting massage from a male; many women wouldn’t mind getting massaged by a male, but their spouse doesn’t want them to, and a whole lot of homophobic males won’t get a massage from a male.

As for male therapists getting in trouble with the board, in the past four years that I have served our state board, only one woman that I can recall has been brought in for a hearing on an ethics charge, but there are males having disciplinary hearings at nearly every meeting.

There have been several times when I didn’t think a male therapist who had been accused of something was guilty, but I was voted down by other board members. When it’s a sexual offense, I believe there is a tendency to err on the side of caution, and the standard of proof is not what it is in a regular court of law. I also believe there are plenty of women out there who are violating the code of ethics, but a lot of men won’t complain about being offered sex along with their massage.

All that being said, I look at some of the people who are at the top in this profession, and many of them are men. Erik Dalton,Whitney Lowe, James Waslaski, Tom Myers, Benny Vaughan, John Barnes, John Upledger…the list goes on, and if you stack up the women who have that same kind of name recognition, it’s probably about equal–amazing since over 80% of the profession is comprised of women. Maybe there’s a glass ceiling in massage. If you look at their class schedules, a lot of those esteemed fellows are on the road more than they’re at home. We women tend to nest a little more. Somebody has to keep the home fires burning!

I wonder about the percentage of males who leave the profession because they can’t make a living as opposed to the number of females who do that. I feel for them. The males I’m acquainted with who are successful have had a lot of perseverance. I recently had a black gentleman in one of my classes who has been practicing more than 40. I told him I bet he was the first one in North Carolina. I was thrilled he came to my class. After 40 years, you’d think our state board could lighten up on the continuing ed requirement!

To all the male therapists who are trying to contribute to this profession, I salute you. If you really want to do this, I believe you can make your way. Professionalism will eventually overcome outdated perceptions.  Don’t give up too soon.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

One thought on “Male Massage Therapists: Survival of the Fittest

  1. Jamin Rak

    Thank you for this Laura. It was very hard to insert myself into the profession, but I’m glad I maintained my diligence and now have a wonderful career that I wouldn’t exchange for any other.

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