Sign in or sign up below to watch the video for free

Sign in or sign up to watch the video for free

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Til talks with Cal Cates about "massage therapy's sex problem:" how the profession's "touchiness" about the intimacy-sensuality-sexuality continuum, however well-founded, might not be serving either our clients, nor ourselves. 

Watch the video of their conversation and the full transcript.

Resources:

Sponsor Offers:

About Whitney Lowe  |  About Til Luchau  |  Email Us: info@thethinkingpractitioner.com

(The Thinking Practitioner Podcast is intended for professional practitioners of manual and movement therapies: bodywork, massage therapy, structural integration, chiropractic, myofascial and myotherapy, orthopedic, sports massage, physical therapy, osteopathy, yoga, strength and conditioning, and similar professions. It is not medical or treatment advice.)

Full Transcript (click me!)

The Thinking Practitioner Podcast:
Episode 72: Intimacy, Sex, and Massage: Strange Bedfellows? (with Cal Cates)

Whitney Lowe:

Welcome to The Thinking Practitioner Podcast.

 

Til Luchau:

A podcast where we dig into the fascinating issues, conditions and quandaries in the massage and manual therapy world today.

 

Whitney Lowe:

I'm Whitney Lowe.

 

Til Luchau:

And I'm Til Luchau.

 

Whitney Lowe:

Welcome to The Thinking Practitioner.

 

Til Luchau:

Hi. This is Til and The Thinking Practitioner podcast is supported by ABMP, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. ABMP membership gives professional practitioners like you a package, including individual liability insurance, free continuing education and quick reference apps, legislative advocacy, and much more. ABMP CE courses, podcasts, and massage and bodywork magazine always feature new perspectives and expert voices in the profession, including my cohost Whitney Lowe, including my regular somatic edge column and including our guest today, Cal Cates. Thinking Practitioner listeners can save on joining ABMP at abmp.com/thinking. Check them out.

 

Til Luchau:

Cal, welcome. Thanks for coming by.

 

Cal Cates:

Oh, it is my pleasure. I will take any opportunity I can to talk with you about pretty much anything.

 

Til Luchau:

Well, likewise. And this is a good one. I mean, my initial outreach to this moment is this is a topic that makes me a little nervous.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

And you're just the person that I would like to talk to in that state about this question. Let me just say a little bit about you and you can say a little more if you want. You're the education director at Healwell, I know, which is a pretty cool organization. I remember reading it a couple days ago. Your mission was touch, teach, advocate. Is that right?

 

Cal Cates:

That's correct.

 

Til Luchau:

That is so cool. And then you're also the host of, or one of the hosts of Interdisciplinary podcast.

 

Cal Cates:

Yep.

 

Til Luchau:

Yes. Where you do some really great conversations. Anything else that people should know about you at this point?

 

Cal Cates:

Well, I want to clarify I'm the executive director because they don't really want me to be the education director. That's that's Rebecca Sturgeon. They ask me questions sometimes, but mostly I'm not the boss. I'm the show pony. But yes.

 

Til Luchau:

Is that what the executive director is? That's good.

 

Cal Cates:

That's right. Actually, we just did a thing in our online community where each of the leadership staff ... Because we have a service director, myself, education director, we have operations and education and each of us had to represent various aspects of our job in pictures. And for my main job description, I just put a picture of a little circus monkey having makeup put on its cheeks because I work with such smart people at Healwell and passionate people who help me to make our messages matter and just to think through the things that are hard about being a person. So if I say anything intelligent, I give all the credit to the Healwellians who I get to work with every day.

 

Til Luchau:

That's great. So great to be part of a team. Play those roles. Okay. So about a month ago you posted an essay, a blog post or something. You called it Strange Bedfellows. And you came right out of the gate with massage therapy has a sex problem.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

Yeah. So what's the sex problem as you see it?

 

Cal Cates:

Well, I mean, honestly we should make it plural because I think it's complicated and I think this is why ... It's interesting, that blog actually was submitted to multiple association publications and various avenues within the profession that all said, "Nope, no thanks. We're not going to publish this." And that even the group of folks who do the editorial review, one of the places just said that the conversation they had about it was just so heated. And it was so clear from their perspective that this could not run in a national publication or as anything that could even potentially be perceived as a message that was supported by our professional associations. And I find that-

 

Til Luchau:

Wow. And so I call you up and say, "Let's talk about this." What does that say about me? I don't know. But I think you're onto something. You're just laying the groundwork for why the that's even a problem. What the problem is.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely. Well, and I think that we're at a very ... And maybe every person who's ever lived who paid attention would say I'm living in a very interesting time. But I feel like we are in a very interesting time right now where the status quo is being questioned in so many ways and so many places. And as much as we philosophically hate the status quo, it's comfortable. We have established coping strategies. We have survival mechanisms. We know how to operate with the game being played the way it's always been played. And so when we suggest that we bring things out into the open that we've just taken for granted, people go, "Ah, are you sure you want to do that? I get what you're saying, but that sounds hard. It sounds painful. It sounds ..." Insert unpleasant adjective.

