Spas are wonderful places. Most of the therapists who work there want to help people. Most of the people who go there are appreciative of the attention they get. But there's a seamier side. People do gross, inappropriate things. Sometimes they're the therapists....and sometimes they're the customers.
Let's start with the therapists. Unfortunately, some people get into the business for the wrong reasons.
There are plenty of stories where massage therapists get fired -- sometimes even arrested -- for taking things too far with their clients.
How does it happen? Usually it's subtle. One woman told me that a therapist was massaging her thighs, and his technique was to push the flat of his hands on either side of her thigh, moving uncomfortably close to her genitals. She felt uncomfortable, but she was unsure and didn't say anything.
I know a woman in her 20s who had massage where the therapist kept commenting on how beautiful her body is. She just said "thanks," but it made her uncomfortable. This is wrong. It's stepping over the line, and the therapist knows it.
What Should You Do When It's Too Close For Comfort?
Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, you can either speak up -- "I don't feel comfortable with what you're doing right now." Or you can end the massage session right there and go talk to the spa director.
It's your call.
Next up, the seductive massage therapist. I heard a story about one therapist who was wildly popular. He was the most requested therapist, got the biggest tips, and women even brought him gifts. The spa director wondered what was going on so she called in a friend -- another spa director -- to get a massage and report back to her.
She said he didn't do anything overly sexual, but he was very suggestive -- "I'm going to give you an amazing experience," and ended the massage by kissing her gently on the forehead. It's not sex, but it's still over the line. I actually heard about the same massage therapist from someone else, and she said that he asked a friend to meet him later. That's a no-no. Whether the friend did it or not, I don't know.
When Clients are Bad Boys
Then there are the clients. Their misbehavior ranges from the inappropriate to the absolutely disgusting. I worked with a pretty young esthetician who instructed an older male to get under the sheets after she left the room. When she knocked and came back in, he was lying buck naked on top of them, on his back. He acted innocent, but you can't tell me he didn't know exactly what he was doing.
Europeans don't always understand the American obsession with draping -- the way massage therapists keep all the body parts except the one they are working on covered with sheets or towels. Europeans are less concerned about nudity and don't have such elaborate draping requirements. If they ask to have the massage without the sheet, they probably don't think they're doing anything wrong.
But draping is the law in the U.S., and therapists and clients have to follow it.
Oh, Those Erections
Then there are the guys who have erections the whole time you're massaging them. They teach you in massage school that it's a relaxation response, and involuntary, but a male massage therapist tells me that's just not true. "A guy can control his erection. Absolutely."
There are the guys with erections who suddenly throw off the sheets and ask to be "taken care of." John Travolta was accused of doing this to a male therapist at a luxury hotel in Atlanta, and was accused of masturbating when the therapist refused.
The more polite types inquire about "extras" or "happy endings" at some point, and take no for an answer. Sometimes men get confused during an in-room massage, where they feel like they're in their bedroom and the boundaries aren't as clear.
As Gross As It Gets
One of the worst things that can happen to a female therapist is to give a man a massage, give him his glass of water and say goodbye, then come back to find he's ejaculated on the sheets during the few minutes he was given to get up from the table. Ugh. This is a real violation, and usually rattles the therapist, as it is no doubt intended to do.
Men tend to be the ones who cross the line, but one male therapist told me about a female client who mentioned several times what a strong sex drive she has. He ended the session.
The absolute worst story I ever heard was from a massage therapist who work on a man with amputated legs. Towards the end of the massage a terrible smell went up, and she though he had bad gas. But when she went back to clean up the room, she found he had taken a dump right on the table. Disgusting? Disturbing? Cruel? You bet. And he even called back for another appointment. When she said, "I'm never working on you again," he just started laughing.
Fortunately these are the exceptions, not the rule. Most therapists and clients have the best of intentions, and respect the boundaries that allow a therapeutic experience to take place. Thank goodness!