Recently the city of Minneapolis enacted a new ordinance for massage licensure. It is clear, based on the language, that the intention is to target and eliminate prostitutes posing as therapists. [See new massage license article.] While I applaud the city in its attempt to fix this problem, it does not address the real issue. Prostitution as an industry is the oldest profession. It exists because there is a demand. The real issue that needs to be addressed is: why is there a demand for sex work?
As a massage therapist, I have encountered many people who hold an erroneous belief that knowledge and skill of effective touch is intrinsic to our nature. If this were true, wives wouldn’t complain about their husband’s lack of skill, and husbands wouldn’t complain about demanding wives. Massage is an intimate business, and for a lot of couples it is viewed as foreplay rather than a therapeutic activity.
It is a high honor to be allowed to touch someone’s body, and it should be treated as such. But in order to deliver a good massage, you have to have a sense for the sensual and tactile. Nobody really likes a completely mechanical experience. This means that massage therapists are often confronted with some form of sexual energy that has no acceptable outlet or direction.
Therefore, in my opinion, massage therapy and sex work became intertwined because both industries deal with the same issue: the need for effective touch.
As a civilization, we are in deep denial about our sexuality. If the Gay Rights Movement has taught us anything, it’s to step out of the closet and reveal who we really are. Because we have tried to divorce ourselves from our true sexual nature, we have become a society full of gross impulses. Humans have a wide range of sexual behaviors that have no outlet, no acceptable expression and do not fit into polite society. Prostitution fills the need for expressing these taboos. Legalizing prostitution then becomes an uncomfortable topic, because it makes allowances for all the aspects of human nature we currently refuse to accept.
Studies have shown the effectiveness of regular massage for a wide range of ailments. Studies have also proven the benefits of regular sex.
Unfortunately, while you can legally purchase massage you cannot legally purchase sex. Because of this, there is a black market, where suppliers meet demand with unwilling abductees. In my opinion, it is the denial of our sexual truth that creates these victims.
But if we address the need for effective touch, we can begin to take control of the situation. Sex education would do well to be expanded beyond basic anatomy and rote morals. It is important to teach people how to channel and express their sexual energy in a way that is constructive. By pretending this issue does not exist, we have created individuals who express their sexual energy in a negative way by engaging in rape, molestation and violence.
One of the concepts I have encountered in my pagan studies is the idea of the “Sacred Prostitute.” It is a modern moniker based on myths of priestesses who lived their lives in devotion to the Divine Goddess of Sex. Their job was to initiate virgins and put devotees in direct connection with the Divine Goddess through sexual acts. While there are references in ancient times to this practice, currently there is scholarly debate on whether these myths are fact or fantasy.
But imagine for a moment how different your life might be if you had the opportunity to learn how to be a good lover from a specially trained person who had a special role in society, rather than from a book or video, or by trial and error. What if there were people who were trained in dealing with the violent or perverse? How many crimes would be eliminated? What if we created a sort of spiritual university that teaches all the information we currently have about sexual practices and rebranded “prostitute” into “Sexual Health Technician?”
Sex workers have been in the shadows for way too long. Isn’t it time to accept that they serve a purpose? At the very least, they are the Keepers of our Taboos.