 

Cal Cates:

It just sounds like a thing I'd rather not do. And I think particularly on the tails of the #MeToo movement, all the conversation about rape culture, consent, there's just so much rolled into massage therapists in particular. I mean, we tend at Healwell to speak to healthcare providers broadly, which we absolutely include massage therapists in that description. But that massage therapists in particular really get upset about the idea that humans are sexual beings and that sex could even come up in our treatment rooms. People are sexual beings. And we like to talk about wholeness. We like to talk about health. We like to talk about all these things that we hold space for our clients we say. We pride ourselves on being good listeners. We say that we do all these things, but if I'm looking at a person as sections of what's really essential to them …

 

Cal Cates:

Sex is such a limiting word in our culture and it means an act. And that to be a sexual being is something much broader that, again, dips into pleasure, which is another loaded word in our culture and a thing that you have to qualify for and that you should experience privately. And there are just a lot of stories. So Strange Bedfellows and that blog was really inspired by those of us here at Healwell who are always thinking about how do we elevate the consciousness and the ways that we think about what we're doing. We started looking at that now there are sex work advocacy organizations that are getting involved in legislation in ways that could wind up affecting massage therapy regulation and that, because we continue to skirt around this conversation, it doesn't occur to the sex work advocacy organizations to reach out to massage therapy.

 

Cal Cates:

And I don't think massage therapy would answer the phone. If they called as a profession, we would say, "That's not us. We don't do that." Which strictly speaking is accurate. Massage therapists are not sex workers, but there are also some massage therapists who are sex workers. And my biggest concern about this whole confusing ... Well, gosh, I don't have one single concern. But one of my big concerns is that what we wind up doing in trying to create distance between massage therapists and those people is that we demonize sex and the sexualness of our humanness and that people who want sex or who would ask for sex are bad people or are those people.

 

Cal Cates:

And how do we have this conversation without having people who have actually been victimized in their practices, people who have been stalked, assaulted, people who have a history of sexual assault, people who are reasonably triggered and have actually perhaps experienced unsafe things in their practices, how do we have this conversation without the perception that what we're saying is that doesn't happen or that doesn't matter? And we stay in it is how we do it. We notice that we want to run from the conversation, but we hold onto our chairs and we say, okay, this is not a 20 minute conversation. This is something much deeper. And it is about culturally going upstream. And conversations that we've been ... We're hosting an intimacy in healthcare symposium coming up and our posts about it are designed to invite people into ... They're designed to make people go, "Wait a minute. What?"

 

Cal Cates:

And we have experienced some interesting conversations on our Facebook wall about that. Everything from, "Oh, thank God you're taking this on," to we actually had a woman write, "WTF? This is so unprofessional. What people do in their bedrooms is none of my business." And I want to call that person who, of course their settings are private. You can't even reply to them. You can't engage. So I was like, "Oh, I want to talk to this person and say tell me more."

 

Til Luchau:

Yeah, well that's ... Maybe we're replying now. Maybe there's lots of ways to reply. So let me catch up a little bit. That's really-

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Sorry. That was a lot.

 

Til Luchau:

That's great. No, that's good. You're saying there are multiple problems and they include the fact that it doesn't get talked about.

 

Cal Cates:

Definitely.

 

Til Luchau:

Or that it's so loaded that we have such a line between what we do as massage therapists or body workers and what other people do that involve sex. There's a line. You said a bright line.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

And you call it ... I think you said an imaginary line. Or what'd you say? Something like that.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Yeah. Imaginary.

 

Til Luchau:

Because, and see if I'm following you, touch, intimacy, pleasure senses exist on a continuum.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

 

Til Luchau:

And we don't work in just one spot on that continuum from our side of it either.

 

Cal Cates:

Exactly.

 

Til Luchau:

So you're saying that because we pretend like we do, because we draw a line, we're missing conversations, we're missing awareness of what's going on and we might be setting ourselves up through various blind spots.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely. And there's so many angles that we can come at this from, in terms of ... In an overarching way, and this is one of the things I talk about towards the end of the blog, is that our goal at Healwell is to support humans in achieving liberation. And even the idea of liberation, I think people go, "Oh, what is that? That doesn't sound like a thing that I'm ... I don't even know where to start with that." It starts with being willing to admit that you are not free now. That you have hangups. Whether it be about sex, whether it be about money, whether it be about ... There's so many things that are essential to functioning in our culture that prevent us from experiencing a sense of liberation. And so when massage therapists talk about ... Let's take the Atlanta shootings at the spas, I guess it was almost a year and a half ago now, which is the linchpin of the Strange Bedfellows blog.

 

Til Luchau:

And catch us up a little bit though. People might not know what you're referring to.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Seven people were killed. A young white man showed up at a couple of spas in the Atlanta area, outside Atlanta. Asian spas, as they've been called. It's very difficult to get any ... I mean, there's some really extensive articles out there about exactly how those operations ran. People trying to answer the question was human trafficking taking place, was sex work taking place. And the massage therapy profession, in our social media response, the first thing we did was really to say that's not us. This is a shame that these things exist. We didn't even take a beat to say, wow, seven people were murdered by a person who ... And this is the part that I think ... Ugh, there's not one part. One of the many parts is that what has to happen in your life to feel like taking a weapon into a place and shooting people you've never met is how you're going to discharge whatever feelings you might be having.

 

Cal Cates:

So a bookend of that woman who said WTF, this is so unprofessional, another woman said, "So what you're talking about is complete cultural overhaul." And I said, "Yes. I hope you'll come along." That is what we are talking about. We are talking about, these are crimes of power. These are crimes of toxic masculinity. These are crimes of people who feel disconnected and who have suffered from a lack of intimacy, which is rampant in our culture. I really appreciate the philosophy or the idea of programs like Respect Massage, where we want to say I want to tell you-

 

Til Luchau:

Let's hang on a second. I want to get to that. But let me go back for a second. Can you help those of us who stop hearing you at the phrase toxic masculinity?

