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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 17, 2017

“Just don’t be creepy”: A phenomenological study of the experiences of men in massage therapy

  • Amanda Baskwill EMAIL logo and Meredith Vanstone



Societal expectations around traditional binary gender roles result in some professions being considered “men’s work” or “women’s work”. Massage therapy (MT) is one such profession that, despite being predominantly female, is joined by an increasing number of men with a desire to help others.


This descriptive phenomenological study asked male massage therapists in Ontario, Canada, about their experience of gender in their professional lives. Fourteen men shared their experiences of practice, which included discriminatory hiring and patient preferences for female practitioners. These issues resulted in difficulty establishing a clinical practice. To create a successful practice, men described the need for professionalism, clear communication, and a comfortable treatment environment.

Results and conclusions

Researchers should explore the impact of discrimination on men in MT, patient preferences based on the therapist’s gender, and the role of education in perpetuating societal heterosexual norms. Finally, as with any shift in culture, all levels of organization must take action to remove discrimination and bias within the profession of MT.


The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Noah Gentner, as the external coder, and Steve Baskwill, as the transcriptionist. They would like to thank Drs. Jane Baskwill and Julia Abelson, as well as the anonymous reviewer, for providing comments. The researchers acknowledge the overwhelming interest of the men to participate and candidly tell their stories.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: None declared.

  3. Employment or leadership: None declared.

  4. Honorarium: None declared.

  5. Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.


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Received: 2017-7-27
Accepted: 2017-10-1
Published Online: 2017-11-17

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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