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This chart shows the frequency of use in literature of the terms masseuse, masseur and massage therapist. As you can see, the term "massage therapist" has greatly overtaken the more archaic terms only in recent years. How do you feel about the use of the term masseuse/masseur when someone's talking about what you do? If you find it offensive, what's your "one-liner" to educate them about the correct term to use for your profession? Let us know and you might see yourself in the next issue of Massage & Bodywork magazine!

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I don't find it offensive when people call me a masseuse; it doesn't actually happen very often. I call myself a massage therapist, but I also do CranioSacral Therapy and Myofascial Release so in reality I have no idea what to call myself! "Bodyworker" is harder to explain than "masseuse"!

All I care about is that they speak positively, make appointments regularly, and refer me to their friends other than that they can call me anything they like. Actually I do find it disconcerting to be called a Masseuse. Look at me people, I'm a guy!

I don't have a problem with the terms Masseuse and Masseur. They're nice French words that describe what I (we) do.  But, like Daniel, I prefer it when people get the gender right.

I don't find it offensive either.  I know many people associate the term "Masseuse" with luxury, feeling incredible and being able to afford the best attention to their aches and pains as possible so when my clients introduce me as their "Masseuse" I smile broadly, shake my head and tell them I would love to work on them too.  


The chart you included is interesting, in that it shows that the term "massage therapist" came into popular usage around 1980. In a way, this could be considered the beginning of the "modern era" of massage therapy. The terms "masseur" and "masseuse" are antiquated, as they refer to the much smaller field that existed before the widespread availability of formal massage education programs.

Prior to 1983, AMTA was known as the American Massage & Therapy Association, which implied that "massage" was something different from "therapy". That was changed in 1983 to remove the all-important ampersand, and to reposition both the organization and its members as "massage therapists".

In the South (and perhaps other regions), "masseuse" is still used to describe a female provider of adult entertainment. Because of the stigma this term bears, it's best avoid its usage, and to tactfully remind others that we now use the term "massage therapist" to refer to both male and female licensed practitioners.

There is also a crucial difference in the public awareness between "massage" and "massage therapy". The former is used in a wide variety of ways, the latter specifically refers to the professional practice of a healing art.

Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT
Founder & Co-director, Body Therapy Institute
Siler City, NC

Nice reminder Rick. It also follows American Society's move away from gender terms for service and to more generic politically correct terms. A waitress/waiter is now your Server. A steward/stewardess is a Flight Attendant. The list of changed job terms goes on and on not necessarily because of derogatory implication. I think the change in terms is good as it allows refocusing on current medical massage as opposed to an entertaining/relaxation only image from the days of local regulation.

How about a new term?  There is still, with some people, a sexual connotation to the word Massage Therapist.. I mean the Massage Parlor down the street hides its workers under the term Massage therapist..So how about getting rid of the word Massage all together...Something like Manual Medicine Muscle Worker?  lol   Making a joke...but no kidding...The happy ending massage place down the street from where I work, call themselves massage therapists and work under the same license.   Manual Medicine Muscle Worker would sound very un-sexual to the general public....  When I tell people Im a massage therapist , there is always someone that starts joking around about happy endings...

I prefer to be called a licensed massage therapist because that is what I am.  When I am asked when I became a "Masseuse" I usually say something along the lines of  "I became a licensed massage therapist in 2011".  And leave it at that.  So far that has been enough of a "correction" and they now refer to me as their massage therapist. 


I did have a client who tried to joke about about "happy endings".  I said that if you are referring to leaving the session relaxed and with less pain than you walked in with then yes, I would consider that a happy ending.  Other than that I am really not sure how to respond to that kind of comment.  I work in a chiropractor's office so when that kind of comment is made I am offended by it.  And honestly find it challenging to remain client centered for the remainder of the session. 

I've always wondered why there hasn't been a move by our profession to a completely different title.  Myotherapy/Myotherapist or Somatic Therapy/Somatic Therapist or Soft Tissue Therapy/Soft Tissue Therapist.


Over the past three decades, I've observed that the percentage of people who have an immediate/unconscious association between the words "massage" and "sex" has declined steadily. 30 years ago, I'd guess that 90% of people had that association. Today, probably not more than 20%. Since it'll never get to zero, we can safely move forward with using the term "massage therapy" as our unique brand.

As hands-on practitioners have adopted other non-massage terms to describe and market their work, they have taken themselves out of general public awareness. Terms like myomassology, muscle therapy, bodywork, etc. were created to shake the stigma, but they have not caught on in the marketplace. By using the terms "massage therapy" and "massage therapist" consistently, we strengthen the positioning of this brand.

If there are adult entertainment workers in your area who are using these terms, they should be reported to the state massage licensing agency for action.

Good points, Gordon. I've found the terms used accordingly to geographical location (it seems). When I was working in the South (Alabama & Tennessee) everyone I ever met referred to me as a "massage therapist". Even in conversation, a person would say, "Oh yea, I see a massage therapist...."

However, I never was really referred to as a "masseuse" until moving out here to the West coast (San Diego). Everyone here uses that term. "Oh yea, I see a masseur/masseuse regularly, he/she really helps keep me injury free". It doesn't bother me because no one I've heard use it means it in a negative connotation. It doesn't bother me, just a French word and the connotation with prostitution just isn't there in the client/potential client meaning when they use the word.

There's so much dissonance within our profession, just think of trying to explain what deep tissue is to a client who has received deep tissue from a variety of mt's. If we can't get it straight, how can we expect the public perception to follow suit?

Very interesting Rajam. I have only heard Hispanic clients call me a Masseuse here in L.A.. And no they never use the term Masseur. It has always been used with respect and praise. How do we get it straight when schools, teachers, and the public all use words with differing connotations. Just like spelling and pronunciation in America massage terms have been scrambled with all the varying origins and emerging personal variety. Perhaps this is not so bad if it allows everyone to search out and find what suits them. Perhaps we should be shouting Viva la difference!

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