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 on 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 a 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 perceive 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 treat 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 trained in order to help people.
Male clients who are willing to work 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 work on, but may not 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 do.
If the therapist is able to have testimonials from 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 see 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 a 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 need 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 practising 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.
Thanks for the article. I will still go ahead and give this career a try because it will be better than retail.
Brandon – it’s certainly a great path. please keep us posted with your progress and next steps.
This is EXACTLY where I am in my life now! You were chaneling my thoughts 🙂
Good luck to the both of us.
Brandon – do you feel any different after reading the article? Please share how (your overall thoughts)?
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!
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?
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…
Thanks for the information Neal. I woukd also like to pursue this profession. Which is the best university / institute in Ontario to enroll in?
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?
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.
hi Carlos, tell us more about where you are in your journey today and what you plan on doing?
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.
Thank you for your candid and thorough feedback for our fellow male therapists. What is your name and what institution are you part of?
You honestly sound like a really bitter girl. I’m sure your anger and hatred towards men was already an issue in your life long before your concerns with male therapists, I see a Male RMT who has great pressure and a very kind person.
I was a massage therapist for 10 years and I think the post of MedicalMassageTherapist is representative of female massage therapists, especially in medical massage. Men need to specialize and have technical skills superior to those of our female colleagues in order to have a decent chance to earn a living, in my opinion. This means graduating from massage school and getting as much experience as you can, and then getting specialized certifications that would set you apart from the average massage therapist.
To me, being a male massage therapist was very difficult emotionally and requires that one take a very clinical path, being a body mechanic, being very careful not to develop any feelings for your clients beyond what a doctor or nurse would exhibit. Male massage therapists are also likely to be propositioned by both female and male clients, especially if the massage business is in a casual setting. It is better to be in a medical office, I think. Home-based practices are really problematic, in my experience.
So, if you are thinking of massage therapy, and you have any fantasies of a sexual nature, or are open to being propositioned, you likely won’t last very long in the field. Being in therapy might be helpful to address such feelings, and having a mentor to talk with could also be really helpful. Today, in an era in which women are in the time of #metoo, I would not recommend that straight men go into the massage field. Do what you must, and I think that massage school is a wonderful experience whether you go into massage as a therapist or just work with your friends, etc. Running a massage business, hiring or managing other massage therapist, could work better than actually being a practitioner.
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.
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.
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
My husband has a very successful massage practice with many happy clients. (Both male and female.) We recently had a horrible review written on social media where a women accused him of being creepy and said women should stay away. She didn’t accuse him of anything inappropriate but just said she had a “bad feeling.” Has anyone had this type of situation? How do we deal with it?
sorry to hear this Amy – don’t you think it can go the other way as well? it is unfortunate but our industry does have this exposure from time to time
Of course, one can receive praise, but one or two bad reviews may end your career. We are just vulnerable in this field, very vulnerable. As one of the female massage therapists indicated, men are the minority in massage practice and we are as vulnerable as a female in a male dominated field. It doesn’t take much to drive someone our of a livelihood, in my opinion.
interesting and insightful perspective. tell us more about your background and experience as well as your career objectives?
I am teaching college full-time, in the health sciences. I actually entered the teaching career through contacts I made while a massage therapist. So, this is a journey, especially for male massage therapists, I believe. There are also physical limitations that push many of us out of the field. Doing “deeper work” comes at a price. I have found that women are equally capable of doing deep massage work, working smarter and using leverage.
However, as someone who did a lot of trigger point work, I have also experienced that receiving deep work doesn’t always release tissue as much as we think it will. Old patterns are often not changed without changes in lifestyle and movement patterns.
Some clients keep coming back for more and more and deeper and deeper work. That just may not be productive for them, and it certainly wasn’t good for my hands, shoulders and back. Rolfing/Structural Integration, to me, is a deep work that is safer because there are a set number of sessions and it has more holistic impacts.
Often, people seeking deep work go to a male massage therapist, but if I couldn’t help them very substantially in 3-4 sessions, they were probably better off trying something or someone else. Since having repeat (weekly) clients is great for business, my wisdom and sense of ethics was not going to create a successful practice unless I had tons and tons of clients, which is quite difficult for a male therapist to develop.
My advice to young male massage therapists is to maintain athletic conditioning and strength, develop an ego that is neither tempted nor repulsed by people making sexual advances, don’t give away your work thinking that it will attract paying clients, keep learning and developing your knowledge and skills, and keep your eyes open for other opportunities as you get older, need more money or have declining physical strength and flexibility.
It is an incredible education and experience to be a professional massage therapist, but to me it has been part of my journey rather than a life long career.
This is a great article. I was a therapist part time to fund my way through med school – now I am a qualified ob/gyn and the skills I learnt in how to handle questions about my gender invaluable. I still offer massages to patients in my free time and it really has helped connect with the in a non-clinical way
In both lines of work be professional but also understand why the lady wants to see you – she wants to see a man, it is her preference so hiding who we are will not leave her satisfied.
Hi like your comments, EDavis. I have been going to the same male massage therapist for 3 years now (I’m female) at first there were several therapists in the office now just him (he’s not the owner). We get along good, but for some reason this last time he got just a little too close to my genitals too many times and it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I am a Christian, so I forgive easily and I view things that happen as life lessons. He did make me feel extremely uncomfortable as it was unexpected, if he’s lonely then that’s the wrong way to go about feeling less lonely but now I have just decided to quit going, even though I paid for 4 more sessions up front. He has been a great conversationalist and very responsible before, but I know people can slip at times. Right now I am just calming down my nerves and wishing him light and strength so that he can see that he cannot do this if he wants to remain a therapist. People are also so different, both men and women, in their needs… some women are aggressive sexually so perhaps he was testing me and I am not at all I like cuddly and romantic men. Plus hes married and married men make me more scared than anything if they make advances towards me. I’m not expecially attractive, but a nice talkative person. So him doing this made me wonder if he was having some deep psychological issues, or if he misread my twice monthly friendly visits as something more and just wanted to test me. Anyway, after popping some chill pills I feel better, plus praying for him. No one is perfect. I like sex too, just with unattached people who go about the normal route of asking you out on a date first. Just needed to vent. May God bless us all.