Everyone is Right


A maelstrom blew up in the past few weeks in the massage field, over Lifetime TV’s new series, “The Client List,” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as a massage therapist who has gone over to the dark side, working at a spa that in reality is a brothel. The show originated as a TV movie that aired last year, and now premieres as a series in April.


The massage community has expressed strong disapproval of the program, in the form of letters of protest/condemnation (one from yours truly), online petitions, Facebook postings, and a few thoughtful blog posts. I thought that, beyond our correspondence with Lifetime, I would share a few thoughts about the issue and what it says about us as massage and bodywork professionals.


Everyone who works at ABMP objects to the characterization of massage in an unsavory light. That is probably not a surprise to anyone. To a person, we also just about universally enjoy being entertained. I can also tell you I am not a Puritan; I have been known to enjoy Tosh.0, off-color jokes, and am a huge fan of “The Hangover.” My objection with “The Client List” is the associative properties of television.


My favorite movie of all time is “Midnight Run,” which stars Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin. Grodin plays an accountant who embezzled from the mob. Now I know, and you know, that most accountants are decent, hard-working people who in all likelihood do not embezzle. But part of entertainment is there needs to be a story; in the case of “The Client List,” the fall from grace is the story. We object because we exist to defend and support the rights of massage and bodywork professionals, and “The Client List” is offensive to the public perception of those professionals and potentially threatens their very safety.


TV shows by definition are not reality; this instance is no different. But local ordinances regulating “massage parlors” have been a reality for us in the not-too-distant past; that is why we should remain diligent in making sure our profession continues its positive evolution in society.


Steph Lasch wrote a very good blog post about the issue. She also criticized the stance ABMP took regarding the show, suggesting we were petty for offering an outlet for members to complain. I disagree; there are varying levels of disagreement within our massage and bodywork community. Professionals have every right to express their upset with Lifetime for perpetuating a stereotype that is potentially harmful to them. Steph’s post appropriately characterized the show as “sensationalism.” But this does not mean that we as professionals should sit idly by if we find it offensive. And that is why we, and many others, have acted.


Kat from the LMT or Bust blog also really seized on the opportunity a situation like this presents for therapists—an opportunity to educate folks about what we do and who we are. We all can take a page from her playbook.


My friend Laura Allen wrote a post contrasting “The Client List” with one of the real challenges to our profession—the shifting sands of regulation. Like a good therapist who does deep work, Laura knows what spots to hit.


As the title of this post states, everyone is right—Steph is right for reminding us to not get too worked up about this, Kat is right for suggesting the opportunity in front of us, Laura is right that there are bigger fish to fry, and I think we were right for standing up for our members and the profession. And Lifetime is in the entertainment business, so they probably think they’re right, too.


I just wish next time it was about an accountant.



Prefer to receive more from Les in small doses? Follow him on Twitter — @abmp_les.

48 thoughts on “Everyone is Right

  1. Well said sir and believe it or not I did not view this program. So I guess I honestly missed nothing but a stab at our honorable profession which BTW already is challenged by folks wanting to demean or misrepresent us due to lack of knowledge or just plain ignorance! As always thanks for doing a great job on all of our behalf!!