 

Cal Cates:

Yes.

 

Til Luchau:

About what you're referring to and what you mean.

 

Cal Cates:

I think one of the questions you and I discussed in getting ready to have this conversation was who suffers from this dynamic? And I think this is another thing that prevents us from liberation is our willingness to say that white men suffer from this dynamic also. We put a name on it, so people know what we're talking about. And as you said, thank you very much. And words and our myriad definitions of words are honestly the crux of this whole debate. Safety, sex, intimacy. If we rounded up all your listeners right now and had them each write a definition of those words, I guarantee it would cover a wide range of what people think that is. And I think toxic masculinity, air bunnies, is another one of those things.

 

Cal Cates:

And I think what I'm talking about is this idea that violence is how you get what you need or think you want or think you need. And that white men in particular are raised in our Western culture to sort of feel that way. And that doesn't mean that every white man will try to get what he wants by bringing a gun into a place. But there's a really great book called Mediocre written by Ijeoma Oluo. And the subtitle is The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. And she really talks about how white men are set up in this country to not have to try that hard to get what they need and to be successful. And that it creates a sense of entitlement. It supports patriarchy. It supports just this idea that you can, should and deserve to have whatever you want. And that, in the case of the Atlanta shootings, the shooter said that he did what he did because he was tired of being tempted by these women in these establishments. That sounds like-

 

Til Luchau:

You're saying it's the shadow side of empowerment.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

 

Til Luchau:

It's the over the top entitlement in a way that has lots of implications and lots of historical ties in there.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

 

Til Luchau:

So you were about to talk about Respect Massage too.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah, well, I think that this is ... The massage therapy profession. I've been in the profession for 17 years, which I think some people would say I'm still in my infancy and I'm open to that feedback for sure. Because massage has been around for a long time and I feel lucky to have as mentors, people who have been in this profession for much longer than that.

 

Cal Cates:

But I feel like in the 17 years that I've been in this profession, I have seen an ongoing sense of wanting to have our cake and eat it too. That, speaking of entitlement, massage therapy wants to demand respect while we deregulate ourselves, while we continue to be unable to elevate education standards on a national level. And I'm not just talking about ours, I'm talking about competency that anytime we get close to pushing that level higher, there's just a sense of like, "Well, some people won't be able to come." Or, "How do we do it without making people unhappy?" And I feel like Respect Massage feels to me a little too black and white. That it's sort of like if I put this sticker on the window of my practice, on my website, I will not be victimized by people who are seeking sex. And then-

 

Til Luchau:

Did we get enough context for people to know what we're talking about when we say-

 

Cal Cates:

Maybe not.

 

Til Luchau:

Yeah. What is Respect Massage?

 

Cal Cates:

I guess it was probably six or eight months ago, maybe. It might have been a bit longer than that. ABMP launched a program called Respect Massage and it provides some basic modules about how to look for buzzwords maybe, like if a person is calling for a massage and they might be actually hoping to get sex or some sexual act as part of that, that there are certain words that people use that you can use to screen out. Just really how to ... I'll expose my bias and say how to pretend that by knowing buzzwords and putting a sticker on your practice, you can make culture be different. And so my struggle with that is I understand the desire of the profession to keep practitioners safe. And I understand the fear of practitioners.

 

Cal Cates:

I have had people who it is a triggering event. I feel like a very, I guess, sexually open and liberated person. But when I have been asked for sex in my practice, it is very unsettling. And I feel like I have good communication skills. I set clear boundaries. There are a number of things about how I practice that you would think would "protect" me from that. And as long as I practice in America and in a place where people are stunted in the way they experience intimacy, the ways they think about sex and the ways that the public is allowed to think about massage therapy, I think we have to go a lot deeper than a sticker on our window and some basic modules. I think we have to go into ourselves and say, what are my stories about sex?

 

Cal Cates:

What are my stories about people who would ask me for sex when "clearly" that's not what I do? I was talking with a male colleague just a few days ago who said that he had a gentleman that he was working with, he did the whole session and toward the end of the session, this client asked him, "Do you do releases?" And he said, "My practice is so clinical. I was thinking, is he talking about a medical release? What is he talking about?" And basically the client came out and said, "No. Do you offer hand jobs?" And my friend, my colleague said, "That's a misdemeanor." And I thought, why do we have to criminalize the person who is asking for a hand job?

 

Til Luchau:

I got to tell you, I worked years ago ... This has been a theme throughout my career and starting almost 40 years ago at the Esalen Institute, which was in some ways one of the birthplace of the sexual revolution, as well as many of the traditions that have worked their way into our bodywork practice in this country. Where really the theme was the senses in all their forms, including present moment experience, including waking up to our perception, including really hearing each other and including sexuality.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

So anyway, I remember leaving ... You got me on a tangent now. I remember leaving Big Sur, the Esalen Institute, after pretty much living there for five years and going, first of all, to teach a workshop in Kansas city, Missouri. This is the late '80s. Where my host had to say, "Okay, now let me give you an orientation. Most people are going to think massage means sex. And so we spend all of our time trying to clarify that for people."

