Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) has sent a statement to Netflix denouncing the unacceptable and unprofessional sexualization of massage therapy presented in its series “Sex/Life,” Season 2, Episode 4.
The dangerous perception that massage is in any way related to sex has negatively impacted the legitimacy of our profession and the safety of our professionals. It’s important to set guidelines so the massage experience is met with trust and respect that deters the thought of misguided sexual misconduct and unwanted sexual advances. RespectMassage.com is our commitment to educate and empower massage therapists, clients, and anyone discussing our profession on what a respectful massage experience should look and feel like.
Massage therapists and bodyworkers can share their feedback directly at https://help.netflix.com. The full text of the letter to Netflix is below.
To Stacy Rukeyser:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the inappropriate portrayal of massage therapy in Season 2, Episode 4 of “Sex/Life.” As the national association representing a profession of more than 320,000 US-based massage therapists, more than 80,000 of whom are our members, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of professionalism, ethics, and safety in our profession.
The scene in question depicted a massage therapy session that was not only offensive but also misrepresented the professionalism and integrity of our members’ work. We understand that “Sex/Life” is a work of fiction that seeks to entertain its audience, but there is no room for representations of inappropriate touch or behavior in a massage therapy session. Such portrayals may be great for ratings, but they endanger practitioners in the very space they’ve dedicated their careers to.
The inappropriate portrayal of massage therapy in popular media like “Sex/Life” can have serious real-world implications for massage therapists and bodyworkers. When media normalizes or sensationalizes inappropriate touch or behavior in a massage therapy session, it can create a perception that such behavior is acceptable or even expected. This can put massage therapists at risk of assault or harassment from clients who feel emboldened by these media representations.
In addition, the Netflix social media team showed poor taste in their insensitive social media captions that made light of the inappropriate portrayal of massage therapy in the episode, and general ignorance around the profession. Captions such as “Obviously that masseur takes client satisfaction very seriously” use antiquated terms and only serve to further undermine our profession.
We ask for an immediate apology from Netflix for this misrepresentation, and we urge them to exercise greater sensitivity and respect when depicting massage therapy in the future. It is imperative that they take steps to correct the false impression of our profession portrayed in this episode and on their social media channels.
We are closely monitoring the situation and will take further action as necessary to ensure that our members are protected, and our profession is represented appropriately.
President, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
The Battle Rages On
ABMP, thank you for continuing to champion for our profession on many fronts. This particular issue is key to continuing to establish credibility as Medical Practitioners whose work has profound impact on the efficacy of numerous conventional disciplines and modalities. As we work together we'll keep sounding the alarm.
Problematic Feedback Process
I attempted to express my concerns to Netflix via the link above and found that unless one has a current subscription membership, the chat agent "can't" take feedback. I'm not willing - and don't believe it should be necessary - to be a current customer in order to express concern on this particular topic. I hope others who are current members have shared their concerns.
Netflix just keeps going downhill.
I have personally suffered harassment, inappropriate requests, and demeaning behavior several times throughout my career. It is not only disheartening, but also frightening and anxiety triggering! It is obviously disgusting, but to make a professional feel disrespected and afraid is never acceptable. Thank you so much, ABMP, for standing up for us and demanding this misrepresentation to be rectified.
I appreciate that you wrote in to Netflix and have attempted to make my own comments to them regarding this episode. However, I don't think demanding an apology is enough. They need to make a public statement via Twitter or some other avenue outlining HOW they were wrong, and then remind viewers that this episode does NOT reflect how LMTs should be treated (or how legitimate ones operate)
Very much appreciate this effort
Thank you, Les Sweeney and ABMP for sending this letter. This is an issue that is deeply important to me as well. I am a current Netflix subscriber and am now considering canceling my membership with them because this misrepresentation happens much to often in movies and tv shows I see on their streaming platform. I have submitted an endorsement of this letter to Netflix and will be interested to see and/or share any feedback they provide.
It is my opinion that unless and until there is a full/through understanding of a Massage Therapists role & potential dangers that we face, Netflix and their creators should not speak on, for, or about our profession, in addition to not irresponsibly depicting damaging images and ideas that may have a real impact on the real lives of real Massage Therapist.
Your insensitivity and ignorance in the area is sickening. Do better Netflix.
ABMP, I thank you for your diligence and watchful eye.
I appreciate that ABMP is
I appreciate that ABMP is interested in pursuing this topic. However, I think the larger picture here is to work to try separate therapeutic massage therapy from sex work in the eyes of the public. So long as there are establishments that are allowed to perform "massage" as a code for sex work, it will be continue to be confusing (and/or perpetuated as fantasy) for the consumer.
Desperately Seeking Ratings
This reminds me somewhat of a Seinfeld episode back in the 90's, when his character dated a Massage Therapist. I was living in New York City at the time and everyone talked about that episode. It made me furious because it had such irreverence and was belittling. It was constantly referenced to me as a joke that I found insulting. Most of my clients were extremely wealthy and celebrities to boot. Which is what I find so ironic in this instance, because they are the very people creating said content. There is a massive process from screenwriting to producing that takes place and requires much approval with ratings in mind, before an episode is aired. I have not seen the show, nor have I heard of it, which makes me doubt its popularity and viewership. They most likely had to pull out a zinger to get some attention. It seems their mission was accomplished.
Thank you for addressing this
Thank you for addressing this. I had the same concerns and dismay when I saw Season 6, Episode 14 of Schitt's Creek, titled "Happy Endings". I was extremely disappointed in this show's (that I otherwise loved) portrayal of massage therapists. I'm glad ABMP is staying on top of it.