  2. I’ve been at odds with most MTs and my own ABMP association with this since it began. MTs have done a great deed for Lifetime by helping to make this show incredibly provocative and hence more successful. I even know people who have heard about it and it’s a popular show to some MTs family and friends. Every field has been or is being portrayed incorrectly on TV. If it wasn’t there wouldn’t be the drama there is and people wouldn’t watch it as much. This is also a 1st amendment issue, where Lifetime has the right to show there content and tell a story. I know MTs hate it when I bring up this fact, but this is not talking about anything from the past. MT is one of the nations largest fronts for prostitution and works heavily in the sex trade. This is also a fine example of what happens with values and client feelings are allowed to have to much power in the practitioner/client relationship. Just search google news. There are multiple MTs shut down every day for prostitution. Legislation so far hasn’t even begun to slow these numbers. It sucks, but think about in a logical standing. MT buildings are setup like a manufacturing plant for prostitutes. Reputable business and billing. Appointments or walk-ins, Choose your MT, Walk back to a secure closed room, Have a regular massage or something else. If something does happen most owners claim no responsibility and put all the blame on the therapist/prostitute as being a lone wolf and not what they hired them for. This is why many times the businesses stay open. I’ve been called names for this opinion, I’ve been told I must be ok with sex with massage therapy, and that I should turn in my license for accepting reality instead of ducking my head in the sand and denying it exists. There are very real reasons why many men do not want their significant others to be MTs and it’s not paranoia. Paranoia is the fear of something that doesn’t or hasn’t existed. This is real and does. It’s also no different then many of the other shows people enjoy watching. In fact it’s much more tame and socially safe then making other fields such as cops out to look bad on a regular basis. Those men & women are in charge of keeping people safe with deadly force if necessary.

  3. I should clarify that it’s the movie that was already proven to be more popular thanks to the outcry of MTs and that is what is currently making the rankings with Lifetime and download sites such at Demonoid & Rapidshare. It is one of the most popular downloads and it’s a Lifetime movie (This only happens with controversy) to make top rankings or it must be genuinely very good material.

  4. I agree – we each have our own truth. There are, however, some BIG differences between this TV series and the movie, Midnight Run. Midnight Run was ONE movie showing ONE accountant in a bad light. The TV series is, essentially, MANY different movies, shown weekly, showing ALL massage therapists (in that world) in a bad light. AND, there have been many movies and series wherein an accountant has been portrayed favorably. Whereas, I honestly cannot recall one single movie or TV episode that dealt with massage therapists that didn’t show them engaged in sexual behavior. Oh, wait. Lisa Kudrow, in Friends, played a massage therapist and she wasn’t a prostitute – just a loveable idiot. I guess that is our only other choice, according to the entertainment industry. Massage therapists should (and in real life, often do) command the respect usually accorded to doctors. The entertainment business portrays doctors as heroes, usually, and sometimes as “bad guys.” Why can’t they manage to come up with the same balance for massage therapists?

  5. And Ryan’s reason for why sex trade businesses manage to stay open has nothing to do with sleight of hand (so to speak) by the business owners. They stay open because law enforcement gets PAID to leave them alone.

  6. So, Ryan, are you saying that we as massage therapists, should just acknowledge that prostitution happens in our field, there’s nothing we can do about it, just accept it, and move on? Or, do you think that as legitimate business persons, we need to educate people about our profession? Just this weekend I heard form someone in my own neighborhood, who got my name from a local blog forum. He wanted a legit good massage, but with a happy ending, didn’t think anything of asking, of sending me a picture of his privates. I politely informed him that I didn’t do that, that I am licensed as a healthcare provider, that he wouldn’t ask his physician to do the same for him. Yes, I lost a customer…but he was asking me to provide a sexual act for money. He would never ever think about asking any other professional in his life for the same thing. I wasn’t angry..just a bit flummoxed, I suppose. Especially considering that I am almost 65 years old, a little gray in the temples, a tad over weight, have a chronic illness that has me on a national transplant list. It almost seemed laughable to me. Yet, we need to remain incensed that it happens, and that there are legit and not so legit massage therapists that have no problem with this. I don’t give a rat’s pitooty if it “happens all the time”. I don’t care if people are busted for it every day across the US…it shouldn’t, not if we respect ourselves, our profession. And we need to speak out, be vigilant, and, yes, write to shows like this. We need to educate. It’s been a long road form “massage parlors” for us…why go backwards now by just accepting what is?

