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Can A Sensual Massage Be Professional?


This is almost a trick question. By definition massage is a sensual experience. It is perceived through our senses. It makes you feel good. It is meant to be sensual.

Is there an easy definition of sensual and sexual massage?

The problem arises with the fact that most people do not clearly distinguish between sensuality and sexuality. The distinction is quite simple: Sexuality is sensuality with sexual intent, whereas sensuality by itself does not have to have any sexual intent.

I admit that it is often quite hard to draw a clear line between those two concepts. Therefore you can’t blame professional massage therapists for avoiding the issue and just distancing themselves from the entire problem by siding with professional, clinical and scientific concepts.

While that keeps us in safe territory, it also denies or downplays the fact that massage is a sensual experience. Most of our clients do want to experience this aspect, the enjoyment of being touched. So we end up with a dichotomy.

The story of a too clinical massage

Once I was in a famous spa in Budapest, Hungary, the Gellert. I signed up for a massage, and for an hour a big and strong masseur proceeded to pummel me, slap me, yank me and brush me. It really was not a very pleasant experience. Maybe it was therapeutic. I figured there must be something good about it since the Gellert is a world famous spa. But I wouldn’t do it again for sure.

The story of a heavenly massage

When I went back home to Austin I arranged for a massage from a long term friend of mine. She has a peaceful and beautifully decorated treatment room. Aroma oils are being diffused, candles are burning, soothing music is playing, and she has an absolutely wonderful touch. It is an environment that is highly appealing to all the senses. It is a sensual experience. Personally I would choose this type of setting over the Gellert any time.

She chose to provide such a sensual environment. And she is highly professional and always booked. People love her and her massage. Actually I should have written this in the past tense because the truth is that she is not alive anymore. But anyone who was ever touched by her will always remember her beautiful, sensual, loving and totally professional touch. And her reputation will live a lot longer than her physical body did.

In contrast, all I remember about the Gellert therapist is that he was big and strong, and that I was glad when the massage was over. I told myself that it must have been good for me, but in the case of my old friend in Austin I did not need to convince myself.

Going beyond “rather safe than sorry” in massage therapy

I understand my colleague’s reservations about the sensual aspects of massage. As far as I am concerned, I have decided to live up to my truth in my professional practice. I love to receive massage that feels sensual, and my clients love it too.

When the therapist is totally clear in his or her mind about the distinction between the sensuality versus the sexuality in massage, then in my experience it will never be an issue for the client either. Our clients trust us when we are clear, clean, strong and transparent. Therapists who are fearful of misperceptions are more likely to encounter clients who reflect that,  since that is part of their energy and that is what they send out to their clients.

Can sensual massage be professional? Maybe I should rephrase the question: How can professional and high quality massage not be sensual?

14 comments to Can A Sensual Massage Be Professional?

  • Stephen Buford

    Gordon Inkeles has not only mastered the art of massage, but he is a master teacher. His descriptions and instructions are superb. Tasteful nude photographs and detailed drawings of muscles and tendons illustrate each technique. Each step of the massage is easy to understand and duplicate. One evening of review allowed me to confidently provide my wife an hour of stress relieving massage. The next hour was one of the most sensual of our 23-year marriage.Raising 4 children and balancing two careers, doesn’t allow for much stress-free togetherness. We had truly forgotten how much stress interferes with intimacy.Mr. Inkeles, we can’t thank you enough for teaching us how to give each other such a marvelous gift: the release of stress through magic fingers. Not only is it therapeutic, it is extremely sensual. When mom and dad are more relaxed and romantic, the children benefit also.One final note regarding the nude photographs: while there is full frontal nudity, it is not senseless nudity. The photographs demonstrate the text. It would be difficult for me to duplicate the techniques from simply reading the text or studying drawings.

    • Hi Stephen, I have one of Gordon Inkeles’s books too, and I agree with you that there is definite value in using massage in this way. Many couples would be much better off if they would implement such a massage in their relationships. Thanks for your input!

  • Graham

    A few days ago I had a deep tissue massage from a woman here in my small town in Australia. She had strong fingers and managed to find some really crunchy things in my muscles particularly in my neck and shoulders. I usually go for a pretty sensual Huna massage. When I walk out of the Huna I can feel very relaxed and its like I am walking a couple of inches above the ground.

    The deep tissue was a bit painful, but I could feel that she had the skills to release a lot of tension that I had built up. A day later I could feel the difference, better than the Huna.

