Male vs. Female Massage Therapists

Luxury vacation with massage on ocean front terrace
••• Westend61 / Getty Images

When you call a spa to book a massage, you're almost always asked if you prefer a male or female massage therapist. Guess what? They know what you're going to say. "I prefer a female, please." This is true whether you're male or female. Women prefer female massage therapists because they know they will be naked under that sheet and they don't want some thinking, "she's fat," or worse, "she had a great body."

Heterosexual men prefer female massage therapists because their association with getting naked under a sheet is that there's a woman in the room, touching them. Even if it's not a sexual experience, it's more comfortable and easier to relax.

This preference for female therapists is so strong that 86 percent of massage therapists are female, according to The American Massage Therapy Association. There are even spas that won't hire men because it is too hard to book them.

This is a shame, because men can give truly great massages. Male massage therapists often have more strength, which can be helpful with deep tissue massage. And the ones who have survived in the industry are often supremely talented.

More experienced spa-goers often don't care whether massage therapists are male or female. They're comfortable with the routine and know the most important factor is skill, not gender. Massage therapists are trained to respect boundaries and use proper draping techniques, so these issues shouldn't be a problem.

Issues with Male Therapists

Is it true that sometimes there are issues? Yes. Occasionally a male massage therapist behaves inappropriately. A woman might be told that she has a great body during a massage. There shouldn't be any comments like that. Or a male therapist's hands might go uncomfortably high on a woman's inner thighs.

If you feel something is off, trust your instincts. Get up, end the massage, and let the front desk know about your experience. These are male massage therapists who shouldn't be in the business. Because you can bet all those women say, "I would like a female, please."

Whether you prefer male or female massage therapists, feel free to state it up front. It's your massage, and you should enjoy it. But consider, at least, that the great majority of working male massage therapists are truly talented and dedicated.