  7. I saw the movie, but let’s face it – this movie did not create a situatuion. The movie is highlighting a problem within our industry, licensing and advertising. This is prostitution and it is in no way related to therapeutic massage. The issue of sex, or why some clients are drawn to massage therapy – thinking that it is sex oriented, has more to do with ancient beliefs and experiences where touch was taboo. When Ive had to address this issue with potential clients- I am clear with them that I do not offer sex, I’m not judging them – but that they should perhaps be looking under escort services. My wish is for us to figure out how to prevent prostitution from using advertising that uses words related to massage and from advertising in the phone listings under massage.
    I don’t have a great answer but I am willing to work on this issue.

  8. First off there is nothing a single Massage Therapist can do that will curve the sex trade in the US. It’s been tried many times by people in fields much more prominent then MT. Let’s also not forget that the history of massage BEGAN with prostitution and massage usually still initiates sexual activity between members of our own species. It’s used by lovers, adulterers, prostitutes, escorts, friends, co-workers, etc. In Egypt and Rome massage was also used with prostitution.

    Prostitution is NOT going away and never will. The ability to sell a good or service is always a fall back back option as old as the human species dates to. As long as it’s outlawed and enforced in some countries it will also take on a different front to emulate what people and the law want to see. The moral police is what keeps it going. Some people do it out of hardships and others out of enjoyment. There is also a HUGE amount of money available to candidates to it which makes it very appealing to them.

    People in every field should always be educating their clients. Those who don’t are just taking people’s money and clients would be better off with someone else in every workable field in the country. However believing in a fantasy or fairy tail of thinking prostitution doesn’t happen or won’t continue in a trade that is most ideally setup for it, because they came from the same roots is naive at best. Most Americans know it happens with massage parlors and such the same as LE does. You’re fighting against human instincts for males and women by not wanting a sex culture. Nature wins every time in the long run. In Madison it took them years to shut down a Massage Therapy business across from the states Capital building. Representatives, staff, law enforcement, and city employees have been using there sex services for years. Anyone who thinks for an instant that someone else hasn’t already filled that market is simply fooling themselves or doesn’t understand how markets work with vacuums.

    Things will not change as long as it is illegal for the sex trade to operate. They will always take the form of something that emulates what they do as much as possible. Every illegal trade works the same way. Massage Therapy masks prostitution very well. Don’t take that the wrong way that I agree with it or like it, but that’s the nature of things. It’s no different then drug traffickers or gangs. They all work with emulation to hide themselves. Licenses will make little difference as shops will fake them and almost always get by with fake licenses for a while. Others will simply attend Massage school for the minimum time, work on their own or with others. Many times it’s individuals who work in places such as Massage Envy or other large scale chains, resorts, cruises (some of whom have been caught) just working for extra money. The chances of getting caught in very small which is why our building setups are ideal for them.

    You can continue to hate my opinion on the subject, but still the show is no different then how almost every other occupation has been portrayed in movies and TV. Every person with a hobby has been portrayed in a bad light on TV, movies, books, magazines, radio, and the internet. It’s not going to change, because that’s what people want for entertainment. Humans thrive off drama, fear, and sexual situations. In fact sexual stimulation comes out of every human emotion. We are sexual beings. I suggest everyone do their own research on subjects they are unsure about. I enjoy learning. I study history, bio-mechanics, programming, science, and am a PC Technician.

  9. With great respect to my fellow body workers, I would like to say that I don’t think we can control the trashy shows on TV. How about moral housewives deciding to petition the show, Desperate Housewives? It would never work, and I don’t believe in censorship!
    I don’t believe that this stupid show will affect my business at all, that is not the way I dress and that is not the conversation I have with my clients. I take responsibility for creating and maintaining clear and professional boundaries. It’s up to me to set an excellent example of what an educated and professional LCMT is all about. It’s up to the authorities to deal with those who advertise as massage therapists as a cover for prostitution.

