Savage Love

Hands On

Comments

1

I was relieved reading Dan's reply to WAD. I recall him answering a letter about tantric sex many years ago somewhat dismissively. Good for you, Dan!

2

@curious2 I believe the protocol is to congratulate you on FIRDT, yes?

3

Mal@2
Yes but I never want it again, I have forever disavowed it, so you are welcome to it.

4

Curious - many thanks for the direct link to this week's comment section! I couldn't see the option even on the Stranger's site. I'm feeling a disproportionate amount of relief.

Curious (again) @1 - wahoo on the firkt! And I have to say that I involuntarily laugh-snorted when I read the words "Tantric sex." It's one of those phrases that just elicits immediate eye-rolls from me.

5

I wish I could find the letter about tantric sex several years ago. I even googled a story I remember telling, but ain't got time to re-tell.

Maybe it was the same guy who bragging about sex for very very very long periods. To which Dan said something about having too much stuff to do in life for that.

As for Tantric sex, I try not to every roll my eyes at things until I try them. I've been flabbergasted by the incredible things I've found people can do if they just are open to trying. For a relatively mundane example, I was very surprised at my experience learning and practicing qigong, with which I've worked with the energies tantric sex works with.

Anyway, here's what I've done these last couple weeks:

Last week the Savage Loveletter was emailed at 2:13 pm; this week at 2:06 pm. Each contained a button to the new column already up at the new site https://savage.love/ at which commenting is so far impossible.

So I read it. Then hours later the new column appears on Dan's author page at https://www.thestranger.com/authors/259/dan-savage where Fubar taught us new columns appear hours earlier than elsewhere. Bookmark it.

6

Very cool website, Dan, but the merch is kinda weak - step up your game there, fella!

7

As an RMT, I was getting ready to become annoyed and indignant about RUBBED's question and what I assumed what the reply would be. I was mistaken. How about that.

Dan, I appreciate your take on this. However, I question the assessment from the BC-based therapist you consulted. He "felt the friendship was the ethical violation; if your massage therapist had done the right thing and kept your relationship strictly professional, he wouldn’t have caught feelings for you the way he did." Strict professionalism will greatly reduce the risk of unbidden emotional entanglements, for sure, but humans will be human.

As a thought experiment, let's pretend that the therapist and his client had done absolutely nothing to cultivate any form of friendship. It's completely possible that Mr. RMT could still develop feelings for RUBBED. And if he thought these unbidden feelings made it impossible for him to maintain his professionalism and objectivity - that his ability to be a good therapist was compromised - he would be wise recuse himself from the responsibility of that professional relationship. What then?

By itself, I don't think that Mr. RMT expressing his predicament to RUBBED was any form of betrayal. I don't interpret communicating his feelings to be automatically a proposition. It sounds to me like he's saying "my feelings are making it impossible for me to do what I'm supposed to do, and to not do what I'm not supposed to do." Up to that point I would argue that he's doing the best he can in that situation. And if all that concluded with: 'This is why it will be impossible for me to continue with your treatment', I might have held him blameless.

As I see it, Mr. RMT is demonstrating terrible judgment when he proposes to RUBBED: "that he... wanted to leave it up to me if I felt comfortable continuing to see him." He's basically saying: 'If it's not a problem with you, I have no issue at all in proceeding with this deeply fraught scenario'.

8

... Or more succinctly, it sounds like rubbed is saying: 'Treating you is giving me a giant boner, but hey, I don't mind if you don't mind!'

9

Uh, Mr. RMT is saying that - not RUBBED.

10

My question for RUBBED would be 'what do you hope to gain by reporting him to the ethics board'?

If he had been inappropriate with you I can understand wanting to protect others from this treatment, but it sounds like while he didn't handle it in the best way possible, he wasn't being a creep or abusive.

His shop is now closed so I don't see how reporting him will do anything but make the life of someone you once considered a friend more difficult.