 

Til Luchau:

Then I went and taught at a big massage school, had a national reputation. It's not around anymore. Probably shouldn't have mentioned their name because of what I'm about to tell you. And there, the protocol was, if a man on the table had an erection, we were to tell our students to immediately stop the treatment, go to the head of the table, get eye contact and say, "I notice you have an erection. This is not what we're here for. And basically if you're okay with my boundaries ..." I can't remember the exact protocol. Then we continue. Otherwise, the session's over.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. I mean-

 

Til Luchau:

Yeah. So this is a big culture shock for me coming from the Esalen Institute in the '80s, which ... Anyway, I'll let you get back to your story, but I just had to-

 

Cal Cates:

No, no. This is completely relevant. I mean, this is one of the many ways that we're steered wrong in massage school. And honestly, it points me back to our limited understanding of the nervous system and that if a person has an erection while they're getting a massage, they're experiencing pleasure. They're not necessarily imagining you in a sexual way. And what quicker way to ruin somebody's pleasure than be like, "Oh, it looks like you have an erection. Let's talk about this. If the person starts playing with their penis, if the person starts shuffling with the drape, I mean, there are things that happen where you can tell that the client is like, "I want you to know that I'm having an erection." In my experience, more often than not, that person is wishing they weren't doing that because they don't want it to be any more sexual than you do. And why don't we understand the body enough to say, this is like snoring or drooling. The autonomic nervous system has said, this is great what's happening right now. And I'm going to relax into this.

 

Til Luchau:

You're saying an erection is not behavior. Behavior is maybe the first level of things that we want to pay attention to. And you're also implying that even then, we don't exactly know how to interpret behavior.

 

Cal Cates:

Right. Right. I don't remember if we were recording it when we were talking about safety and I do a lot of work in the diversity, equity, belonging space, and specifically supporting white people in understanding their role in undoing the dynamics of racism, or at least becoming more aware of whiteness and what it means and that what we talk about when we start any of our classes is that this is not a safe space. This is a brave space, which means that mistakes will be made and that everyone in this room is going to believe and think the best of each other. And that my questions will come from curiosity rather than accusation. My assumptions about you, I will bring greater awareness to them.

 

Cal Cates:

And that if a mistake happens, we are agreed that it was a mistake from which we can either choose to become further apart from each other or we can invest in repairing this and drawing wisdom from, wow, let me fully understand the dynamic of what went wrong here. And I think one of the places where people stop listening or feel like this is ... We're sort of Pollyanna for thinking this is, this won't keep you from being victimized. Having good boundaries, having good communication, it will help. I think having better education and establishing massage therapy as less of a luxury service possibly could help. But this is a, even well beyond our profession, cultural thing that we need to address about what is intimacy, what is not intimacy. We've had a number of people say in various responses to our social media things about our upcoming symposium, "Well, intimacy is great, but not in my treatment room."

 

Cal Cates:

I have news for you. Massage is intimate. Touch is intimate. Being vulnerable, which our clients are agreeing to be naked and prostrate while we are standing and clothed. That is a vulnerable position. And as a caregiver, I think we do our best work when we are also in some degree of vulnerability. More intimacy. Holding space for someone to receive care is an intimate relationship. Whether you are addressing someone's QL or whether they've come for "a fluff and buff". That there is nothing about that that isn't intimate. You can pretend that there's no intimacy happening there, but that is intimacy that is not sexual. And I-

 

Til Luchau:

You're saying that we have to be in the same waters. We have to be willing to swim in those waters of intimacy or connection in order to even have an effective connection.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

 

Til Luchau:

Okay.

 

Cal Cates:

And I think we get confused too, because ... So you have a client who's single and they say, "I'm single. And this is the only touch I get." And how many massage therapists take in a breath and go, "Oh God. Make this moment pass." And it's like, this person isn't saying, "Please have sex with me." They're just saying, "Thank you for bringing touch and pleasure to my body because that's not a thing I get from a partner right now."

Til Luchau:

That's a great example. So what are some alternative responses to hoping the moment will pass?

 

Cal Cates:

I'm so glad to hear that. Thank you for telling me that. That's it. We're not suggesting you become an ad hoc talk therapist. You don't have to process it when your elderly client says, "This is so great. I really ..." Elderly clients. I had an elderly client say, "I really miss sex with my husband. He died last year." And this woman was in her 70s. And I noticed my bias about older people and sex and I was like, "Oh my God, I'm the worst person ever. Of course you do. That makes so much sense." But I can see that being a session jarring moment for lots of therapists, because this person just mentioned sex and they're old and ... How many biases got called into question by this simple sharing that we talk a lot in oncology massage and palliative care massage training about how many of the things that our clients share with us, it's like they're putting a hook in the water and they want to see if you will bite it, or if you're going to swim past it and hope it doesn't catch you.

 

Cal Cates:

And when somebody shares something like that with you, they're wondering if you can hold it. And if you respond like, "Whew, let me just change the part of the body I'm working on." Or you make a joke or just try to diffuse it. You have told them that you're not a safe place to share that information.

 

Til Luchau:

I get the analogy. The hook in the water. Your client's saying something that you could respond to. You could take the hook. I want to figure out a different analogy because that still sounds like there's a fisherman and it's about-

 

Cal Cates:

That's true.