  10. While I agree with most of Ryan’s overly black-and-white commentary on the subject, I think we all need to take his opinions with a grain of salt. It’s just that: opinion. Don’t let it affect your desire to continue to push for constant change in our industry. Despite the facts he lists, which are indeed facts (e.g. prostitution is not going away); we still need to constantly strive to create a safe environment for our clients, one that in no way indicates we offer anything other than therapeutic healthcare, and continue to educate the public about the valid, legal, proven alternative therapies that we provide.
    Prostitution will find another facade to hide behind when we’ve fought hard enough against their use of our industry. Don’t let Ryan’s apathy toward the subject affect your desire to constantly fight toward cleaning our reputation and national consistency among licensing requirements. We can start small (yes Ryan, one person CAN make a difference) by educating every time the subject arises. This whole “maelstrom” recently has proved that as a group, we have the fervor and wherewithal to create change.

  11. “But local ordinances regulating “massage parlors” have been a reality for us in the not-too-distant past; that is why we should remain diligent in making sure our profession continues its positive evolution in society.”

    Les I just wish that it was in the past, but it’s not. The current time fact is that whenever there is an election year and some wanna be tough on crime alderman etc wants to get noticed, another stupid regulation on parlors, zoning law or fee structure gets shoved down this industry’s throat while its business as usual for illegal brothels who do co-opt our hard fought for and earned titles. Human sex traffic is at an all time high and we bear the cost directly. In one local suburb here the cost of a business license is more than triple any other healthcare business, because we are massage therapists. Up until only a few short years ago Chicago and most suburbs required STD tests for Massage Therapists. I thought naively that State licensing would take care of this and sadly I feel its created more costs and little enforcement in our favor. So yes I am angry when after 15 years in this industry I still am considered by many people in society a sex worker. I have every right to be so. And I don’t think our industry leaders are correct. Many of our graduates are female and young so pardon me if I (as as 50+ women who gets hit on by idiots) do not worry about the safety and boundary limits of newly minted LMT’s 25 years old or under. If we older therapists don’t stand up and stop this crap, who should? Safety and economic viability are real issues for solo-prenuers. If media drives revolutions and elections, it also influences public and political perception of our businesses, no matter how many educational forums we provide. Maybe ABMP/AMTA need to spend some of our $$ on a “real massage” campaign (PSA’s) to show what real LMT’s do as they have done in WA state.

  12. I watched the movie and I must admit our profession is not endanger but illegal establishments are and if the intention of the TV series is that bravo! The movie was good with plenty of real teachable moments on family, economy, friendship, religion, and forgiveness.Who knows a few whistler blowers may have watched the movie and report unlawful activity and perhaps the Series will characterize that and if Jennifer continues to be a therapist the true meaning of our profession will be portray. Let’s hope!

  13. Ryan, I find a few holes in your comments. First off, take a good look at the history of massage dating back over 3000 yrs. It was originally used as a medical treatment based on the human need for touch, and the therapeutic qualities it holds. Prostitution, if you will look into it’s history may have been closely linked that long ago, but when you look closer, the two were NOT intertwined at their outset. Touch for purposes of medicinal treatment and for sexual release did not start out at the same instance. In addition, when you describe that spouses, adulterers, coworkers, and others engage in this type of massage, you are missing a great point…they are not licensed, not insured, don’t take Continuing education units to maintain their professional status, and they don’t recieve compensation. You are comparing apples and car bumpers. There have been portrayed, bad cops, bad doctors, bad accountants, etc. and I am not so naive that I should be slighted by this show as an MT than a cop, acountant, or a doctor. However, when a person is being threatened, who do they turn to, when a person is sick, who do they go see, and when you need GOOD tax advice where can you go. Those professions have not had to validate their existence like massage has had to do for the last 200 years. My fear is that people who see this show as the norm, and without the opportunity to get educated about the truth, will run to their local MT and expect the same as the show portrays. I do hope the show will portray a more positive aspect of a single mother OVERCOMING the stereotype, but I imagine more that the sensationalism of the dark side of my profession is all that people will take away. I have a tough enough time as a male MT getting the trust of my clientele, I do not need the added burden of justifying my profession because a hot body portraying my profession as place for a “happpy ending” is getting the exposure…no pun intended.

