Local Legislation Often A Disgrace to Massage Therapy

I usually report on state legislation, but the fact of the matter is, educating legislators about massage therapy has to begin in your own backyard. In many places, whether there is state regulation of massage or not, local laws are so archaic and penalizing to massage therapists, it is just disgusting.

The latest thing to hit my radar is from the city of Indianapolis. The application required to practice massage in the city is entitled “Application for Massage Therapist/Escort/Body Painting/Nude Model License.”

I am shocked and appalled that this still exists. Where are the massage therapists who should be up in arms about this? Is everyone so complacent they just fill it out and don’t complain? Has anyone ever brought it up to the city government? Have any of our professional associations seized this opportunity to protect the rights of massage therapists?

A few years ago in the small town of Canton, NC, one of my former students excitedly opened her massage therapy practice, and within two days was cited for “massaging a member of the opposite sex.” She had no idea her hometown was a throwback to the Dark Ages, and she wasn’t going to take it lying down. She printed off copies of our Practice Act for every member of the town council, and got herself put on the agenda for the meeting, where she proceeded to enlighten them about the realities of being a professional therapist. The end result was the repeal of an ordinance that was enacted back in the 50’s in an effort to thwart illegal “massage parlors.”

I hope that the massage therapists in Indianapolis will take a lesson and rise up to do something about this. Unfortunately, it isn’t the only place where idiocy like this is perpetuated. After I posted this on my FB page, therapists started coming out of the woodwork with their own stories of unfair local laws. …locales requiring massage therapists to take tests for sexually transmitted diseases, applications that still say “Massage Parlor” and all manner of derogatory and unfair laws aimed at us.  All I can say is what I’ve been saying for the past few years: Don’t wait for someone else to do something about it. Take the initiative and get the ball rolling. Call your colleagues and ask them to appear with you at a town council meeting. Write letters and call your local legislators. Don’t sit on your hands. If we don’t educate legislators, nobody will.

12 Replies to “Local Legislation Often A Disgrace to Massage Therapy”

  1. Thanks for continuing to bang this drum, Laura. It is quite appalling that people are so uninformed about what is going on in their own municipalities and states. I have no answers to this conundrum because I can’t grok it at all.

  2. What I find fascinating is that with hundreds of outdated laws on the books that are no longer enforced, mts in some of these jurisdictions just seem to be citation magnets. Can we say mysogyny out loud? What about prejudice against touch? Do people who associate all touch with sex self-select to enforcement occupations?

  3. With State and Local governments defunded by the economy and some of the lowest tax rates in history there seems to be a new brand of meanness on the rise against a functional government. If we continue to elect representatives who openly express disdain for regulation and government the chance for more progressive massage legislation and the fixing of all outdated code is going to be less and less as obviously the fight over keeping the poor warm, making good on or reneging promised pensions, and schools open is more important than making humane code for massage therapy. It is an important drum to beat and that is one of the great thing about America is you get to pound on whatever policy drum you want. But outside of the drumbeating there are stark and dire crises. Which was what the governor of Oregon hinted at in 2008 when he made an off-hand during the 2008 meltdown that the shutting of all non-essential boards including the Oregon massage board was on the table.

  4. Ezekial, was that board funded with taxpayer money? Our board in NC is totally self-supporting. We don’t get any money from anyone except our schools and licensees–which is why our governor isn’t going after us. She is also on a mission to shut down unnecessary boards but I don’t think ours is in any danger of getting the axe.

  5. As Ezekiel points out state government debt crisis affects all the agencies:

    “OBMT to close 10 Fridays in the 2009/2011 Biennium
    Furlough Closures
    Along with the majority of the state agencies in Oregon, the Board of Massage Therapists will observe all fixed furlough/agency closure days scheduled in the 2009/2011 biennium.”


    Perhaps that off the cuff remark by the Governor had more teeth to it than at first glance.
    Here’s part of a post from OMTA’s website:

    “What is happening with the OBMT, the Governor, and the Executive Director?
    In May 2009, Governor Kulongoski, in a speech addressing economic concerns of the state, suggested eliminating certain boards and commissions as a cost-saving measure. One of the boards specifically suggested was the OBMT. Later, in a document citing nearly 50 boards and commissions, the OBMT was on the list under the heading of “Suspension.”
    On February 8, 2010, using a newly-available authority granted by 2009 legislation, Governor Kulongoski removed OBMT Executive Director Patty Glenn, citing that he wanted to “set a new direction” with a “change in leadership.”

    Wars and economic crises are excellent opportunities for the formative of extraordinary powers as fear is a powerful justification for enabling the new measures to ‘control the ‘crisis’.

  6. There is so much to be done on these kinds of issues, and even in states where there seems to be some level of enlightenment, there is always confusion around who we are and what we do. Even though we have state licensing and have mostly cleared local ordinances from these blue laws, we have issues. For instance, once local jurisdictions dropped such statutes here in Washington State, they forgot to require that Licensed Massage Practitioners (LMPs) provide a copy of their state massage license with their local business license applications. The result has been that it opened the door all over again to anyone being able to open a massage practice, with whatever intent they have in mind. Now we are seeing a rise in illicit massage parlors here in state, but we have to be willing to step into the fight and defend our good name, no one will do it for us.

    Please feel free to look at my site: http://www.defendingourgoodname.com


    Lavon M. Watson, LMP

  7. Laura it’s great to hear the call for action
    “Don’t wait for someone else to do something about it. Take the initiative and get the ball rolling. Call your colleagues and ask them to appear with you at a town council meeting. Write letters and call your local legislators. Don’t sit on your hands. If we don’t educate legislators, nobody will.”
    It’s up to us to raise the bar and educate the people around us. In todays world with information coming in at all angles, let’s focus on educating the people around us in a positive way. Lets focus on what we can do, change the negatives of the past, and turn them into positive learning opportunities for the future! GO TEAM!!

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