 

Til Luchau:

It's about taking the catch. And getting hooked. We're talking about getting hooked psychologically or whatever. And your story about your elderly client, that's a tear jerker in a way. And she was just share ... I imagine. I have no idea, but she was just sharing this incredibly intimate, longing feeling that your touch and your situation was evoking in her.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

And maybe you're right. The reframe would be something like she's asking if you'll play there in terms of her feeling of belonging.

 

Cal Cates:

And I think the other mistake people make when we talk about this is that I'm suggesting or that we are suggesting that you engage in ongoing conversations with people about their sexual activity. You may never talk with 98% of your clients about anything overtly sexual or sensual.

 

Til Luchau:

Okay. Let me-

 

Cal Cates:

Go ahead.

 

Til Luchau:

No, you mentioned ... In your blog post, you had the phrase sex work is work, and that's a phrase that I'm seeing more as I start to read into the backstory here and see what's going on in the culture. Say anything about that?

 

Cal Cates:

Well, I think that one of the questions that you had asked me in preparation for this was what are the counterpoints to the established narrative and what voices don't get heard? And I feel like this is another thing that's at the crux of our inability to have a useful and productive conversation within the profession and across professions about sex and boundaries and intimacy and all of these things is that there are tons of voices that impact our understanding of this situation that we don't ever hear firsthand. So we make up stories for sex workers because we don't directly engage with people. Most of us don't have a relationship with someone who is a sex worker. So our stories come from TV, from special victims unit, Law and Order. They come from our assumptions, culturally, that these people air bunnies again, are something else. And that they are people who can't find a better job, who have a history of abuse. And when you really look at the data about people who consider themselves sex workers, that's not the standard. But because those voices aren't lifted up, we have no choice but to make up stories for them. And those stories support our narrative that we are better than them.

 

Til Luchau:

You said something like two million people in the US are in some way or shape or form sex workers.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

Six times as many body workers would identify themselves.

 

Cal Cates:

Those are people who would identify on a survey that they are sex workers. So the estimate is actually that there are quite a few more people who are doing that work.

 

Til Luchau:

So you're saying it's really common. You're saying we have lots of assumptions. We don't know because it's so marginalized and invisible. And we fill in the blanks.

 

Cal Cates:

And the human trafficking community as well is another ... People who have been trafficked. Those are not voices we hear. The dynamic and the places where massage therapy does and doesn't overlap with human trafficking and poor regulation is really poorly understood in our profession. And even the loudest, most educated voices in that space have a myopic focus on this is how we stop it in massage. And I feel like the invitation here is to go much broader and say what human suffering is leading to these dynamics and how do we keep healthcare providers of all kinds safe while we address the power dynamics and the class issues and the patriarchy and all the things that lead to these bad actors as we like to call them. And these potentially dangerous situations, we can't just say, well, we have to go far upstream because those solutions will not be realized for 30, 40 years. Right now people are, or at least feel like they're in danger. So we do need to do something, but I feel like we tend to be reactive and bandaid oriented. And how do I make it so that I don't have to feel uncomfortable? And there aren't any sustainable solutions within comfort.

 

Til Luchau:

I see. So for solutions, we might have to be uncomfortable, you're saying. But the trafficking topic is so powerful. A few years ago, I wrote a chapter for Susan Salvo's book about it. So dove into it, did a bunch of research and just completely opened my eyes to it. Like you said, it was invisible to me. Didn't even realize the extent and the depth. And even then, it was almost like realizing what I don't know, because there's such a broad range of experiences. And anything I say about it is going to miss the diversity that happens within that. But the fact that it is some of probably the most concentrated human suffering in a way, not just in the sex industry, but also things like online scamming, there's basically-

 

Cal Cates:

Oh yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

Human trafficking where people are being forced to work as programmers for scamming operations. All sorts of crazy stuff.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely. Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

Anyway, that's going to be a future episode. Probably this story could be repeated in any city, but there was a recent story in Denver where a client went into a massage establishment and was asked if he wanted a happy ending or whatever the phrase was. And he was shocked. He thought he was coming for a therapeutic massage. And asked the practitioner about it and she started crying. And he realized she was really upset. So he went to the police and then ended up closing the whole place down. But that's where the story in the newspaper stopped.

 

Cal Cates:

Right.

 

Til Luchau:

I was like, okay. So what happened to her?

 

Cal Cates:

Right.

 

Til Luchau:

What happened to-

 

Cal Cates:

How did she get there and what happened after?

 

Til Luchau:

Yeah. How did she get here? What happened to her family? The money she owed. Who knows? I'm making up all these stories. I don't know. What happens next? Not only to her, but then you're saying, what are the human dynamics on the consumer side, on the societal side, on the host country side as well in allowing it to happen.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

I think if I get your point, we're missing the chance to constructively engage in that by spending our time making distinctions.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely. I mean, and it really is about ... It boils down to the very human desire to feel safe and to maintain comfort. And it's so ingrained in us that we don't even know we're doing it. In our end of life courses, we talk about how when somebody gets hit on their bike in the city, they get hit by a car, and the first question is, were they wearing a helmet. Because I always wear my helmet. And so if I got hit by a car that I wouldn't die. That's why I'm asking. When I say how old was a person when I heard that they've died, what I want to know is how far can I make myself from this situation? And so I feel like when the Atlanta shootings happened, our profession wanted to know, well, was this a legit "establishment" or was this a place that, sorry to say it, deserved for this to happen?