11

As curious2 has forever disavowed scoring Savage Love FIRDT! honors, I Griz, award the following three first commenters thus this week:
@2 Malevolent Al: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! As curious2 @1 has forfeited his FIRDT! honors, the honors go you this week! Savor the glory of your highly envied accolades and bask in the glow of leading this week's comment thread. :)

@3 curious2: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I award you SECNOD! honors this week. Relish being among the first three commenters in this week's Savage Love: Hands On comment thread, and bask in the bragging rights, :)

@4 fantastic_mrs_fox: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congrats on scoring THIRDT! honors for this week's comment thread! Savor your numeric riches and newfound good fortune. :)
@4 fantastic_mrs_fox: By the way, how is your new job going? :)

Remember, everyone---this is just the beginning of a new Dan Savage sex advice column. We still have lots more numeric awards to go, starting with the luscious Lucky @69. Good luck!

12

@10 msanonymous: +1 Brilliantly said and summarized re RUBBED!
Agreed and seconded. :)

13

@4 fantatsic_mrs_fox: I know this is so last week, but your rightfully scored Big Hunsky honors from last week have been acknowledged. Congrats--you are obviously having an amazingly consistent good luck! :)

14

Ms @10, agreed. I feel sorry for RMT for catching feelings for such an uptight, vindictive person. Their working relationship progressed to a friendship, and he caught feelings, and told her, and she wants to punish him for it!? Wow. RUBBED, "instant shock" is a massive overreaction. Sure, the guy has seen you naked, and that's got to leave you feeling a bit vulnerable, but he's behaved respectfully and honestly here. Tell him you don't share his feelings, find a new masseuse (notice I used the female term this time, as a male masseur may trigger these "violated" feelings of yours), end the professional relationship and move on. Your rejection will be punishment enough without your trying to destroy his business too. And try to develop better coping skills for when people fancy you. Unless they're being creepy or threatening, which it doesn't sound like he was, take it as a compliment and respond with a gracious "no thanks." And perhaps don't get friendly off the clock with people who've seen you naked in a professional setting.

Sax @7-@8, it sounded to me like he was saying, I hope I can continue to be your masseur, your friend, and more, if you have feelings for me too. "Developed feelings" is not "developed a giant boner," wow. But thanks for explaining why RUBBED may have reacted the way she did.

15

Dan's advice to RUBBED is entirely correct. Now let me take the discussion in another direction. Let's pretend that RUBBED wrote that she'd become friends with her massage therapist and had developed romantic/sexual feelings for him. She's wondering if she can disclose these feelings and continue the professional relationship if he turns her down. She's wondering if she can continue the professional relationship if he tells her the feelings are returned. Or let me put it another way. Would there be any question of whether the massage therapist was acting in a professional manner if RUBBED returned his caught feelings?

16

Forget professional relationships for a second. If a guy makes a pass at me and I'm receptive, if I like him back, if he asks me for date and want to go, I'm pleased. If that same guy makes that same pass and I'm not receptive, I'm creeped out by the creepy creeper. I mean, that's the underlying feeling before I think about it and realize I'm being ridiculous. I'd say that's the underlying dynamic behind RUBBED's letter. I can't call her vindictive for wondering if there's been a violation of professional ethics, nothing wrong with asking Dan what he thinks. It would be vindictive and horrible if she followed through, but I see RUBBED's letter as an extension of my creeped out feelings before I've had a chance to think it through.

17

Adding my voice to those who think the massage therapist did right. If we cannot become friends with clients/people we hire, then our opportunities for friendship are probably halved. I don't understand her complaint at all. "Thank you for telling me. Let me think on this./I'm so flattered but I'm afraid I don't feel the same way."

18

Also, yes, BDF, "developed feelings" is definitely not "developed a giant boner."

