I was recently at a meeting where a colleague was elaborating on why he had never gotten a massage. Even though I do not regularly practice, because of my role with the organization I engage in frequent conversations with consumers or would-be consumers of massage.
Have you heard this refrain before? “Yeah, I know it sounds great, but I’m just not sure about it.” Or even more direct, “No thanks,” either followed by a chuckle, smirk, or a frightened/dismissive countenance. I hear this more often from men; granted, I usually interact with more men through my hockey team or regular friends. Nevertheless, the statistics tell the tale—fewer than 1 in 10 adult males visited a massage therapist in 2008, according to the consumer study commissioned by ABMP. Contrast that with this statistic—according to the U.S. Census Bureau, men comprise almost 59% of all full-time wage earners, and earn nearly 65% of all income. So men, with perhaps more available means to pay for massage and bodywork, are half as likely as women to get massage.
Why don’t more men get massage? And how can we (as practitioners, organizations, friends, brothers and sisters) convince them, “try it; you’ll like it.” A female colleague characterizes the issue as this: “Men don’t like woo-woo, and they view massage as too woo-woo.” My understanding of the term “woo-woo” is that it means too “soft” and pampering. What do you think?
A common reason I hear from men (and people who know them) is that they “are not comfortable with massage.” This is code for something else; it is likely that many are not comfortable with the intimate setting of massage, and are concerned that they may react in a way that would embarrass them. In other words, bodily functions (likely involving one of two systems we studied in A&P—or both). How do we help potential clients address this so they may enjoy the therapeutic benefits of bodywork?
Men are oversimplified in mainstream culture and marketing as a stereotype—Mr. Macho, or the befuddled Dad, or the captain of industry. Most men I know don’t fall into these categories (or if so, for only small bits). Most men I know also do not hesitate to spend money on themselves if they view the expense as needed or important. If you don’t believe that, go to a golf shop; the entire ball and club industries are predicated on men’s insecurities.
Most men have a sense of pride about who they are, their level of control of their environment, and their adaptability. To try to reach more men to explore the myriad benefits of massage and bodywork, we need to be honest with them, help them conquer any fear of embarrassment or loss of control, and educate them about the importance of tuning up their bodies through regular bodywork, not just exercise.