 

Cal Cates:

And this is why we're fighting. So that it's real clear that those places are that and my place is this. And that doesn't lift up humans. That keeps us small. It keeps us in a scarcity mindset. It keeps us in a protective mindset. And we don't create sustainable solutions from that place of how do I make sure I don't have to feel, how do I make sure that I don't ever have to manage the nuances of human experience and how humans are unpredictable. And we have created a culture that leads us to be unkind to ourselves and to each other. And those are the big issues that we have to solve, but we will not solve them if we keep fighting each other and if we keep demonstrating that what we're mostly interested is our own personal safety.

 

Til Luchau:

Wow. Okay. Just let that sit for a second.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

How about us? How about us as practitioners? That question. How do we take care of ourselves around this?

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

Our own safety, but also our own physical humanness you could say.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Well, nobody's going to like this answer, but it does start with you. What are your stories about pleasure? Well, yes. Certainly for you, Til, it starts with you.

 

Til Luchau:

I'm with me. Okay. I'm on.

 

Cal Cates:

But for whoever out there, it starts with them. That in each of us, before we get into this really loud mouth advocacy that we love to do, we see a problem and we want to sign a petition, we want to send money, we want to whatever it is that we feel we have to do something outward. What we're doing when we do that is discharging the feelings that we're having inside that we wish we weren't having. Right. We want to do so that we don't have to be with the conflictedness inside us. This is so exciting to me because it's so difficult. There are so many layers. There are so many feelings. There are so many opportunities for us to live differently, to see each other differently. And so I feel like whether it's taking care of our clients or taking care of ourselves, we can't do either of those things until we look inside ourselves, until we notice the stories we're telling. What are your stories about sex?

 

Cal Cates:

What are your stories about pleasure? Asking yourself when was the last time I allowed myself to feel pleasure? What led to it? How did it feel after? How many stories cascaded in about whether or not I deserve to have that pleasure or if I would mention it to anyone, is this my secret thing? How quickly does pleasure shift into shame? What are the dynamics inside me? What did I learn from my parents? What did I learn in college? What am I learning from movies and all sorts of different places that we would say don't influence us? But the voices we hear in our heads are so often not our own. And so can we understand that we are also ... I feel like this became so clear to me with COVID that massage therapists were very upset, understandably, that we couldn't touch people for an extended period of time. And then when things started to lift and people started to come get massage again and I saw in so many places the line and heard so many people say, "I'm so glad because these people have been isolated for so long. And now I can ..." And it's like, you're one of those people.

 

Cal Cates:

And what's happening in your client's bodies is also happening in your body. Or isn't happening. And that you feel the same loss, you feel the same struggles. So we get this position of expertise that we create for ourselves that makes distance as though I can address the problems in your body, but never get very well acquainted with mine. And that is never going to work.

 

Til Luchau:

You're asking us to look at our relationship to pleasure. Our own.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

And the history, baggage, assumptions, stories we have about that. It just brings to mind, I mean, a lot for me personally, but there's also the idea that we spend in my particular niche in the field, a lot of time thinking about pain.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

And in some ways the counterpoint or the answer to pain really is pleasure. And it's not like it's either-or, it's almost like all pain gets more bearable if there's also pleasure, in a sense.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely. Well, and I think this is another story. Massage therapists, we love to tell this story about how we improve function by addressing musculoskeletal issues and through manual manipulation, but-

 

Til Luchau:

Sounds good.

 

Cal Cates:

Right. And I don't think that's wrong, but I think that people come back to us because of the intimacy they experience, because of the connection, because of the ... It's essentially pleasurable experience to receive a massage.

 

Til Luchau:

The same is true for my workshops, by the way.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Undoubtedly.

 

Til Luchau:

Yeah. We advertise all the technical stuff. They come back because of the intimacy, because of the connections, because of togetherness we experienced.

 

Cal Cates:

And we have a story that that is somehow less sacred or less important or less valuable that if people are just coming back because I make them feel good, then how can I be a healthcare provider? How can I be a technician, a clinician? The stories that we say that we sort of want to elevate ourselves beyond pleasure. What could be more valuable than pleasure?

 

Til Luchau:

Yes. That's right.

 

Cal Cates:

And the pleasure that I do derive from when I came in my knee prevented me from playing tennis, riding my bike, doing some other pleasurable activity. So not only did I feel pleasure and maybe some discomfort while you were working with me, but now I have the pleasure of being able to do with my body what I want to do with it. That is pleasure. We should just say the word pleasure to ourselves in the mirror and just get comfortable with saying it.

 

Til Luchau:

All right. We're going to work that into the title somewhere.

 

Cal Cates:

Excellent.

 

Til Luchau:

No, that's so good. That's great. All right. So anything else before I ask you about your symposium? Because I do want to hear about that. But any other points you want to make or things you want to touch on?

 

Cal Cates:

Oh, man. There's so much. I guess I would just say that if you're having feelings listening to us having this conversation, that is a sign that there's more here. And you can be with those feelings and you can feel them and let them change and let them shift, but feeling is not an indication that we should run away. And I-

 

Til Luchau:

You're talking to the people that made it this far into the episode.

 

Cal Cates:

Hey, well, truly. I mean, right. And bless you. All of you who stayed.

 

Til Luchau:

If you made it this far, there's something to learn. That's good.

 

Cal Cates:

Totally.

 

Til Luchau:

Great. Anything else?

 

Cal Cates:

That's probably good for now.

