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It’s true when they say, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Every few years the same argument comes around about whether or not massage therapists should correct people who refer to them as a masseuse/masseur. Just recently I’ve read articles covering this topic in at least 3 different massage journals. So what’s the big deal?

When I was in massage school, we had a class on the history of massage as a profession. Unfortunately, throughout different times in history massage establishments have been associated with prostitution. Even today, here in the United States, you can find news reports of massage establishments being used as fronts for human trafficking, sex slavery and slave labor operations. And I’m sure everyone has heard at least one story of someone going for a massage and being offered a “happy ending.” So in an effort to differentiate themselves from so called “massage parlors” and to put the emphasis on the therapeutic health benefits of massage, most practitioners in the United States prefer to use the term “massage therapist”.

As a new therapist, if someone referred to me as a masseuse I was quick to correct them by saying, “the preferred term is massage therapist.”  But years later while working at the spa at The Ritz-Carlton, I corrected a European guest who asked if I was their masseuse. When I replied that the preferred term was “massage therapist”, the guest looked at me quizzically and asked what was the difference? Good question. If you look up the definition you will find: masseuse: noun, a woman who provides massage professionally. So after a few similar experiences I decided that since there was no harmful intent on the part of the person referring to me as a masseuse, there was no need to correct them.

While many people in the massage industry feel that it is our job to “educate” the public on the proper terminology, I’ve decided on a less defensive approach. If someone asks me what I do for a living, I will tell them I am a massage therapist. If a client introduces me to someone as their masseuse, I will smile and heartily shake their hand. If someone asks me for a happy ending, I will promptly end the session and encourage them to go read a fairy tale.

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