In America, massages are seen as a luxury for the upper class or for those on vacation. Some will go see their massage therapist after a particularly tough work week. Some masseuses charge upward of $100 per hour and come with amenities like ambiance in the form of aromatherapy candles, “specialized” techniques like deep tissues, Thai and Swedish styles. Very often, when getting a massage the question arises: Do I want a male or female doing my massage. Many times (an this is just an observation and not a sweeping statement) that males will choose female masseuses and females will also choose female masseuses. The reason for this is not that American’s don’t like a good strong massage from a male, because truth be told, the women may be just as strong and adept at inducing deep muscle stimulation as a male.
The real reason, I believe, is a cultural phenomenon and says much about the machismo evident in our society. There cannot be denied that there is a sensual, sexual aspect of massage because when you break down the act to its purest forms of intent you find that massage uses human touch (and the sensitivity of one human being to another) to alleviate pain. The border between pain and pleasure is a thin line, and one can find that a painful experience can become a pleasurable once the act becomes predictable and familiar. I believe massage is related to the importance of the human touch in the lives of human. When you massage a person, you willingly transfer energy to the person, and if the intent is to alleviate pain then your skill and sensitivity to the person’s body will determine how effective you are in taking away pain.
Did you know that without human touch, a baby will not thrive no matter how well fed. We need this interaction with other people the way a remote control needs a battery to operate. There is also evidence that interaction with others is not just important for animals, but plants too. Everybody has heard of the farmer who sings to his plants. In an energetic sense, plants grow and reach out to the interaction of the world around them, as if they are yearning to reach out and interact with the activity of the outside world. Humans are the same and without the social interaction we crave we might as well be vegetables.
In China and other Asian countries the act of getting a massage is viewed from a different cultural perspective. Instead of being seen as a luxury that should be enjoyed only by those who can afford it, massage parlours in Asian countries are seen as commonly as coffee houses in America and are patronized by the rich and poor alike. Because the service of massage is so used in asian countries, the going rate is a fraction of that, so that a middle aged man could get a massage everyday and not feel burdened by money. In the Chinese enclave you can find massage parlors that charge $15 for an hour.
Some people cannot take to being massaged, especially people with autoimmune disorders or fibromyalgia patients. However, for the poor and working class, my belief is that a hard physical worker should not feel ashamed of getting a massage for themselves after a hard day, and the view of massages and masseuses in our society is that of luxury. For example, Jose is 50 years old with wife, family, children, and even a few grandchildren. Jose is a construction worker who works from 8-5 everday moving heavy doors, screwing and unscrewing, drilling, and tiling. Though he feels aches and pains he never goes to a masseuse. First of all it is a luxury that cannot be afforded and furthermore, getting massaged is not in-line with the machissmo culture. Years pass and Jose suffers from heart problems, circulatory problems in his legs, and back pain. Now we move our attention to Wing. Wing is a 50 yo construction worker as well, let’s even say they work at the same construction company and have similar duties, but after work Wing goes to get a relaxing $20 massage ($15+tip) and then comes home to be with his family. If all other factors are accounted for then who do you think lives longer, or a better question would be who has a better quality of life?
In the example provided above, do you think the minor weekly stress relief Wing receives as a result of having a cheap massage parlor around, would be enough to account for the great disparity in mortality rates, quality of life, systemic diseases like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, etc? Of course other factors are to be considered when making a statistical sweeping gesture, but this is just a mental exercise. And theoretically the one with the less stress will experience less somatic problems. Massages help the circulation to the muscles and joints, as well as being a medium for the transfer of energy that is all too important for life to evolve and interact. Just like a flower needs the touch of a bee to pollinate, we need the energetic interaction that comes from physical touch.
There is something magical that passes between sentient beings that touch and are touched, something magical that we describe as something plain and ordinary and without value, but in reality is crucial to the ambulance of our beings. I may be no great scientist, I am not a quantum physicist, but it doesn’t take a scientist to notice that a masseuse “gives” something to the person being massaged and that person in turn “receives” something. For some of us it is more difficult to receive than to give.