19

Fichu @16, but RUBBED has had a chance to think it through. She says, "I never went back to him. I found out that he closed his practice during COVID." Which means that this disclosure of feelings happened at least eighteen months ago, and she is -now- wondering whether to report him, which sounds vindictive to me. If RUBBED can't rationalise this disclosure the way you describe (ie realise she's being ridiculous because there's nothing inherently creepy about being fancied by someone you don't happen to fancy back), if she's still feeling "upset and violated" long after the fact, I think she needs to call a therapist, not the massage licensing board.

The only way I can see this as not being a massive overreaction is if he told her while he was massaging her. That might feel shocking and threatening, but as she's said they had a friendship outside of the massage booth, I don't think we can conclude this from the letter. Perhaps RUBBED will comment and shed more light.

20

sexfanatic @7: here's another thought experiment: let's pretend that the therapist was RUBBED's physician, and they became friends... I think the RMT made a mistake in engaging in a friendship. At the very least, he's lost a client and the friendship.

At the same time, I'm wondering why RUBBED is so offended. There's not enough in the letter to offer any real clues.

21

I'm disappointed there's no mention of an impending return of the SLLOTD in Dan's response to RSVP, but I got a chuckle from "I sent an email this morning and haven’t heard back yet." Maybe RSVP should follow up with "Perhaps I caught you at a bad time?" like the LinkedIn spammers that besiege my inbox.

I agree with Jaymz @6:More merch please! Dan has coined many words and phrases that could be splashed about. I'm sure that "Peg the Patriarchy" aprons would be a hit, as would "Make America GGG Again" hats.

22

re:Wad. My experience in anecdotal but FWIW I have had a long-distance, long-term NSA relationship with a still-fit cis-man who is now in his 70’s. Tantric has never been a part of our playtime though I can’t speak to his whole history of choices over the years. He lost his ability to ejaculate every (rare) time we find ourselves in the same city. Maybe age is a real thing? Anyway, so glad to hear that you have found love and great experiences as your life continues.

23

I can't believe our society is now at the point where someone who catches feelings for someone, tells that person, and offers to bow out or continue the relationship, leaving the choice up to the other person, is in danger of being reported to an ethics board.

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.

24

Long story short, I'm only gonna make an oblique comment WRT relationships and boundaries with (and, come to think of it, between) professionals. I find the whole subject very interesting. It's complex. Just a few months ago I did some reading WRT a treatment profession I am a client of; I can't find the articles now. Anyway, there are reasons for boundaries which are in everyone's interests.

And that oblique and perhaps worthless comment is all I have time for.

25

LW1 needs to get over herself. At no point in the letter did she mention some behavior that in hindsight is creepy (there's no "and then he said that taking off my clothes would make the massage better" aspect to this). At no point did she say that the way he expressed his feelings was creepy. He just told her straight up, he didn't get her drunk, he didn't try to kiss her out of the blue, he didn't start getting handsy. He just told her he had feelings. He did this the right way.

People need to be able to respectfully tell non-strangers that they've developed feelings and not get blindsided by someone who tries to ruin their career. I'm surprised Dan didn't spend more time asking her what's going on with her that she'd be so offended by this. She needs to figure out why this shocked her so much. There was an easy way out: "Hey, I'm flattered but don't return the feelings. Feels counterproductive for me to remain your client but I'll see you around." She's still thinking about it 18 months later makes me think there's something deeper going on here, that she's processing this through some other lens that adds trauma to a decidedly non-traumatic event.

P.S. They clearly weren't friends. She thinks of him as a massage therapist first and a friend second. I'm not sure that's even a friend at that point. Then they're your acquaintance. She needs to rethink what a friend is. I don't go drinking with my dentist but if I did, I wouldn't make a habit of it unless I started to consider him a friend. And then he'd be my friend who also happens to be my dentist. If he expressed feelings for me, it'd be as a friend who just happens to have put his fingers in my mouth. But that latter part is secondary.

26

ciods@23
"Jesus Christ on a pogo stick."

I like it!

My first ever attempt at phrase-making, as an early teen, was "Christ on a cracker!"
Seemed catchy enough to me.

