One of my friends who became a massage therapist twenty years ago said her mother burst into tears when she told her. "She thought I was becoming a prostitute," she told me. I found that hard to believe, but I recently came across an anecdote in The New Yorker that perfectly captures that old mindset.
In the late 1960s, the writer John McPhee had an office across the hall from a legitimate massage business run by an Austrian couple. "They massaged everything from college football players to arthritic ancients, and they didn't give sex," he wrote. "This, however, was the era when massage became a sexual synonym, and most evenings -- avoiding writing, looking down from my window on the passing scene -- I would see men in business suits stop, hesitate, look around, and then move toward the glass door at the foot of the stairs."
Eventually, the Austrians scraped the words "Swedish Massage" off the door and replaced them with a hanging sign they removed before they went home at night. But the men kept arriving at the top of the stairs, where neither door was marked. "When they knocked on mine and I opened it, their faces fell dramatically as the busty Swede they expected turned into a short and bearded man."
Even now that massage therapy is better understood and respected, therapists still have to put up with more sexual harassment than you might think. Some people are slow to learn.