  14. I’m glad ABMP alerted members to this upcoming show. I hadn’t heard about it. I registered complaint on the Facebook Page. I hardly wish to promote the show and so will not share it among Facebook Friends. But I will consider writing an article for my business Facebook blog about the importance of the work we do, and having that respected in society. I live in California, in a county in which a large amount of therapeutic bodywork occurs, so the topic rarely surfaces among people I know personally that massage therapy and bodywork are anything but hugely important for wellness and recovery from illness and surgery.

  15. Great post Les,
    It’s true, we each need to do what we feel is best for our industry, and when push comes to shove as they say in the world of marketing- bad publicity is at least better than NO publicity.

    Massage is still crazily enough, an emerging industry, so the more people who hear about massage therapy, (and the more articulate our rebuttals) we get brought to the forefront of more people’s awareness.

    If LT is not going to change the storyline, let’s hope the show eventually is a boost to our biz!

  16. I agree with a lot of the comments here, but I want to point out one thing. This is Jennifer Love Hewitt! She hasn’t had a hit series since Party Of Five umpteen years ago. I don’t think this show will be around for very long. The good news is that it has us all talking about a very serious issue within our profession: the public misconceptions that persist in our industry. This is a teaching/learning opportunity for those of us in the body work profession as well as the general public. While I don’t believe in censorship, I do applaud ABMP for publicly protesting this show because it can educate the public on what it is we really do (and do NOT do). As therapists and educators we need to continue the conversation about how we can all strive to promote massage therapy as a legitimate healthcare service.

  17. If the government would just make prostitution legal, it would solve alot of fronts. Plus they would be able to tax the services, and mayve get the economy on its feet again……Yeah I know thats not going to happen, nor will the show not air, and like when i buy a lottery ticket, all I can do is pray for a good outcome. One where perverts stop calling to find out what extra services we offer at our spa……

  18. Here is MY client list: women and men who understand the therapuetic benefits of massage therapy where boundries are clear.
    NO professional, licensed massage therapist dresses, behaves, compromises their values, or perpetuates “happy ending’ jokes. We know the scope of our practice and we have safety measures in place to protect us from “potential” harm.
    Unfortunately, sex sells. This is a fact that will never change.
    Here is what we can change. Just as we touch one client at-a-time with love and compassion, so must we continue to educate the public one person at-a-time.
    Talk is cheap. Take your disgust and anger and sponsor a conversation in your community about therapeutic massage and it’s benefits. Don’t be afraid to invite conversation about the misconceptions that exist. Ask your audience what they think or what they have heard. Be proactive. Prepare to be astonished at the change you can create when you channel your energy toward creating an environment of allegiance.

  19. Here’s my question…have you seen the commercial for this episode?? I just saw it air yesterday and I am MORTIFIED as to how she portrays our profession! I am so sickened by this show that I am reconsidering my career path in life! It shouldn’t have to be this way! Movies and series potraying bad cops, embezzeling accountants and malpracticing doctors just are not a good comparison! Sorry, just my opinion. It really is too bad that we have fight so hard to protect our integrity in a profession that is supposed to be safe and healing!

  20. I’m a LMT and I heard about this show at work today. I saw the commercial and now I really want to watch it. It sounds like an interesting story. I do not think it harms the profession. The profession harms itself by insisting that massage has only one meaning. Erotic massage has existed forever and coexists peacefully with therapeutic massage in many parts of the world. There is a deep problem in the US society created by repressing every aspect of human life that has to do with sexuality. That’s the problem, the show is not.

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  28. Know why there are laws in southern states against feeding alligators? It’s because alligators begin to connect people with food. That’s what this program does: makes perverts connect Massage Therapy with sex. And the probable viewing audience is likely to be pervs and their ilk.

