Are “Happy” Massages Legal?

Man getting massage
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A "happy massage" is a massage that ends with erotic contact between the client and massage therapist. Usually, there are tip-offs that erotic contact is on the spa menu—for example, an innuendo in the name of the spa. The spa menu also might be worded in such a way that seems off, such as treatments using terms such as "all-body massage," "tantric massage," "thigh massage," or "body-to-body massage." Although Asian massages have a long medical and cultural history, “Asian massage” can sometimes be code that a spa performs happy massages.

Are They Legal?

In the United States, a happy massage is illegal and is not performed at legitimate spas. Under the law, happy massages are considered prostitution.

Many spas that perform erotic massages are prostitution fronts and are often in the news for being raided by the police and shut down—which is something to keep in mind should you consider becoming a customer. Another risk of seeking out a happy massage is being sent to a spa that intends to scam customers. Sometimes spas will advertise themselves using the tip-offs of erotic contact at spas and then charge customers a fee to get in, a drink fee, and a services fee—without ever performing the implied sexual actions.

It’s also a breach of a massage therapist’s professional ethics to touch a customer in an erotic manner, even if the touching is consensual. If you’re wondering whether your massage therapist is touching you inappropriately, trust your instincts. It’s the intention of the touching, not the location of the touching, that counts. Although a deep-tissue massage therapist might place his or her hands on your pelvic floor or another intimate area of your body during treatment, this can be strictly therapeutic.

Usually, however, this is only done after many sessions in which trust is built with a massage therapist.

Is It Ever Appropriate to Ask for a Happy Massage?

No, it is never appropriate to ask for a happy massage at any legitimate spas or during an in-room massage at a hotel. Yes, massage can seem like a suggestive or sensual situation—after all, you’re naked under the sheets—but it’s a breach of trust with your massage therapist to ask for something beyond the scope of your treatment. Requesting a happy massage can open you up to embarrassment and an abrupt ending of the session. Most likely, you’ll face an uncomfortable massage therapist who will tell you about the boundaries of the profession.

 

What About Happy Massages in Foreign Countries?

Happy massages are easier to find in overseas, especially in Thailand (Bangkok), Indonesia (Bali). However, they're still not always legal. Cebu City in the Philippines is known for its lingam massages—which end with a massage of the "lingam"—but even that type of massage was made illegal in 2010. Violators of the ban could receive a year in jail and a fine of approximately $100. Regardless of where you are in the world, do not assume that you can get erotic contact at a spa.