 

Til Luchau:

That's good for now. So tell us about your symposium. I imagine that's part of your answer to these problems you start naming is your idea of having a symposium. But what specifically did you want to bring forth? Tell us about the presenters. Anything else?

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Well, it's interesting because we started down this road a few years ago, inspired and invited by one of our social worker colleagues who is a palliative care social worker who just on a whim, asked one of her elderly palliative care folks if they were getting touch at home or how has their illness or their partner's illness affected their sex life, something like that. Because one of her colleagues had said people don't want to talk about that. And this person very much wanted to talk about it. And now she has really made this one of the foci of her career. Is that right? Foci or focus? Focuses? Foci?

 

Til Luchau:

Have to look it up, but-

 

Cal Cates:

She looks at it with a real focus in her profession and has written papers about just asking invites that it is a safe conversation. Not everyone will want to dive into that conversation, but by saying ... As a social worker. I'm not saying as a massage therapist you should do this, but that this is a thing that people are thinking about and that if they share, we should be prepared in addressing this whole person to receive this information.

 

Til Luchau:

People are thinking about sexuality, intimacy. And if they share that, as a social worker, we should be prepared to engage there.

 

Cal Cates:

And I think as massage therapists, if a person says something that feels sexual to you, that is not a proposition, that is not ... Obviously there are things where you can tell that a person is leading you into something that they want you to perform a sex act with them. But if a person just mentions, "Since my husband was diagnosed with Ms, our sex life has really changed." That you can be okay with a person saying that without freaking out, without being afraid they're going to say something about it next time. You know as well as I do that with lots of clients, part of the therapy for them is just talking and that your willingness to allow them to talk and to just mirror back to them, that makes sense to me, that sounds hard, all of the things that you could say just says, yeah, come on in. I'm going to touch you while this is happening. And you might not even share if I wasn't touching you. I mean, this is the thing.

 

Til Luchau:

Right. That's the context. But you're saying we don't have to push it away. We don't have to reassert our boundary necessarily, if that boundary's not being challenged. But we also don't have to lean into it to try to fix it or change it.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

 

Til Luchau:

We're just keeping them company in some sort of middle place there. Neither towards, nor away, just right there.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. And you said is there anything else. I think one of the things too, is that when we think about the people who come to our practices who ask for sex, certainly there are examples of people who have become violent, who have been dangerous.

 

Til Luchau:

Totally.

 

Cal Cates:

But I would argue from my talking with lots of people about this, that nine times out of 10, neither of you wants to be in a situation where you're not getting what you want. When a person comes to a massage session hoping that sex will be part of it, they want you to say yes. They don't want to come to a place where they're expecting a no.

 

Cal Cates:

So when you say no and you say no clearly, that's a perfect place ... I think when we're talking about the guidance you get about erections, that's a great place to be like, "Oh, actually that's not a thing that I do. And I am totally okay if you want to end the session now. And I'm sorry that you thought that might happen. But that's not a thing I do." And not, "That's a misdemeanor. I'm going to call the police." It's just, "That's not something I do." Because I'm sorry, massage therapists, but there are massage therapists out there who also offer sex.

 

Til Luchau:

That's something I'm learning as well as I learn more about this, that there's just a whole lot of people there in both professions.

 

Cal Cates:

Yep.

 

Til Luchau:

What would that be like? What must that be like to be in our profession where it's, you said in quotes legitimate.

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

 

Til Luchau:

And yet realize a big part of your practice has a foot in the other world.

 

Cal Cates:

Absolutely. It is complicated.

 

Til Luchau:

It is complicated. And not that there's not good reasons. I mean, I've said a couple things that I'm feeling like it's disclaimer time here at the end. If we made it this far. There's good reasons why we have professional boundaries. There's good reasons why we got here, you know?

 

Cal Cates:

Yes.

 

Til Luchau:

And those can't be ignored either. This is all assuming that's the case. That we have good boundaries, that we have these distinctions in place. And you're bringing us an awareness of how the reaction or the rigidity of those boundaries might actually be not serving us, not serving our clients.

 

Cal Cates:

And that's really ... I mean, speaking of stories we tell that aren't useful, boundaries and intimacy are not antithetical. In fact, the way you create safety is by having clear boundaries. And safety fosters intimacy. So actually, you can have all of that, but boundaries aren't solid and I think we hate that. That effective boundaries are permeable. They are contextual. They do require serious self-awareness and the ability to read social cues and boundaries aren't, "I never do this and I always do this." Boundaries are, "Oh, in this moment with this person, I am feeling unsafe. I am feeling welcome. I am feeling whatever." And that if another person on another day said or did that thing, I might feel differently and that I have to be open to the nuanced reality of human experience.

 

Til Luchau:

That's it. Okay. Tell us one thing about your presenters in your symposium.

 

Cal Cates:

Gosh. They're amazing. I think the thing I want to tell you is that we were very nervous calling all of them because they are big potatoes. They are published researchers, authors, subject matter experts on a national and sometimes international level on sex advocacy, disability advocacy, living in big bodies. We have a woman who is a professor of gerontology who's going to talk with us about intimacy as it relates to older adults. And every one of them was so excited to be invited to the symposium. And almost all of them said, "Oh my gosh. Hang on while I open my virtual Rolodex. You have to call this person. You have to call this person. We should have this voice represented." These are people for whom there are no stupid questions. These are people who are coming to this event with us to answer the questions that people are afraid to ask.

