Here I was, just happily scrolling along my Facebook feed status and I see a post from Buzzfeed: Meet The Minister Who Gives Women Sexual Healing Massages.
What are your clients like? Do you notice any commonalities in the women who come to you?
Women of all ages, sexual identification, relationship status, and sexual activeness (inexperience or no experience with sex, celibate, coming out of celibacy and preparing for sexual activeness, in-between relationships, in relationship, ending relationship/marriage and not wanting another relationship) see me for sessions. The reasons women have sessions with me center on 1. healing from past sexual abuse and emotional trauma perpetrated by men (mostly) and 2. to have a guided experience of sexual empowerment with a safe, adept, spiritual man who will honor their boundaries, is not seeking sex or a relationship with them, and can meet them spiritually and energetically so they can experience their spiritual-sexual prowess and potential.
So, in other words, a prostitute. Oh, but wait…
What are some things you have to be mindful of when offering erotic and/or sensual massages to female clients? Consent issues? Legal ones?
I’m very clear with prospective clients that I am not a surrogate, sex worker, “happy ending” masseur or “date experience.” As an ordained minister, I offer spiritual counseling and hands-on-healing that facilitates personal growth, expanded awareness and knowledge, and spiritual evolution. I’m very careful to discuss thoroughly with prospective clients what is involved — and what is not — in the sessions I offer and to make sure we are in agreement about the intent and purpose of the sessions. During sessions there is frequent communication and opportunity for feedback; I check-in with the client to affirm her boundaries or directions, especially when going to sensitive areas. My intent is to serve the highest good of my client in this very sensitive, private and vulnerable area of life where there’s not a lot of competent and sincere help available — and not break the law. [emphasis mine]
The cognitive dissonance is neck breaking. You are, indeed, a sex worker, sir. You exchange sexual labor for money. But he is clearly operating under the illusion (delusion?) that sex workers are just, what, desperate women who fuck equally desperate men for money? There is not one aspect of his job that isn’t done with full intent and quite skillfully by many sex workers.
And the part I emphasized above? I’m pretty sure the Phoenix Goddess Temple would say the same. Yet they got arrested. As Maggie McNeill pointed out in her post last year after the raid called Size Matters:
Because at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter whether a minority group is persecuted for the race, beliefs, ancestry, politics or sexual practices of its members; all that matters is that it is large enough and loud enough to be heard over the greatly-amplified voices of cops and politicians pontificating through their bullhorns about why it’s right and moral to oppress them.
Truly. I don’t know what religion Sunyata Satchitananda is part of, but going on the name and the jargon slung (with a thin smear of bullshit) I’m assuming some form of Buddhism or Hinduism. Similar to the reader reaction Maggie wrote about regarding the raid on the Phoenix Goddess Temple, readers on the Buzzfeed story responded with, “Otherwise known as a…. prostitute”. Sounds like someone who knows their sex workers.
While I don’t follow the “reduce to the lowest common denominator”, which is usually used to justify all shitty behavior toward sex workers, obviously someone who does offer more than specific sex acts in exchange for money is working on a different level than a streetwalker or lower-end escort. But we all fit under the sex worker umbrella and on the continuum of sexual/erotic entertainment-labour. I also can’t help but think how different the story would probably be if he was a she instead…. or if the clients were he instead of she. Again, I point to the Goddess Temple as well as independent Tantrikas and other female sacred whores out there working.
I also do not wish the horrors that is an arrest upon this practitioner but I bet his tune would change quickly if that happened. It shouldn’t have to come to that and I truly hope he educates himself on the wide variety of services, as again Maggie points out in a recent column, that are a civilized necessity instead of a primitive “evil” to be tolerated. On this similar note of massage therapists having to fend off sexual requests from clients, Amanda Brooks writes about how criminalization of sex work affects those professions that are adjacent to ours:
Recently, an Asian massage parlour in her small city was busted. Of course the community crowed about getting rid of “those women” and naturally — since the women were “gone” then so were the men; who, of course, are members of the community and live right next door. Since the men seeking Happy Endings suddenly had nowhere to find women who consensually offered those services, they started haunting the local LMTs in hopes they would find a much-cheaper substitute.
Decriminalizing sex work (and destigmatizing it as well) may remove the silly need for Sunyata to distance himself so from his other colleagues and be honest. This minister works to relieve women of sexual stress and past sexual trauma via massage…how is that not a happy ending?