What is it Like to Be a Male Massage Therapist? The Advantages & Disadvantages

The profession of massage therapists is growing rapidly. The numbers of schools for massage therapy are growing rapidly, and so is the enrollment for these schools. One thing that may or may not be surprising to learn is that this profession is largely dominated by females.

There are males in this profession, but the ratio to females is quite small. Males who wish to get into this profession face several challenges and have to overcome other things, such as the perceptions surrounding male massage therapists. The following discussion goes over these things and how to overcome them.

Perception of Male Clients

It would seem that there is no doubt about the biggest challenge faced by prospective male massage therapist is fear, sexuality, and masculinity. For many men, having a male massage therapist work on them in any capacity, much less working on their buttocks area for example, is unthinkable.

There seems to be quite a lot of homophobia in this regard. The thought of having another man rub their body makes many men cringe with fear and disgust. These men are afraid that should anyone find out that they were worked on by another man, they will be perceived as gay when they’re not.

On the other side of it, male clients may have a tendency to be afraid that a male massage therapist himself is gay, even if he isn’t. While this could be true in some cases, the sexual orientation of the massage therapist should not be an issue. Aside from the courses one takes in massage school as it relates to anatomy, physiology, and application of massage techniques, students in these schools are also required to take courses on ethics and professionalism.

This is an integral part of any valid curriculum. Thus, even if a male massage therapist is gay, male clients shouldn’t be afraid to be treated by another male, as the therapist is trained to remain professional at all times, and his only desire is to perform the art for which he has been trained in order to help people.

Male clients who are willing to be worked on by male therapists still may experience some discomfort because usually the clothing is removed although private areas are covered. These clients may still agree to be worked on, but may not be comfortable removing their clothing.

While it is entirely up to the client how much clothing is removed, skin to skin contact is the optimal situation in order to receive the most benefit from massage therapy. While society has evolved in many ways in recent years, these perceptions in the massage industry still have a strong resonance.

Perception of Female Clients

The perception of a male massage therapist in the mind of female clients is somewhat similar, but just in reverse. Many women feel uncomfortable being worked on by a male therapist due to fear of being raped, fondled, etc.

Women with this perception tend to view male massage therapists as perverts who only entered the profession to rub women’s bodies and attain some sexual gratification or arousal from performing bodywork. In other words, they don’t fear that their massage therapist is gay, but rather fear that he isn’t.

Should a male massage therapist be gay, women are a little more comfortable, having the assurance that their body, be it attractive or not, will not have the effect of sexual arousal in the therapist.

Again, the sexual orientation of the male massage therapist shouldn’t affect their ability to gain male or female clients. As long as the therapist works with an air of professionalism, gender should not be an issue.

How to Overcome People’s Perception

Although difficult, it’s not impossible to overcome this obstacle. The male therapist needs to operate with pure professionalism, doing any advertising or marketing that places them in the light of a business owner, not just a massage therapist. Another thing that would greatly help is getting those therapists out of business who give other males a bad reputation.

How to Make Your Mark

Advertising not only helps a business, but the business owner or operator in this case. The male therapist should present himself in such a way to let prospective clients know he’s a person, a business owner, and a professional.

Informing clients who come in or via advertising that he helps provide relief to people with pain or other communications that state the services and benefits provided rather than just stating the title of his profession also helps.

This may take some time, but it can be done. If the therapist is able to have testimonials by clients of both genders, this will greatly better the male therapist’s reputation and put people at ease.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Male Massage Therapist

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a male massage therapist. The most obvious disadvantage is people’s perceptions of males in this industry. This will take time to overcome, but it is not impossible with determination and the right marketing strategy. Over time, the therapist will be seen as a professional who is serious about his profession and his goal of helping people.

One advantage that the male therapist has is that males are largely taken more seriously as business owners than females. Although gender doesn’t indicate skill as a therapist or business owner, this is still an advantage for the male therapist.

Another advantage is strength. Some massages require greater strength, and males are by and large physically stronger than females. Males can use this strength to provide deep tissue massages to a degree which may be needed by the client but a female therapist may be unable to do.

The Percentage Breakdown of Female Vs. Male Massage Therapists

Women obviously outnumber men in the massage industry, there’s no doubt of that. Currently, males make up only about 12% of practicing massage therapists. The exact percentage of male students currently in massage therapy schools is unknown, but roughly the same. The reason for this is again perceptions of males in this industry.

It would be erroneous to say males face minimal difficulties in this particular line of work, but the passionate and dedicated male will endure and build a solid career as a massage therapist.

