Massage Questions (sorry no snarky title)
August 19, 2011 8:42 AM   Subscribe

First time massage. It's a legit massage. I'm a guy, I wonder if I should get a guy or a girl to do it? Not sure which would be more awkward really. What is the norm for this sort of thing? Also, what are the norms of tipping? I can barely tip functionally at restaurants without getting anxious. I don't even know where to begin with what to tip for a massage.
posted by Napierzaza to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am female. I have had both men and women do bodywork on me. I have liked it each and every time. I guess the sex of the therapist wasn't all that important to me. I also didn't find much difference in their skills or how they approached the massage, etc., except that different techniques were involved depending o the style and the training.

Do you have an inkling one would be more awkward than the other for you? It's totally individual, and totally within your realm of comfort to ask for a male or a female therapist as you wish.

I tip about 10-15% for a massage.
posted by zizzle at 8:46 AM on August 19, 2011


Well I don't know which would be more awkward. I feel like either way it could be sexually awkward I guess!
posted by Napierzaza at 8:51 AM on August 19, 2011

But I don't know if a woman/man massages are different as well. Can women really "get in there" in regards to doing the massage? Are two, equally experienced masseuses approximately the same regardless of what sex they are? Has anyone had an experience when they got one and realized they wanted the other (either male/female)?
posted by Napierzaza at 8:52 AM on August 19, 2011

There's no particular norm to worry about -- many men would prefer a woman therapist and many men would prefer a male therapist. You won't surprise or offend anyone by requesting either. On average men are stronger and have bigger hands and will give a deeper massage, but only on average.

Tip 15%-20% imo.
posted by Perplexity at 8:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pay in advance, including tip. That way, you can enjoy relaxing for a few minutes after the massage instead of having to deal with the stress of money & tipping.
posted by yarly at 8:59 AM on August 19, 2011

I'm a man who has received a few massages from both men and women. In my very limited experience, I found the size and strength of the men's hands to be an advantage; conversely, I found being mostly naked in front of, and being touched by, a woman to feel much less "weird". But neither was at all sexual; I'm just a lot more accustomed to being naked around women.

Tl;dr: finding a person you connect well with is more important than their gender
posted by Forktine at 9:01 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You only think it could be sexually awkward because you are imagining something that isn't there. Once you actually experience it you will see that it is an entirely non-sexual experience (at least that is how it is for me). I slightly prefer female therapists because I find them generally to be more aware of where I need more or less pressure without requiring feedback from me, but I don't really care. You will find that most therapists have extremely strong hands and you can get deep tissue massage from either. I've had 4'6" women weighing 80 pounds just about crush me like a grape -- its a function of hand strength and leverage. If I've been running a lot and my hamstrings and glutes are really tight I will sometimes ask for a guy just because asking a new therapist I don't know to concentrate on my glutes feels slightly pervy, but that's undoubtedly my own baggage.

Shorter answer: most massage therapists (male or female) can give you more pressure than you can stand if you ask for it and I don't find either sex awkward.

I tip 15-20%
posted by Lame_username at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it helps to know this, the massage therapists are very respectful of your privacy/comfort/personal space. You are free to leave on underwear if you wish, and even if you do, they put a big towel over you and only uncover each body part as they get to it (i.e., they take the towel off your right leg while they work and leave the rest of you covered, then they cover that over and uncover your left leg, cover that back over and uncover your back, etc.). They also generally don't get too "hands-on" with any "gray areas" -- I've had a couple different massages, for both medical and "I just need to de-stress" reasons, and never has anyone been all-out hands-on on the butt, and never has anyone got closer than about 10 inches from the groin. They generally work on de-sexualizing the experience as much as possible, but they do also understand that it is a somewhat intimate experience by its very nature and want you to feel as comfortable as possible about it. Whatever will help you be comfortable with that is valid. Both male AND female therapists would be aware of this aspect of it, so whichever you would be most comfortable with from a "would this feel overly intimate in a weird way" standpoint is entirely your choice.

