A guideline to correct code of conduct
If you’ve been working for a while as a massage therapist, it’s more than likely you’ve encountered some odd behaviours from a handful of clients. If you’re in the process of studying the profession, or just starting out, you should have a good idea of how you are going to react to certain situations. It’s important to think these things through, in order to be prepared to handle any curveballs our clients throw us.
Erections. A natural, regular occurrence, more than often uncontrollable. Did you know, a lot of men do not seek out a massage because they worry so much about getting an erection during treatment? This is even more reason to assess each individual situation and react with intelligence and compassion.
First and foremost, we need to be constantly observing our client during a massage. It is our job to make sure they are A-OK and enjoying their treatment. This means being continually aware of any changes in their positioning, sudden jerks, facial expressions, shivers, skin colouring, breathing patterns, goosebumps or anything else that can happen throughout a massage. We decipher the bodies conversation and adjust our techniques accordingly. This being clarified, we will notice 100% of the time if our client is experiencing a boner. When they are face down it is not so obvious, but still apparent if it is making them uncomfortable.
Now, when the client is lying face up, in a deep state of relaxation (often asleep and snoring), it is common for them to have an erection. In most cases this is no reason to be alarmed, abruptly stop treatment or freak out by any means. If you respond with negativity, you are at risk of harming your clients emotional wellbeing. After all, they have come to you for help and relaxation, you cannot then blame them for achieving that blissful state.
Why is it so common? Well, NPT or Nocturnal Penile Tumescence is the spontaneous occurrence of a penile erection during sleep. All men without erectile dysfunction experience this phenomenon. Factor in the short-term effects of massage which include; nerve stimulation, increased blood flow, and a release in muscle tension, and voilá! You almost have the perfect recipe for one of these bad boys. Not to mention, a lot of people who come for a massage may not be touched regularly. The skin-to-skin personal contact can produce an automatic nervous response which in some cases can result in an erection. Other times, you may find your client burst into tears. You never know what people are going through and what will come to the surface once treatment begins.
Back to what-do-I-do-with-the-boner situation: If the client presents with one during treatment and is unaware of his condition, there is no need to alert him of the fact. I have had many cases where the client is loudly snoring, oblivious to the world around him and rocking a raging hard-on. Meanwhile, I still have one leg, an abdomen, two arms and a face massage to complete with 25 minutes left on the clock. I am not the most easy-breezey person in the world, and being a young woman myself, it is normal for me to find the situation uncomfortable, to say the least. The first thing I do is cease working on the area I have been. This means breaking contact. I will then go to disinfect and wipe my hands in preparation for work on the face and scalp. There is no need to stop treatment altogether. It is a good idea however, to stop massage of the area that seemed to initiate a response in the client. This will usually be the thighs or abdomen, but it could really happen at any point, there’s no predicting it.
I like to stay away from areas where I will be standing close to that zone, so moving to the top of the massage table to give a scalp or face massage is a safe bet. I then will use the remaining time to deliver a deep, relaxing scalp massage using mainly pressure points and finish off with a light, toning facial massage. When I’m done, I will get up to disinfect my hands again, and then wake the client up by placing my hand on his shoulder, nudging him respectfully whilst looking at his face only. I verbalise, with a smile, that the treatment is finished and I will give them time to wake up and collect themselves. I then leave the room, allowing them to do so. If their situation has not resolved itself by then, at least I have woken them up respectfully, completed a treatment in good time and left the room so they can gather themselves. This avoids any awkwardness.
If you are the type of person that simply cannot bare to continue treatment while your client is bonafied, you can wake them up in a respectful manner and tell them you need the bathroom and will be back shortly to continue the treatment. This gives you time to take a breather and can allow them a moment to adjust themselves. Give them a few a minutes, and by the time you return the coast should be clear to continue. There was one instant where a coworker of mine did this, but when she returned the client was sat upright on the table in the process of getting dressed and ready to leave. The client told her he had enjoyed the treatment but wanted to cut it short. This is also a normal response, and it is important to keep the client feeling comfortable. She told him he can rebook any time he wants and charged him for a half body massage instead of a full one. No fuss made. This was handled professionally and the client did in fact return for a treatment a week later, managing to enjoy a full body treatment incident-free.
Let’s take a look at a whole different situation. A situation where the client does not feel awkward or blissfully unaware, but instead, aroused. These are the situations you really have to maintain your professionalism throughout, keeping your safety as the first priority. If a client touches you inappropriately, asks for sexual favours, makes any type of sexual comments or gestures, you have every right to immediately stop treatment calmly and confidently. In the instance this occurs, you may tell your client he has come to the wrong place for what he is looking for and that he should leave. You do not need to be nasty with your language or tone. You should not raise your voice to the client, insult him or snap at him. You do not need to freak out, call the police or run out of the building screaming with your hands flailing in the air. Yes, people have actually done this.
What you do need to do is realise that some men find massage entirely erotic. This is just one of those facts of life. When you find yourself in a situation where the client is probing for inappropriate contact, you must first stop treatment immediately. Secondly, inform them there is zero tolerance for that kind of thing in your work place. Thirdly, leave the room and do not ask for payment. If you are working in a spa, inform the manager or your coworkers. If you are doing a house call, you simply leave the premise as swiftly as possible without causing a scene. If you have your own private practice and you are alone, make sure you have your phone on you and be ready to call for help in case of escalation. For the most part, the client will leave. If the client decides to cause a scene after you’ve handled it so professionally (rarely will this happen.) Then you bloody call for help, and tell them the police are on their way. It’s at this point your own safety can be in jeopardy, so do whatever you need to do to remain safe. Luckily, I have not been in a serious situation such as this nor have I known anyone to experience one. 99 times out of 100 the client will feel defeated and simply leave after their advances have been rejected.
Every case will be different as every client is different. It’s important not to worry or become overwhelmed when something embarrassing or shocking happens. Maintaining your professionalism from beginning to end of a treatment is what will set the standard of your reputation. Find your inner balance, maintain your inner balance, and you will know exactly what to do when presented with an awkward circumstance. Always conduct yourself with grace and dignity, start off with good communication in your consult and the client will feel at ease knowing you have their care under control. Always treat your clients with compassion and of course, know it’s okay to say no.