(Maybe that had something to do with my having already resigned--on the first day I was allowed do--from being a Catholic.)

27

Fubar @20/Larry @25, I agree that it was unwise in hindsight, though not unethical, to develop a friendship with the massage therapist. It's walking a fine line to combine business and pleasure this way and they have both discovered why. That said, I am trying to find ways to see this as anything but "wacko overreacts to a romantic overture" because Jesus Christ on a pogo stick indeed. I'm wondering what form this "friendship" took -- did they actually hang out outside of the massage therapy sessions, or does RUBBED say they became "very close friends" because, as one might do with one's hairdresser, she shared highly personal and intimate details of her life with him while she was on the massage table? Perhaps thinking he was gay, did she spill details of her dating/sex life to him, and is that why she now feels "violated" by his romantic interest?

Even trying my hardest to picture a situation that would legitimately feel like a violation based on the facts given, I can't come to grips with her wanting to report him a year and a half after the fact. Unless the experience triggered memories of past abuse, in which case I go back to the therapy suggestion. Or unless it was her therapist who encouraged her to think of this as a violation that needs to be reported, in which case get a different therapist!

28

The last letter writer seems more than a bit entitled- "I wrote to you this morning and still haven't received a reply!" Talk about impatient.

29

My question is, should I report him to his ethics board?

Wow, how quickly friends can suddenly turn into enemies who must be
punished :\

I was really numb from my shock and thought I was okay at first,
only later realizing how upset and violated I felt..

I'm trying to understand and empathize with her feelings. Without the
benefit of additional information, I can only imagine that she had
completely desexualized this man in her mind.

If we reverse the sex roles, it would sound kind of cruel and
loserish for a male client to report a female therapist friend, under
analogous circumstances.

I referred my friends to him and helped him grow his business.

I'm not sure what's being expressed here--?
(a) "I was a good friend"
(b) "After all the help I gave him, how dare he express sexual attraction
for me?!"

It sounds like she feels betrayed. Still, it's sad to think she
apparently didn't consider kindness as an option.

30

I know this one. He's probably having ejaculatory orgasm blockage because of kundalini rising. Going through a second puberty, so to speak. His body is trying to orgasm a different way than he's used to. If he experiments with the Aneros, he might be able to have both kinds and then regain control of the regular male kind. He could also try to my diet to speed along the process, mainly fish oil. No need for him to worry about premature ejaculation.

31

There is so much not adding up for me re: RUBBED. Unless there is a whole lot of very relevant information and context that the LW left out (past abuse/trauma history, Mr. RMT confessing feelings mid-session, or Mr. RMT having touched her in an inappropriate way, Mr. RMT saying something to the effect of "damn RUBBED, you're so smokin' hot, how about a happy ending?"), I really don't understand this level of freak out. Is/was it uncomfortable and awkward to hear? I bet. Did it have her questioning how many sessions she'd had with this guy while he was feeling feelings? I'm sure (and I'd feel a bit squigged too). But crying out loud, sounds like this guy did the (largely)ethical thing by telling her he had developed feelings that would compromise the nature of their (supposed to be) professional arrangement. (I say largely only bc I think it hinges on whether or not they developed a friendship outside of the service provider/client context).

I would love to know more about what RUBBED considers to be "very close friends." If they were genuinely "developing a friendship" outside of the massage table, then shame on both of them, especially Mr. RMT. Boundaries exist and are good things for a reason. While it may not be unethical to the level of reporting someone to their professional board, it is unethical enough that it widely opens the door for more fraught and squiggy situations. If RUBBED actually meant they have friendly chit chat during sessions or what have you, then she needs to calm all the way the fuck down. I make friendly chit chat with my (male) hair stylist of three years, we say hi and how are one another's respective families when we run into one another in the neighborhood, but this guy is not my friend. We aren't "developing" anything beyond his is an excellent hair stylist and we make pleasantries. If anything truly "developed" between RUBBED and Mr. RMT, then that's Bad and Wrong on both of them, and now they see why.

