Sexual Misconduct in Massage Therapy

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Sexual misconduct in massage therapy is a very serious matter, one that can lead to heavy fines or even jail time. Learn about what constitutes sexual misconduct and how you can avoid such issues as a massage therapist.

Sexual Misconduct in Massage Therapy

While getting a massage, people are in a very vulnerable position as they are sometimes completely undressed and being touched all over their bodies by complete strangers. Oftentimes, a person getting a massage is feeling somewhat uncomfortable and uneasy. Because of these factors, certain behaviors and actions of a massage therapist can easily be classified as sexual misconduct, and sexual misconduct is the #1 reported type of claim filed against massage therapists. Certain cases of sexual misconduct can warrant heavy fines, loss of a massage license, or even jail time. Therefore, it is important for massage therapists to know what classifies sexual misconduct as well as how to prevent it.

Sexual misconduct can result in an arrest and jail time.

Types of Sexual Misconduct in Massage Therapy

There are many types of sexual misconduct in massage therapy, all of which should be avoided at all times. Sexual misconduct can include:

  • Sexual impropriety: inappropriate, crude, or demeaning comments
  • Sexual transgression: inappropriate physical contact that is not an overt sexual act
  • Sexual violation: overt physical sexual abuse.

Sexual Impropriety

Sometimes sexual misconduct does not involve any physical touching, rather it involves crude, demeaning, and inappropriate jokes or comments. This type of sexual misconduct is classified as sexual impropriety. For example, if a massage therapist tells a client that his legs are looking really good today or something else sexual in nature, it could be classified as sexual misconduct. Additionally, videotaping or photographing a massage without the consent of the client or inappropriate flirting can also be classified as non-physical sexual misconduct. Oftentimes people think sexual misconduct involves only physical touching, however, as these examples prove, a massage therapist can commit sexual abuse without even touching the client.

Sexual Transgression

Sexual transgression involves inappropriate touching that is not necessarily overtly sexual. Areas such as around the breasts and upper thigh region can be sensitive and private areas for many people. Therefore, massage therapists should not massage these areas without first getting approval or consent from their clients. During massages, the therapists should also make sure that their clients are appropriately covered by a blanket or sheet. An example of sexual transgression could also be if a massage therapist did not keep the breast or groin area of the client covered with a blanket or sheet during the entire massage.

Massage therapists should make sure their clients remain properly covered throughout the entire massage.
proper covering

Sexual Violation

Sexual violation is the most severe form of sexual misconduct. Sexual violation is the sexual penetration of a person or the performance of a sexual act without approval or consent. In short, sexual violation is rape. This form of sexual misconduct can result in lifetime imprisonment.

Preventing Sexual Misconduct in Massage Therapy

One of the most important things a massage therapist can do to prevent sexual misconduct is to set boundaries with clients. These boundaries will help to keep the personal space of clients separated from the massage therapist. Ways to set proper boundaries include making sure to give clients plenty of time alone to undress and dress before and after a massage. After waiting outside the massage room for a client to get undressed, it is a good idea to knock on the door before entering and ask if it is all right to come in. This can prevent walking in on someone who is still undressing. It is also important to keep clients properly covered throughout the entire massage. Being properly covered during a massage ensures that clients feel a safe boundary exists between them and their massage therapist.

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