Updated: Apr 27
This is almost a trick question. By definition massage is a sensual experience. It is perceived through our senses. It makes you feel good. It is meant to be pleasing to the senses.
Is there an easy definition of sensual and sexual massage?
The problem arises with the fact that most people do not clearly distinguish between sensuality and sexuality.
The distinction is quite simple:
Sensuality by itself does not necessarily have any sexual intent
Sexuality is sensuality with sexual intent
The original meaning of the word ‘sensual’ is that something is perceived and enjoyed through the senses. This is certainly the case with massage. And this is also what sets massage apart from medical and clinical environments which are generally not pleasing to the senses at all.
Where to draw the line?
I admit that it is often quite hard to draw a clear line between those two concepts. Therefore you can’t blame professional massage therapists for avoiding the issue and just distancing themselves from the entire problem by siding with professional, clinical and scientific concepts.
While that keeps us in safe territory, it also denies or downplays the fact that massage is in fact a sensual experience – as in pleasing to our sense of touch.
Most of my clients do want to experience this aspect – the enjoyment of being touched. So I end up with a dichotomy.
The story of an overly clinical massage
Once I was in a famous spa in Budapest, Hungary at the Gellert. I signed up for a massage, and for an hour a big and strong masseur proceeded to pummel me, slap me, yank me and brush me.
It really was not a pleasant experience. It was more brutal than sensual. Maybe it was therapeutic. I figured there must be something good about it since the Gellert is a world famous spa. But certainly I wouldn’t sign up for another session there.
The story of a heavenly massage
When I went back home home I arranged for a massage from a long term friend of mine. He has a peaceful and beautifully decorated treatment room. Aroma oils are being diffused, candles are burning, soothing music is playing, and he has an absolutely wonderful touch. It is an environment that is highly appealing to all the senses. It is a sensual experience. Personally I would choose this type of setting over the Gellert any time.
He chose to provide such a sensual environment (pleasing to the senses). And he is highly professional and always booked. People love him and his massage.
In contrast, all I remember about the Gellert therapist is that he was big and strong, and that I was glad when the massage was over. I told myself that it must have been good for me, but in the case of my therapist friend I did not need to convince myself.
Living your truth in massage therapy
I understand my colleague’s reservations about the sensual aspects of massage. As far as I am concerned, I have decided to live up to my truth in my practice. I love to receive a massage that feels sensual and is professional at the same time, and my clients love it too.
When the therapist is totally clear in his or her mind about the distinction between the sensuality vs sexuality in massage, then in my experience it will never be an issue for the client either.
Lumping the two concepts together as if they were the same is like ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’. Denying that massage is pleasing to the senses, and therefore sensual, or insisting on a purely ‘clinical’ massage, eliminates the main reason why people go to a massage therapist – they want to FEEL better. They don’t just want their dopamine levels adjusted or their circulation improved.
Spas are designed to be sensual environments
Why do massage spas play soothing music, put flowers in the room, decorate the rooms tastefully, and use aroma oil diffusers? Because all those appeal to the senses – to our sense of sight, smell, sound, and touch. They are sensual experiences, just like a good massage.
Considering this it is a paradox to claim that massage is not a sensual experience, because it is! AND it can also be professional and therapeutic at the same time. There is no conflict here.
My clients trust me when I am clear, clean, strong and transparent. Therapists who are fearful of misconceptions are more likely to encounter clients who reflect that, since this is part of their energy and that’s what they send out to their clients.
Can sensual massage be professional? Maybe I should rephrase the question: How can professional and high quality massage not be sensual?
How can you learn more about this?
Simply by booking an appointment with me. I recognize that a supportive healing environment is best created if the client is relaxed, feels good, and enjoys the session. In the hands of the right therapist the Restorative Blend treatment can be a beautiful and highly effective healing art.