BDF - interesting read that this interaction possibly went down before COVID times. That wasn't necessarily my read, but if you're right, then this puts RUBBED's letter into a whoooole other category of "Jesus Christ on a pogo stick."

32

I just remembered a situation in my own life that I've mentioned before, which made me think of a bad reaction even without the client angle. I developed feelings for a friend, and some crazy way it meant to her that our whole genuine friendship needed shitcanning. I can see how a woman might have had the experience that some guy friends with feelings might not have been real friends (at this point, decades later, I'm not sure if I was just left guessing that that was where she went in her head), but from my perspective it was very insulting. So IJWTS that it might have gone badly with any friend that developed feelings for RUBBED. That phenomenon is mainly the the fault of the dirtbag men, of course, but it still stinks.

33

Also, Mr. RMT absolutely should * not * have left it up to RUBBED if she wanted to continue seeking his services. That bit is totally weird and not at all well thought out on his part. What if she had taken him up on his advances? Was he going to try to date this woman AND be her massage therapist? Maybe this is the piece that's sticking in RUBBED's craw?

34

@23 ciods:"Jesus Christ on a pogo stick" for the Quote of the Week!!
It's way up there with DonnyKlicious's "shithouse door on a tuna boat".
Bravo and well done!
All hail ciods, Donny, and other clever commenters! :)

35

BDF @14: "Sure, the guy has seen you naked"

Now I'm curious about this. I would have said, "sure the guy has seen you less than fully clothed," or "in only a sheet," or something like that. In the massages I've gotten, the sheet was always covering my crotch, and I'm pretty sure my breasts as well. It's true that RUBBED was probably naked under the sheet, but we're all naked under our clothes, right?

larrystone @25 "I don't go drinking with my dentist but if I did, I wouldn't make a habit of it unless I started to consider him a friend. And then he'd be my friend who also happens to be my dentist. If he expressed feelings for me, it'd be as a friend who just happens to have put his fingers in my mouth."

Exactly right.

36

InBalance @29: "Without the benefit of additional information, I can only imagine that she had completely desexualized this man in her mind." Yes, exactly. That's why I wondered if she had presumed him gay. Surely we've all seen When Harry Met Sally and know there is a risk that opposite-sex friends (or same-sex ones if you are queer) might catch feelings for each other. That his advance would come as a "shock" suggests that indeed, she wasn't seeing him as a full person. I suspect you may be correct in your interpretation (b).

Curious @32, interesting theory. I too think that there is likely some other trauma in her past that has blown this rather innocuous situation way out of proportion. The "friend zone" concept does have a lot to answer for.

EricaP @35, yes, your wording is of course more accurate. She has been naked, or perhaps stripped down to her underwear, but in a massage setting she would not have been fully on display. Naked under a sheet, with the other person fully clothed, is enough to make me feel somewhat vulnerable, I don't know about you.

37

BDF@36
"The "friend zone" concept does have a lot to answer for."

In my case, I think I'm also somehow blaming men who follow the "men and women can't be friends" concept; I'm guessing that some don't even /want/ women friends.

I feel bad for women who have had men only pretend to want to be friends. Last time I talked about this here, we heard from some of them.

It's also unfortunate that some people think that a friendship is doomed when only one person catches feelings, as though such a thing would be impossible for anyone to manage.

38

BDF @36, yes, that would make me feel vulnerable too, though perhaps not if I felt we were very good friends. It is weird to envision why RUBBED feels so strongly that he did something wrong in letting her know there was a potential obstacle to their professional relationship.

40

Perhaps he was her Yoni massage therapist?

41

We need to get letters about and by Yoni massage therapists.

