Personal Boundaries

“Personal boundaries” means what you are and are not comfortable with during the massage session.

Intention and Expectation

When?
It is both parties (Giver’s and Receiver’s) responsibility to be very clear BEFORE the massage begins (or before anyone removes clothing and gets on the table) what expectations one has regarding the massage. During the massage is OK, too, but it’s easier to have clear communication if discussed before the massage.

What?
A boundary a Receiver (client) might give me is, “Please don’t massage my feet too deeply.” I don’t need to know why, and there doesn’t even need to be a reason. I agree to the boundary to help the other person feel safe.

As a professional massage therapist (Giver), one of my boundaries is making sure clients arrive on time for sessions. It’s an important boundary for me. not only because it shows they respect my time, but I often have several appointments lined up, and I can’t let one appointment push my entire schedule back. (Therefore, it also cuts down on the clients time on the massage table.)

Who?
Both the Giver and the Receiver have boundaries.

Why?
Maintaining, communicating and respecting boundaries helps both parties build trust and feel safe. It is in this safety that the most benefits of massage. Boundaries are important to the client because they allow him/her to fully relax and go where he/she needs to go, both physically and emotionally, in order for the healing to occur.

If either party feels uncomfortable or unsafe because their boundaries have been crossed, tension permeates the massage, which doesn’t feel good to either Giver or Receiver.

That’s why Boundaries are so important.

Sexuality and Massage: A Side Note

**VERY IMPORTANT:** This website is about THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE (a,k.a. nonsexual massage) and the massage services I provide are 100% nonsexual.

That being said, I feel I would be skipping a topic that is very significant to the massage industry if I didn’t mention the relationship between sexuality and massage.

Sexual massage and therapeutic massage are not mutually exclusive in that sexual massage can be extremely therapeutic and therapeutic massage can have elements of sexuality.

Unfortunately, when the lines blur, the potential for trauma is much more likely.

Before sessions, all of my clients receive a paper to sign that states they understand the massage they are about to receive is strictly therapeutic, and any behavior that is outside that is grounds to end the massage immediately.

Obviously, if this massage occurring between spouses or couples, there might be a different context to the massage, but it’s still important to be clear about this. I dated a fellow massage therapist and we had to be very clear about our boundaries around the massage table because many times, even though we had an intimate relationship, I only wanted a therapeutic massage when we did table work, and to have had anything else happen would have felt extremely violating.

A note about erections… An erection is a physiological reaction that sometimes occurs when a lot of blood is moved toward the genital area. A few therapists are uncomfortable when this happens, but most therapists are understand this is a natural reaction to massage, not to anything sexual occurring. However, if, in addition to the erection, sexual behavior is exhibited by the Receiver, then an erection is not ok, because it means the Receiver is sexualizing and getting off on the massage, which is totally creepy for the therapist. (By the way, this is true for both female and male massage therapists.)

It’s also best that the Receiver not ask personal questions of the Giver. For instance, I have occasionally been asked out by clients or asked if I was involved with someone. All this information is off limits. For both parties to be safe, there is a bit of professional formality that must go along with the experience.

For example, a playful innuendo from one of my friends might be funny to me if we were just hanging out, but that same joke from that same friend during a massage might have much different implications and be very offensive.

What’s even worse is when the Giver crosses sexual boundaries. The Giver, being in the position of power, can cause a lot of deep emotional trauma for the Receiver if he/she makes sexual overtures during a massage that is supposed to be purely therapeutic. This happens a lot, and, like sexual harassment, is difficult to pinpoint because sometimes it’s just a vibe.

I don’t want to make you too concerned about this. A majority of the massage therapists out there are legitimate, safe and conduct themselves with great integrity. But I also want to give you the freedom, as the Receiver, to stop the massage if something doesn’t feel right. And you can just say, “Something doesn’t feel right,” and leave.

Additionally, there are certain therapeutic massage techniques that are non-sexual but that deal with the perineum (pelvic floor) and genitals. I am not familiar with these techniques and so will not be discussing them here. As I mentioned before, this website is about therapeutic massage only.

BOTTOM LINE: MASSAGE THERAPISTS THAT PRACTICE THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE DO NOT TOLERATE SEXUAL BEHAVIOR. IF SUCH BEHAVIOR OCCURS, THE MASSAGE WILL STOP AND THE CLIENT WILL BE KICKED OUT.