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

Amanda Baskwill 1 , 2 , 3  and Meredith Vanstone 3
  • 1 Health Research Methodology PhD Program, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 2 Humber College, 205 Humber College Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 3 Department of Family Medicine, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Amanda Baskwill
  • Corresponding author
  • Health Research Methodology PhD Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Humber College, School of Health Sciences, 205 Humber College Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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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.

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The Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine focuses on evidence concerning the efficacy and safety of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) whole systems, practices, interventions and natural health products, including herbal medicines.