42

@41 I think there was a recent Savage love podcast where the story was as close to being about a yoni massage therapist as it could get while at the same time being both the polar opposite story of this one and with weirdly more or less the same question. Ie caller wasn't expecting the extra she got out of the massage but was more than a-ok with it (secret fantasy) but wanted Dan's advice on how problematic the whole sitch was.

43

Lulu@42
Cool!

@41 p.s.
Extra points available for a good Trans Man Yoni massage letter.

44

@37 Agreed 100%. One of the main problems in relationships, particularly straight male relationships, is this idea that because you have feelings for someone, it's a massive deal that needs to be dealt with. Like you somehow are owed something because you have FEELINGS. And conversely, that someone having feelings for you and you don't feel the same way is the end of the world and needs to be talked about endlessly.

I can't tell you the number of people I've had big crushes on and it didn't work out. I felt it out and it wasn't happening. All good. Or it just didn't seem like a good idea for whatever reason so I just coat checked those feelings and moved on. Some of these crushes I am friends with (crushes fade into fondness if you don't think feelings equates some form of ownership) and some we just kind of drifted apart. It's a perfectly fine outcome for someone to just end up in the ol' spank bank/rub club. It's maybe better that way - the relationship is probably gonna be longer that way. :-)

45

I sympathise with RUBBED in being squicked out at the thought of someone who fancies her having his hands all over her. Dan says that the massage therapist caught his feelings for the lw in the course of the their 'friendship'. Strictly true; but he was also rubbing her up and down; certain thoughts may have entered into his head at that point. It's natural for her to feel that he was taking advantage of his professional status and authority to indulge his own pleasure, and that this violated her informed consent.

I see it the other way, too. She admits to friendship with the guy, to a relationship that went beyond his merely service-providing. She is being intimately physically manipulated by a very close friend. Then he says he cares for her. Is that so different to a fuckbuddy catching feelings for you? To get a fuller sense of what went on, I think I'd need to know why she hired a massage therapist. She says she's 35. The impression I got (though it's only tenuous, only a hypothesis) is that there was not some overwhelming orthopaedic or physical justification for her going to a masseur. Perhaps she just had some aches and pains, or liked being rubbed down. This perhaps led to there being a distinction in the therapist's mind between e.g. the much older people he typically treated, who had more severe or more evident physical conditions, and with whom he closely observed professional ethics, and RUBBED, who became his friend. The older, more disabled or incapacitated people were off limits for his fancying, as it were, while the lw wasn't. (This is largely surmise, and just my guess of what might have happened. I do not even know whether the idea of a difference between 'medical' and 'recreational' buyers of therapy is accepted in the profession, or if it is in fact a big no-no).

46

@17. IWasSFr. I think the masseur probably violated the lw's consent. He tells her that 'he had developed' feelings for her. That is, he's entertaining those feelings, he's seeing her not only as a client but potentially as a lover, while massaging her. This is not what she signed up for. If he tells her the moment he gets the first twinge of feelings of more-than-friendship, though, he behaves ethically; and RUBBED should just withdraw.

@23. ciods. Being rubbed up and down is particularly intimate. RUBBED would not have the feelings of violation she has if the romantic-feelings-catcher were her hairdresser.

@29. InBalance. A ciswoman 'completely desexualizes' her OB-GYN, doesn't she?

48

I have a little story that might have some relevancies.

I know a top sports physician; he works for pro sports championship teams. He has a deep toolkit, but by far his best modality is a form of medical bodywork of which he is a renowned master.

But the men's teams don't let him do this bodywork. Because even on the teams in the SF Bay Area, the male pro athletes can't deal with having a man touch them as bodywork requires.

It's sad that sports-cultural homophobia is so enduring. Which is not to say that the guy isn't straight; he is.

Personally I just see it as bodywork. I guess they somehow sexualize touching by definition; which is their professional loss in the extreme.

49

Harriet @46 "A ciswoman 'completely desexualizes' her OB-GYN, doesn't she?"