    So its horses for courses. I believe there is no one style of massage which is ideal for everyone. Therapeutic can be good, and sensual can be good. It depends on your body and the skill of the masseur.

    • Good to hear from you again, Graham! Sure, no massage works well for everyone. Sometimes I just need a relax massage, just for the pleasant sensual feeling, and sometimes I need a more therapeutic session, and I always appreciate the fact that there are so many options and therapies to choose from. As far as I am concerned, the more the better.

  • Carl Duffin

    Hi – I am a stranger to this website, but I found the article an awakening so thank you. I qualified as an aromatherapist more than ten years ago but have never been able to make an income from it because I am male and there is a lot of suspicion out there.
    Through a charity auction for the local Wellbing Centre I offered a massage to the lucky winner – the winning bid was passed over twice before I received my client.
    Nevertheless I the masseur and she the recipient of the massage experienced the most professional and sensual massages and that is before I came across your article. I love to help an individual become aware of their own Divinity and to share in realising my connection with all beings through the gift of massage; both giving and receiving. Namaste. Carl

    • Hi Carl and welcome, now you are not a stranger anymore. It seems that you intuitively understand the concept of massage and sensuality. Good for you, and I hope you will continue to give people wonderful professional and sensual massage treatments.

  • heidi

    hmmm…i most appreciate detailed work that is ‘enveloped’ in long, sensual strokes…when the therapist’s intention is very clear to provide a professional massage with loving presence it can be powerfully healing.Thanks for putting it out there, Shama!

  • Thanks Heidi, I like your definition of sensual massage as a professional massage with loving presence.

  • Lydia

    Hi, Shama, I think the type of massage you resort to depends on the client. Since a professional therapist can work on all levels (energetic, skin , muscles, bones) he can satisfy various needs, preserving the magic touch, i.e. making the procedure on the whole very pleasurable, which implies sensual.

  • Ed

    Hi Shama,
    Although your article is very interesting, I prefer not to use the term “sensual”. Just like to think as giving a massage “with passion” whether is deep tissue, relaxation, thai or whatever technique is being used.
    After all , as a receiver, when the massage is good, I enter in a different state of mind that goes beyond sexuality/sensuality…and as a giver , once I get into “my massage universe” , there is no way I ‘d even think about those terms.
    Being a Thai-Yoga massage therapist, the “philosophy of metta” ,loving compassion, is always present in my practice so there is no room for “light or out-of-place- feelings”.
    But , again , your words are very clear to understand the difference and for newcomers to the massage world not to be confused.
    Best Regards

    • I don’t use the actual term “sensual” either when I am working with clients. I just used it to make a major distinction in this article. But I would not tell a client that I am about to give a sensual massage now, and have them read this article first :)

      I wrote this article to clarify an issue which some therapists have in their minds. In real life application we can definitely use different words to describe the sensual aspect, like you mentioned with “metta” or “loving compassion”.

  • I would love to be able to advertise sensual massage services but expect that the repercussions would be swift and egregious. We live in a paranoid and litigious society. I do, however, shift into sensual mode when a client asks for a relaxation massage and I sense that they are comfortable with me and can tell by my touch what my intentions are. Often this is during a repeat session.

    It is my firm belief that most of us are touch deprived from early childhood, especially men. Boys are told not to touch girls because it is not polite/wrong and we are told not to touch boys because it is weird/wrong. Girls are taught that it is fine to touch other girls but touching boys can be dangerous. Those instructions are rarely voided.

    When we are finally with someone that we feel comfortable with and they touch us lovingly and sensuously, the feelings aroused are undefinable. All is bliss. But, should we stop allowing ourselves to ‘feel good’ and let our earlier training surface, the warm feelings can change to fear and distrust.

    When I can find the rare therapist who is skilled in and can simultaneously deliver both the sensual and technical aspects of massage, I feel blessed. Unfortunately, those are few and far between and they either: 1) are extremely difficult to get an appointment with, 2) are for me prohibitively expensive, or 3) move on to a different area or career. I am now, again, looking for another that is both highly talented and sensual. Wish me luck.


    • I know, it is not easy to find such therapists. And it is not easy to strike a balance between professional training in a “paranoid and litigious society” and our natural sensual feelings. Like you said, those therapists who can deliver the technical and the sensual aspects skillfully will never have a lack of clients.

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