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Dr. H, Column Writer

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Dear Dr. H,
What percentage of massages lead to having sex?

Dear student,
I scoured scholarly literature and cannot seem to find any empirical data on such a topic.
Post-massage sex is probably most likely in the scenario where said massage is performed by your romantic interest or partner, but it’s never a good idea to assume this will happen.
While couples often use it as a way to show affection, increase intimacy and just do a nice thing for the other person, not all touching, needs to be considered foreplay.
This is especially the case when we consider the non-coupled scenario and when said massage is being performed by a professional. My guess is that you’re asking about what proportion of professional massages lead to having sex.
The “happy ending” has been popularized by media, which often portrays guys “expectantly” being treated to sex, in one form or another, in some dimly lit massage parlor by a more-than-eagerto-please massage therapist.
This image is problematic for a number of reasons. Often the massage therapist in these representations is a woman of color, which is well, racist.
The assumption that massage therapists are willing to go the extra mile for a few extra bucks is demeaning and undermines their training and education as massage therapists.
It erroneously blurs the line between sex work and massage therapy. There’s a great Korean foot spa in Seattle that I love to go to and it saddens me to no end to see the sign on their wall that reminds patrons not to ask for sex.
It shows that, through the media representation of the “happy ending,” people somehow assume that sex is up for sale at this establishment.
Are there people who will have sex with clients after a massage? Of course! They are called sex workers. And their clients are paying for the sex, not the massage.
Because sex work is illegal in the United States, those who sell sex sometimes come up with creative ways to circumvent the law. Keeping sex work in the United States illegal doesn’t decrease the demand for it and as long as there is demand, there will be supply.
Anyone who has taken a class with me knows where I stand on sex work: I firmly believe in its decriminalization and regulation as a public health strategy.
Sex workers are a vulnerable population that provide a service that is well in demand, but the criminalization of it, and thus, the lack of regulation, keeps those who sell sex vulnerable to violence and disease.
We often think of sex work only occurring in sketchy, run-down cities, where women sell sex to rich guys in nice cars. Sex workers who sell on the street are vastly vulnerable to maltreatment and violence. They represent the most vulnerable of those who sell sex and are often the most heavily policed because they are so visible.
Those who have access to a clean, quiet room and possess some technology skills are afforded the ability to be more discrete, and thus sex work can take on the cover of massage.
Generally speaking, if you find your massage therapist through your primary care provider, insurance company or Yelp reviews, chances are you have a professional massage therapist. If they have letters after their name and a credential hanging on their wall, you have a professional massage therapist. Massage may seem sensual to those getting it, but if you have ever actually spoken to a massage therapist, that is not how they view their job.
While the proportion of post-sex massage is slim in the professional massage therapy arena, it is higher in the commercial sex arena, but again, you’re paying for the sex, not the massage. It’s important to keep that differentiation in mind.

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Ask Dr. H