First off, no, I'm free to sexualize my doctor, my barista, or my professor, as long as I don't let them know. The patient /customer/student doesn't have an ethical obligation to avoid thinking sexual thoughts.

Second, what work is "cis" doing there? Why not say a woman, or a person?

50

Erica @49, regarding your first point, I read Harriet's comment in context of a reply to InBalance @29, who said:

"I'm trying to understand and empathize with her feelings. Without the benefit of additional information, I can only imagine that she had completely desexualized this man in her mind."

I think Harriet makes a good point: if it wasn't a masseur but an OB-GYN who confessed that "he had developed feelings" for a patient, and the patient felt shocked, upset and violated by this revelation, would their reaction be easier for us to understand? I don't have much experience with massage, but yeah, I'd be pretty shocked and squicked out if my gynecologist made an unexpected romantic declaration.

The correct thing to do would have been for the masseur to sever the professional relationship with RUBBED on account of their budding friendship, refer her to another therapist, then after some time disclose his feelings/ ask her out on a date.

51

@49. Erica. The 'completely desexualizes' relates to what the patient thinks is going through the doctor's head (if anything). The patient, as I was describing, supposes that a doctor or therapist in intimate contact with them e.g. massaging their inner thigh is only going through the motions professionally; she does not (in the cases I was describing) necessarily suppose that the doctor is turned on, repelled, or moved sexually by her proximity to body parts ordinarily thought erogenous. This bit has nothing to do with the particular sexual orientations of doctor and patient. You are of course free to fantasise sexy scenarios with your barista or physician.

Re 'ciswoman', it's simply that a transwoman does not have an OB-GYN. If a transwoman does in fact have an OB-GYN, and an OB-GYN is the title of the specialist concerned with the health and appearance of the transwoman's post-op genitals, I have used the wrong term. I take it back and substitute 'doctor concerned with the anatomical biology of sexual reproduction'. (I'd actually myself use the term 'gynaecologist' as a denatured / Europeanised American).

I read what Fantastic, Bi and Fichu are saying--as I understand it, 'the therapist has made a pass and she's not been able to get over a pass she isn't interested in'--and I agree with them. I agree that her reaction makes it a bigger deal than it has to be. But I also think that the masseur violated her informed consent (I don't what these other commenters think about this, but would be prepared to defend my position with them/anyone).

52

@50. Lost. Yes, thank you, you are following my line of thought.

I think it's reasonable when someone, say someone from a conservative religious background--a strong Evangelical or a Muslim--insists on a doctor of the gender who isn't usually sexually interested in their gender. Then, if a Muslim woman (say) discovers her gynaecologist is lesbian, I think it's reasonable for her to ask to change doctors. (This may be unlikely ever to happen, because how would the Muslim woman find out?). I wouldn't switch doctors for this reason (then I'm marginal in terms of being so gender-anomalous), and I suspect not all SL readers would, either; but I would guess there would be a strong predisposition in society at large in favor of its being reasonable to change?

53

Harriet @51, but not all people with internal plumbing are cis women? Transmen, AFAB nonbinary, and some intersex folks also visit OB-GYNs.

54

I had a colleague that pretty much did the opposite of desexualizing gynecologists. She deified the whole profession. She was a receptionist, and when people passed she engaged them in conversation. Not a day went by without her talking reverently about gynecologists at a famous hospital.

Which reminds me of some male dweeb in a film who is into woman medical professionals because 'they know where everything is and how it works'.

