The Misuse of “Masseuse”
Updated: May 18
Introductions are very occasionally slightly awkward with meeting new people about
my work. It can be as simple as running into a patient on the street who is walking with a friend. The patient gushes to their friend about the amazing treatment they received from me while I stand quietly and listen to accolades.
When the patient stops talking, the friend nods with tart smile to ask: “Oh, so you are a masseuse?" Studying the friend's face and hearing the words that just cascaded off their tongue, I pause. I sense their factual but ignorant statement is like that of a southern passive aggressive insult to the tone of “Bless your heart!" Being a "masseuse" is suspect; but no matter what imaginary assumptions transpired, we all shake hands and I thank my patient graciously for the introduction.
Here is what the outdated word “masseuse” means:
1. The term has French origins. Masseuse is the term for a female who gives massage while Masseur is the masculine term for a male.
2. According to vocabulary.com, the terms are often misconstrued as to mean: “cute, sexy, or flirty professional female [or male] who have hands of gold that are able to get the knots out of your back;" or clients who have romantic imaginations while getting a “rub down.”
3. Being a masseur, is often part of a soigneur's job traveling with European cycling teams like a caddie carries golf clubs for a professional golfer.
4. A licensed massage therapist is bound to both ethics and the law whereas a "masseuse" may provide unlicensed massage as part of an escort service. Moreover, the shadowy rise of human sex trafficking has become a perplexing problem for both consumers and law enforcement agencies alike.
As a board certified massage therapist (who transferred my license from Washington State), I have been helping people suffering from physical stress, pain and injury since 1996. I am passionate about the work I do! Over the last 25 years, the licensed massage profession has evolved to earn a seat at the healthcare table and spa settings. Here in Arizona, every practitioner is required by state law to have a minimum of 24 continued education credits by the time of their bi-annual license renewal. Our skills should not be snarkily be compared to those of other such professions that do not require grounded education in public health science, medical terminology, anatomy, physiology and kinesiology.