    Hewitt the nitwit’s comments – as reported in Brett Bozell’s column – show that she thinks she’s doing us “a favor,” just as she was told that people in her other television profession thanked her. Thanked her? She claimed they thanked her for “making them seem hot.” She thinks we’re being negative because, after all, she’s “making us look hot.”
    Sorry, but after nearly 25 years in the profession, I have no interest in being perceived as “hot.”

    Sadly, her comment about her cleavage in the program making us look hot shows how utterly delusional she really is. Hot? Her? If somehow, in some universe, turning legitimate healthcare practioners into prostitutes counts as being “hot,” she’d be the last one I’d want to represent the profession. Just sayin’.

    Sad woman, ignorant of the sex-slave trade and full of narcissistic delusion. As her representation goes, she’s feeding the alligators. If they come to my office looking for goodies, they will be arrested for solicitation. I don’t care how big a stink it makes.

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  35. Yes, I’ve come late to the discussion, but I just saw this show for the first time this morning. The acting is bad. The music is worse and the story line is offensive to me as a Licensed Massage Therapist. But being from Saint Louis, MO, I’m no stranger to be treated as a Prostitute.

    What I believe to be the more interesting discussion is the depiction of the character as a Massage Therapist with horrible body mechanics, no therapeutic skills and inexcusable boundary issue! For goodness sake, are there no LMT’s in the city where this is filmed who could teach this girl how to stand, put a few oil stains on her teddy and tell to “shut up and stop counseling her clients.” Okay, I sound flippant, but I’ll tell you why. Jennifer Love Hewitt is 43 years old and acting along side drop dead gorgeous men who are portraying her clients. When I was 43, not too long ago, I was 100 pounds over weight with tattoos and dreadlocks. When clients called to ask what I looked like, I tried to have a little fun with them, because: No One would EVER pay me for sex or a happy ending. And I’m good with that.

    I’ve lost the weight and the dreadlocks, but it’s my every day normal humanity that draws the clients who truly benefit from my services. And, believe it or not, even beautiful people have body issues. So, yes, this show is offensive to MT’s, but also off-putting to potential clients. I’m guessing that it’s not the model perfect people portrayed on the show who are watching it, but the ones who could truly use the benefits of relaxation or the boost of self esteem that is derived from an LMT who isn’t chattering away about their marriage, but deeply involved in providing a service, thinking about the pressure they are using, the muscle adhesions and tensions they are finding, considering their next move, their time limits and how best to use that time, rather than how much money they will be payed or tipped or whether or not they will re-book.

    The show stinks! But when I am faced with people who are too ashamed of their bodies to book an appointment or people who assume false intimacy because of their inherent vulnerability as a client, I want to start talking amongst my fellow professionals about professional standards, communication, representation of the profession and always, boundaries.

    Quite frankly, being portrayed as a Prostitute is old news to me. I was wondering more about licencing laws in Texas, state and local inspections and why in the world there was horse trailer in front of the spa she was working in!

  36. Hi guys… Man o man, what a trip!! All the photographs are fully breathless! Seems like Kevin T actually hooked you up t/ his pal in Yellowstone, that is amazing! I have not been down there since I was a kid, but nonetheless, it is really some lovely country. I am a little worried ’bout ya tho…are you certain you are getting time to fish? LOLJust kidding.hehe. We are happy to view the journey going so well, stay rested, generate safe and keep the improvements arriving! Frog and Bridgette, hang inside! Don’t let father wear ya out pursuing the rainbows! Be careful gang… Matt and Team.

    • The basic classes are aoatnmy, physiology, pathology, ethics, massage theory and practice and business. You also need a student clinic to practice in. You have to find the massage school that is best for you and your learning style and also your preferences. Some schools focus more on the spiritual side of massage and some are just technical and some are a combination of both.You can also take more training in things like deep tissue massage or injury massage or pregnancy massage or sports massage if you want to specialize in one of those areas.

  37. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner simply because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here on your website.

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