Otherwise -- this is going to sound weird, but it sounds like you may be leaning towards a male therapist for the same reason I lean towards a female gynecologist -- "they actually own all the same equipment I do, so they know firsthand what it's like and I'm comfortable with that." And that makes total sense, if that's what you're thinking. If you're looking for something really deep-tissue, that may be another argument in favor of a male therapist, just because they've got more upper-body strength and can really dig in and iron you out. However, I've had massages exclusively from women and a couple of 'em have been real hardcore.

As for the tip -- yep, 15-20%. Just like a restaurant. Most places will tell you upfront what their tipping policy is when you make your reservation, and if they don't, just ask.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2011

I went through physical therapy (including massages) during my teenage years -- again: boy, teenage years, hormones bubbling over like a witch's cauldron -- and even then I couldn't acknowledge it as a sexual thing. Mainly because in a good massage it's not all stroke-y and sexy like, well, a sexy massage. Rather, they really get in there and practicaly beat the crap out of you, but in a really, really nice and not (too) painful way.

The only difference I've noticed with men is that the hands were more, for the lack of a better word, powerful and it was a different sort of strength behind them. That is, a woman would use more of her upper body and arms to put her hands where they needed to be, while a guy could use his hand strength alone for some things.
posted by griphus at 9:04 AM on August 19, 2011

In my experience, the quality and skill of massage therapists varies drastically, both within and across gender lines. It can really be a crap shoot.

That being said, men do, on average, have more upper body strength and just mass in general, so if you're looking for real deep tissue type work--and you may not even know that yet--you may find that a male therapist may just be better at it.
posted by valkyryn at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2011

If it's at a day spa, the receptionist will give you a tip envelope
posted by brujita at 9:22 AM on August 19, 2011

I've had pathetic, weak massages from men, and massages from women that got in so deep that I had full body bruises and had to take analgesics for several days just to get out of bed in the morning. Men, in general are stronger, but that tends to also make them more reluctant to use their full strength. If what you want is a deep, intense massage, make sure you pick a sports or therapeutic massage from the menu, and then make sure you tell your therapist you're hoping for something intense. Most of them can manage it if asked, but especially in a spa where they specialize in relaxation massages, you will have to ask.

Tipping depends a bit on the environment. Since you have a choice, I'm guessing it's a spa situation rather than a medical practice situation. In a spa, when you pay, they'll provide you with an envelope for your tip. I usually tip $20, which is generally about 15%, but I don't actually vary the $20 based on the price of the massage so the actual percentage ranges. If I see an RMT in a medical practice, I don't tip at all, as I wouldn't tip my chiropractor or my doctor.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2011

Have a woman give you the massage. I am a man, and I always request female therapists. There is nothing abnormal about that.

It will be obvious how to tip afterward, as either you will receive an envelope, she will be there waiting for you, or, if you pay by credit card, they will ask if you want to include the tip on the card.

Relax and enjoy it. They've seen and dealt with it all.
posted by eas98 at 9:29 AM on August 19, 2011

The first time I had a massage it was from a female. I don't know that I would've felt comfortable with a male. After a dozen or so massages from two different females it probably wouldn't bother me to have a massage from a male now. The whole point is being comfortable. Your first massage ever probably doesn't need to be "deep tissue" anyway.
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2011

I promise it will not be sexually awkward. It's normal to be nervous before your first massage about being naked or mostly naked near a stranger who's going to be touching you. But you will quickly, quickly realize that this is much more a medical service (like a nurse giving you a shot in the butt, let us say, but considerably more relaxing) than something sexy. You should feel perfectly free to leave your underwear on if that will make you more comfortable. Or take it off.