 

Cal Cates:

And we're hosting it on this amazing platform that will allow us to have small conversations and breakout rooms between presentations and really allow people to connect. If people register and they can't come, they can watch the videos later. You will miss out on those small breakout groups, because we won't record those to really, again, foster intimacy and allow people to share as openly as they'd like. But we have incredible panelists. People who just have lived, worked and breathed in this space of liberation, of advocacy, of blowing up the status quo in the service of all humans for many years. And I mean, I'm glad I get to be there because it's going to be incredible.

 

Til Luchau:

Well, I'm going to be there. I'm going to come. In full disclosure, I hit you up for a ticket, a couple tickets because I wanted to be there. But also I wanted to have you come on the podcast and talk about it. So that's the deal. I want to go there too. I think it's great what you're doing Cal.

 

Cal Cates:

And when you go to the registration page, you just scroll down. You can see the entire agenda, including links to all of the speaker bios. And we have an equity pricing structure for all of our courses and things, not just for the symposium. The early bird pricing ends September 1st so get in there now. You can come for $75. That is the equity price. We're still waiting for NCB to decide if they want to give us seven and a half credits for your attendance. We have not heard back yet.

 

Til Luchau:

Interesting. This is 2022 we're in. So for the long tail people, will it be available via recording?

 

Cal Cates:

It will. Yep. If you register before the event happens, you will be able to watch it for I think a year afterwards.

 

Til Luchau:

Okay, cool.

 

Cal Cates:

Yep.

 

Til Luchau:

Well, we'll put the, of course links in the show notes and a couple other links. The book you mentioned, et cetera. A link to your blog post. How should people find out more beyond that? Is that a good list?

 

Cal Cates:

I think that's a good list and come check us out. EOL has a private online community where we are having these conversations every day. We made it private because it is a brave space. There are rules of engagement and it is a place where there are no stupid questions and there is also no room for shaming and attacking. It's really like, I want to know how to be in the world in a more embodied way. And can you help me? It's interdisciplinary. I'd say we've got about 85% massage therapists, but we've got social workers, psychotherapists. Just people taking care of people, having the meaty conversations and really listening and being surprised.

 

Til Luchau:

That's awesome. Thank you Cal. Okay. So if people can't come or to your symposium or be part of your community or even if they can ... But what are your closing thoughts on how we can keep growing, taking care of ourselves, taking care of our clients in these realms?

 

Cal Cates:

Yeah. Well, I mean, it all starts in your own mind, your own heart, your own body. Get curious, stay with what comes up, let yourself be surprised. Find somebody else who is having a hard time talking about this and talk about it together and say, "Oh man, as soon as they say this word, I have a hard time with that." And just really, I think it starts with you. And if you're talking about how to solve these big problems, we have to go upstream. We have to look at why do people feel out of control? Why do people feel they need to seize power? Why do we have these dynamics in our culture? And what can we each do to broaden our perspective beyond our personal safety and to really look at how do we achieve liberation as humans on this really struggling planet?

 

Til Luchau:

Thank you Cal.

 

Cal Cates:

Thanks Til.

 

Til Luchau:

I am going to do our ending sponsor announcement, and I'm going to say goodbye to you. But our ending sponsor today is Handspring Publishing. And when I was looking for a publisher when I wanted to write a book, I ended up with two offers. One from a large international media conglomerate and the other from Handspring, which at that time was a small publisher in Scotland run by just four people who had a love of great books in our field. And I'm really glad I chose them because they helped me make the books that I wanted to share. The AMT series, which are in their third printing. And their catalog has emerged as one of the leading collections of professional level books written, especially for body workers, movement teachers and all professionals who use movement or touch to help patients achieve wellness. They were recently joined with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, integrative health Singing Dragon imprint, where their amazing impact continues. Head on over to their website at handspringpublishing.com to check out their list of titles and be sure to use the code TTP at checkout for a discount.

 

Til Luchau:

Thanks for helping make this possible Handspring and thanks to all of our sponsors. Come by my site or Whitney's site for the show notes and extras. Whitney's site is academyofclinicalmassage.com. My site, advanced-trainings.com. If there are questions, guests, topics, feedback you want to give us, email us at info@thethinkingpractitioner.com or look for us both on social media, just with our names. Rate us on Apple Podcasts, as it helps other people find the show. And you can hear us on Spotter, Stitcher, your Google Podcasts, wherever else you listen. Please do share the word, tell a friend. Cal, thank you again so much.

 

Cal Cates:

Thank you. And thank you all so much for sticking with us. It's important.

 

 

 

Huge thanks to our founding sponsors:

           ABMP massage therapy            Handspring Publishing

Huge thanks to our founding sponsors:

           ABMP massage therapy            Handspring Publishing

Your Hosts:

Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings        whitney lowe
Til Luchau                          Whitney Lowe

Thanks for listening and subscribing to the podcast! Make sure to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on all of the latest! Show your support for the show by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts!

Your Hosts:

Til Luchau Advanced-Trainings
Til Luchau

whitney lowe
Whitney Lowe

Thanks for listening and subscribing to the podcast! Make sure to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on all of the latest! Show your support for the show by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts!

Live Workshop Schedule

This Month's Free Online Course

Our gift to you. Includes CE, Certificate, and Extras.

Follow Us

Join us on FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube

for information, resources, videos, and upcoming courses!

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

EnglishEspañol繁體中文Deutsch日本語한국어Norsk bokmålPolski

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This