Screening people who contact you can help reduce the number of clients who try to solicit you for sexual services. You do not have to book every person who contacts you. It is unfortunate that we actually have to do this, but the continued misconception and entanglement of massage and sexually oriented businesses creates a risky situation for massage therapists. While screening can help, in no way does it guarantee that a person is safe to take as a client. Other things must also be put into place in the office or work environment to create a safe environment.
It’s Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits sexual harassment by customers, clients, and any third parties—the same as it prohibits sexual harassment between employees, regardless of whether or not they are just employees, managers or supervisors. Third-party harassment is illegal.
Some signs of sexual harassment from customers/clients are:
- Unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages
- Requests for undraped massage
- Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation.
- Discussing sexual relations/stories/fantasies at work, school, or in other inappropriate places.
- Asking for sexual services either directly or indirectly
Red Flag and Yellow Flags
Red and Yellow Flags are the warning signs that someone may be looking for other services like “happy endings” which really is a case of sexual harassment. Red Flags mean DO NOT SCHEDULE. Yellow is a possible warning sign but not always concreted. You have to decide what is a Red and what is a Yellow for YOU.
- Asking clearly if you give happy endings before or during a session.
- Asking to send a photo of you to them or they send a lewd photo to you.
- When they ask about draping and alternative draping saying things like they are European and they don’t drape there or saying that they often run warm and draping makes them too hot. Draping is required by law in most states.
- Requests for Prostate massage saying their doctor recommended it…then tell them to have the doctor give it.
- Wanting a last minute appointment. This is often cited as a red-flag, but it is a big assumption that people wanting a massage at the last minute/same day is a request for sexual services. Many massage therapists take same day appointments without any issues.
- Asking for full-body massage. This is often cited as a red-flag but it is also an innocent request made by people who don’t know that this is seen as a red-flag..
- Asking for specific groin work. This is often code for something else but it can also be a legitimate request for legitimate work on specific muscles.
- Don’t want to fill out intake form. I have had some legit clients not want to do this when not fully understanding the reasons for it.
- Asks for late night appointments or out of hours appointment times.
Online Booking Systems
Having online booking systems can deter people as they have to put in their personal contact information in order to use systems. Your booking system should be linked from your website that also is one of the ways that they understand that you are not one of those places. A great website will show that YOU are the EXPERT at what you do – massage therpay. Adding intake forms to the appointment making system can also be a deterent. As an additional screening step, you can require that people pay for their session as they book the appointment, making them add their credit card into your booking system.
These can be helpful even if you have a home office or mobile massage business that opens you to higher risk.
Screening Without Online Booking
If you don’t have an online booking system, you can respond to people with telling them you will call them to set up an appointment. Requesting this information will usually stop the interactions as they will not want to give you this. If they insist on continuing, you can send them your statement of informed consent that will tell about the work you do. You can include a statement of zero tolerance for sexual behavior and point them to a page on this website for your state that explains just what a massage therapist does in your state.
If they do continue and you do actually get a phone call with them, you can then start asking questions like:
- How did you find me?
- What type of massage therapy are you seeking?
- Ask about their health conditions.
- Have you had massage therapy before and what type did you have?
If you have gotten this far without any redflags, you might be good to go, but as always proceed with caution.
Hands Off Our Name.
The continuing confusion between massage and sex work has been going on for too long. It has made it so massage therapists have to screen clients in this way. We should not have to be doing this except for general public safety issues that are common to everyone. Our professional associations need to step up and do something about this.