There's actually a massage therapy program near us where, for a very nominal fee, members of the public can get hour-long massages by students practicing. When you first go as a patient, you read some information about their training program, and after every session you spend five minutes filling out a form giving feedback to the students to help them improve. There are questions on the form specifically about comfort level and whether the student created a non-sexy atmosphere. (That's not the wording used but that's what it means.) In the information about the program, it talks about how one of the goals of the practicum is for the students to learn how to create that atmosphere of comfort and neutrality so it isn't weird. And some of them are sooooooo nervous. I feel I have done later clients like you a public service by helping students get over THEIR nervousness so they can help you get over yours. :)

(There's also, incidentally, a big giant warning about how any kind of client misbehavior towards the students that mistakes a massage for something sexual will be met by a call to the cops and they will protect their students from your creepy, if you are creepy. It's really, deeply, not sexual and once you get into it and get relaxed, you'll be able to tell that.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:00 AM on August 19, 2011

(BTW, my husband had his first few massages from a woman, feeling that would be less-odd for him, but now he's comfortable with whoever. I feel the same way; I also saw a woman at first, but after the first three or so I was like, "totally don't care about the gender of my massage therapist." If you really can't decide, is your primary care physician a man or a woman? Try the same, you're used to being medically naked in front of that gendered person, it may be easier to think of it as medical the first time in that case. Or that may be the stupidest thing I ever said.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2011

Don't know what the rules and norms are where you are, but in Oregon a licensed massage therapist is required to drape you if you are disrobed for the massage. You'd be under a light blanket with the massage being done through this.

Depending on your local laws, then, you may not have to be concerned about nudity.
posted by zippy at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2011

Just have $20 in your pocket to give them later. No anxiety. Worry not. Massage therapists are nice people!

Your mileage will vary, as you can see above, regarding gender and whatnots of massage professional choices. I personally prefer gay dudes, because I feel like they're less afraid of another man's body, and I really want someone to stick their elbows in my lower back and butt. (In a therapeutic way!) And also yes: I realize that is a COMPLETELY nutty bias on my part and that every massage person is different, and women and straight dudes are not necessarily going to be overly cautious or whatever. Overall though I also tend to skew men, because of weight and strength, but that also does not mean I haven't sometimes had brutal massages from women.

What we're all saying is: don't worry about it! Find someone you like and who is referred well.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:13 AM on August 19, 2011

Licensed massage therapist here. I've had massages from men and women, and given massages to men and women. For me, the only difference in receiving massages has nothing to do with gender, but more to do with the caliber of the therapist. When I give a massage, the only difference is draping (men don't generally require their chests to be draped by the sheet).

I'm female, 5'2", and do deep tissue work. So don't let the therapist's size be an issue.

Honestly, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable, both with the therapist and the massage. If at any point you don't like something (too warm, too cold, too much pressure, not enough pressure, spending too much time on one area, wanting attention on another area), please let the therapist know. We can generally sense how you are doing, but we aren't complete mind readers. And letting us know what you like and don't like makes the massage better for everyone.

As for tipping, if it's a day spa, figure on 15-20%. If it's with a massage therapist working on their own, it's a grey area. Generally, tip for a relaxation massage, and not for a more medical/treatment massage. In my situation, I don't expect tips, but I do more of a treatment style massage.
posted by sazanka at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2011

I, in fact, just had my very first massage last week. I had a woman do it, and my only real question was How nude should I get? Answer: very nude. The masseuse will put a towel over your junk. And if you are worried about the possibility of said junk perking up, let me assuage your doubts. You'll be super-relaxed. You should be more worried about farting. Even if something did arise, she will have seen it all before.

My first-timer rate was 60$, I tipped 20$.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:38 AM on August 19, 2011

I too was worried about tip amount for my first massage. Luckily someone had bought me a gift certificate as a present, so everything was included prior to the appointment, it was nice to just be able to focus on relaxation, with no $$ needed whatsoever.