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Career Considerations
16 comments on “What is it Like to Be a Male Massage Therapist? The Advantages & Disadvantages
  1. Brandon says:

    Thanks for the article. I will still go ahead and give this career a try because it will be better than retail.

  2. R says:

    Hello guys, I am a male Massage Therapist on Massachusetts. I can confess it’s been really hard being a male therapist. The society is full of prejudice and it’s really heartbreaking to having a client denying having you as therapist. I have my own business and work for a big name spa…. Had clients who did not want to have me as therapist because of gender and also this can generate complaints… Also we have ppl coming to me cause how I look… The gay society as well… The ones you gotta be careful with… It’s a nice job but if you are not strong , you will break your heart every time people doesn’t want you…. It’s quite a offense!

    • Neal Lyons says:

      thank you for your feedback. men are a minority indeed in this field. what are you doing to overcome this type of attitude and behavior and what are your recommendations for others who want to be successful as male massage therapists?

      • R says:

        Neal,

        I have cried several times already and I believe you have to be strong and respect people’s choice! Be extra careful with your clients, choose the words, careful with draping etc… You still going to have male and female coming after you because they want something… Kind of crazy!! In my case I am going to management , don’t see myself massaging for more then 5 years… Business consulting in the spa industry is also a good way to go…

  3. Robert says:

    Thanks for the information Neal. I woukd also like to pursue this profession. Which is the best university / institute in Ontario to enroll in?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Robert – we are currently working on something for Canada and will soon publish. what have you found so far? is attending school at a nearby border State an option?

  4. Carlos says:

    I like that this article touches on all the important misconceptions of males in this industry as well as ethics and the proper way to carry yourself as an LMT. After reading this article, I plan on moving forward on my journey to be a massage therapist.

  5. MedicalMassageTherapist says:

    I’m a female massage therapist and never had a preference. If you are a male massage therapist you have an uphill battle and you better be really good. Unfortunately, I have only had one positive expereince out of a dozen with a male therapist. One who had high marks on Yelp in in my very affluent area advertised myofascial release which i wanted– terrible. I had to get another massage after it and his tone and lack of draping with flannel sheets as he explained were easy to wash, did not cover me. He said “maybe you want pain.” Googled him and he advertised as a bisexual therapist with some coded wording. Second in my area, again recommended mentioned his interest in BDSM. Mind you I told him I was a therapist and specifically pointed out my surgeries yet he did not address it. In school there where three males. All but one made me uncomfortable. I am very liberal when it comes to undressing and topics of convo–never abused and I leave my opinons outside the door. I didn’t “ask for it” with dress or convo. If you choose to be a male massage therapist I fully support you. With that you have to have the discipline to 1.) reign in your thoughts 2.) Try to split your attention. Sorry, but a male brain in medicine and bodywork is not made for this and you have to deal with people crying, challenge you and having very intimate moments. Keep your sexuality out of it. I will never go to a male massage therapist again as I’ve given them so many tries. The only one who “got it” was a student over 60 who had had so many surgeries and injuries that he understood what it meant to step outside himself and treat the person. Every other experience was creepy. Ask yourself, why are you in this business and let go of your ego. If you are male you have to work twice as hard as females to prove yourself. Ironic, welcome to the world of females where we have to do this in every arena. Some bitching and take honest inventory. Your mommy is not here to tell you what to do.

  6. Sebastian says:

    Great article! But I believe the only way male therapist will make any money is if you get into massage management or a massage instuctor. Most articles I see is usually advertise with a woman being a therapist.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Sebastian, although less common, there are many male therapists who earn a very healthy living. read our interviews with top experts in the massage field. you will find numerous success stories from men practicing massage.

  7. My experience has been that male massage therapist are are more productive and go deeper. I have owned my independent practice for 12 years. I’m a registered nurse and I will graduate with a masters degree as a family nurse practitioner in August 2017. My wife and I own a mini day spa in Scranton Pennsylania. I Aso work out of a fitness center, a hotel, and travel to locations at the request of the consumer.
    As a male massage therapist I have a 50/50 male/female mix of clients. I have found the potential clients who are biased of a male massage therapist are usually those who are insecure with their own bodies. Overweight females are self conscience and would prefer a female therapist. Males who are insecure are usually overweight, and may be fearful of their own appearance. My clients are professional, athletic individuals. We employ both male and females at our spa. We have found the males build their book faster and the female therapist tend to not have the strength and stanima for a full day of doing deep work. I always encourage males to get into massage therapy they have a potential of doing very well. David Jennings, Scranton Pennsylvania

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