Depending on your anxiousness about it, if you just want to focus on relaxing, maybe you can call or go in to buy yourself a gift certificate to see what the appropriate tip is beforehand so that way you can relax your first time, and if you go back, you'll know what is generally expected at that particular massage place.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:38 AM on August 19, 2011

This is semi-obvious advice but I always look up places on yelp before I go (am in nyc though) because I find usually you get a 'layout' of the land first. Maybe what the atmosphere is like, who to ask for and avoid, where locker-room, shower, restroom etc stuff is, tipping policies, cc-only etc. It just gives you a bit more fore-knowledge when you walk in ( as every place is differnt obv). So you can relax a bit more. Ok, enjoy!!
posted by bquarters at 11:10 AM on August 19, 2011

It might be helpful for you to find a referral from a friend, of someone who works for themselves. You'll agree on a rate and, since you're paying the proprietor, you won't have to tip. Plus, being a referral from a friend and someone you'll likely see more than once, you can be up-front that you're nervous and that you got a friend's referral so that you could be more relaxed about the whole thing. Ultimately, your MT wants you to relax, and wants to facilitate this in all ways.
posted by davejay at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2011

It's fairly common for people–especially those who have not had (many) massages before–to prefer a female massage therapist. Indeed, I've heard that guys can have a tougher time making a living in the field because people of both sexes are generally more inclined to let a strange woman touch them than a strange man.
After 20 years of getting professional massages, I feel confident saying that the gender of the therapist really doesn't matter. I've had disappointing massages and spectacular massages from both. Decide what you're more comfortable with–bearing in mind that it will be a deeply non-sexual experience–and proceed.
As a rule of thumb, leaving clothing on is code for Don't touch me here. As a self-conscious teenager, I always left my undies on. As an adult, I have zero reservations about getting full-on naked. Usually, the therapist will instruct you to undress to your level of comfort, then leave the room to allow you to do so. You take off your clothes, climb onto the table, and make sure you're covered with the drape sheet. It's way less scary than it seems beforehand. Bear in mind that if you get completely naked, you are essentially saying Yes, I want you to massage my glutes (not all therapists will, mind you; I'd guesstimate about 30% will kind of skip right over them. Too bad; it feels splendid). If you're not ready for that, wear tighty whiteys or something that will leave your thighs exposed–no sense in short-changing your quads.
Good luck! And don't worry; relaxing is the whole point!
posted by willpie at 12:43 PM on August 19, 2011

I had a massage by a man once. It was fine but, call it underlying homophobia or whatever you want, I just hated having some dude put his hands all over my back and around my ass. I've only gotten massages from females ever since.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:36 PM on August 19, 2011

If this is your first time getting a professional massage, I would not tell them you want an intense or super-deep massage. You have no idea what you're in for.

Massage is great, relaxing, and fun, but it's also a really in-depth working of your muscles, and you will be sore the next day. If you're not really sure what it's going to be like, tell them it's your first time and they'll probably demonstrate some different types of pressure on you and ask which one you like. If at any point you change your mind, you can speak up during the massage.

I like to tip in cash, so I usually ask when booking the appointment what the tipping policy is and verify the price of the massage (just did this yesterday for my Groupon, where I didn't even know what the standard price was!). Most places will have little tip envelopes for you, or you can give it to the massage therapist after your massage (when they're done, they will leave the room for you to get dressed - you don't need to worry about it right then. Go ahead and lay there for a few minutes, wake up, get dressed, and when you leave, you can give it to them). Or if you pay before the massage, you can ask for a tip envelope then or put it on your card. I usually tip 20% or $20, whichever is easier to figure out.

I think I've only ever had female therapists (maybe a male once?) and I've never had any problems with pressure (and I like it deep!). I also particularly like the feeling of a woman's small powerful hands on my hands and feet - I feel like they get the smaller muscles there better, but that might be my imagination. I've had a lot of massages in Chinatown, and there is nothing sexy about it at all, even though some of those women went deep into my glutes (and once in my ears!).

Two other notes: massage can be really powerful emotionally, and you might feel waves of sadness or happiness at certain points (I have cried a couple of times, just out of sheer I-don't-know-what). Also, only twice have I had my abdomen massaged, and both times I was asked beforehand whether that was ok. Not sure if this is true for guys, but I think generally the front torso is not as much of a focus as the back/shoulders/extremities.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:28 PM on August 19, 2011

« Older Help me with a catchy name for our charity...   |   Fishing novice seeking some safety advice Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.