55

If Mr. RMT and RUBBED's "friendship" consisted of nothing but friendly, idle chit chat in the office (or whatever you want to call Mr. RMT's place of business), then I totally understand her enormous feelings of squick and being violated. If however, they've been going out for lunch and drinks, spending time together outside the office (or whatever), meeting one another's friends, then I maintain my "shame on both of them" for not keeping the relationship where it belongs (although definitely more shame on the professional who should have insisted on maintaining professional boundaries). The latter example, in my mind, morphs the situation from "oh shit, my massage therapist caught feels" to "oh shit, one of my friends caught feels." RUBBED describes Mr. RMT as "a very close friend" and it may do her some good to reframe this situation in her mind as "a very close friend who developed feelings" rather than "my massage therapist crossed a professional and ethical boundary by developing feelings for me." (Yes, albeit a friend who has repeatedly rubbed her down and seen her in at least partial nudity). But frankly, RUBBED crossed a boundary herself by becoming outside-the-office Very Close Friends with her massage therapist (not victim blaming, just trying to point out that this was a spectacularly bad idea on both their parts, with most of the onus falling on the professional). Long story short, I feel like Mr. RMT had his "friend" hat on, as opposed to his "massage therapist" hat on, when he developed/confessed feelings. Insert "don't shit where you eat" here. Don't go out for lunch and drinks with your service providers; their relationship in your life is to provide a service, they are not your friends.

56

Margarita @50: You are correct in how RMT should have proceeded, with one caveat: in the province where I live, and likely elsewhere, the College of Massage Therapists forbids RMTs from dating former clients; around here, there's a one year waiting period.

RMTs are also strictly forbidden by law from treating spouses and romantic partners, and discouraged from having friends as "clients", although when it comes to friends, the definition of "clients" is pretty narrow (mainly receiving payment and providing medical care or advice).

The College of Massage Therapists is pretty clear that the expect RMTs to behave as medical professionals, so the OB-GYN analogy is a good one. The RMT in this story has put himself in an awkward and unprofessional position.

57

Lost Margarita @50: "I'd be pretty shocked and squicked out if my gynecologist made an unexpected romantic declaration"

Even if you were very close friends with your doctor? As fantastic_mrs_fox points out, that's when things became unprofessional.

Thanks for explaining my point about "ciswoman" in your post @53. I think it would be fine to discuss a hypothetical "woman" with her hypothetical OBGYN, but my understanding is that the prefix "cis" is reserved for when the distinction matters to the discussion. If the cis-status is relevant, then, as you say, many non-women see OBGYNs, so one could just talk about a hypothetical "person" seeing the OBGYN.

58

Fox@55
"Don't go out for lunch and drinks with your service providers"

That's a good summary, I think, of a complex set of boundaries. That has long interested me, and as I mentioned upthread I've read numerous articles about.

I just remembered that I once met at a cafe with a massage therapist. We just wanted to talk a bit more than was convenient with me on the table.

If she wasn't married I might have liked it to go further (at some point I did find a much better bodyworker anyway, who I mentioned @48).

At some point I believe I did have an unavoidable development under the sheet. But it was no big deal (rimshot sound effect).

It's easy not to develop much of an interaction with a professional who spends only brief time with. Or with a dentist because one's mouth is full. But with an hour of bodywork it seems very normal to me to interact, since both are able to. But moving into actual friendship invites the loss of that professional relationship for both; the only sensible thing is either to not move into friendship, or for the client to find another practitioner. With quite a few practitioners I've had some private interaction, but we've always made sure to keep it well short of actual friendship. (Which talking to someone for an hour only during appointments I think isn't.)

I have practitioners I value too much to become actual friends with. And others who could be replaced as practitioners so I wouldn't mind doing so.

59

Who's getting hungry for this week's luscious Lucky @69 Award honors?
Tick...tick..tick...

60

Professional boundaries keeps things safe and above-board for all involved. Now they know (the hard way); may they go and mix business and pleasure no more.

Why RUBBED feels the need to fuck with Mr. RMT's already covid-impacted business remains a mystery to me. It seems oddly vengeful, and I don't know what she would seek to accomplish by doing that.

61

Could someone please explain what Dan means when he says "the people I don’t respond to are the ones I’m helping most"? This has me seriously smh!

62

Erica @57

"Even if you were very close friends with your doctor?"

With a gyno? Yes, I would feel deeply uncomfortable physically and psychologically if my current gynecologist made a pass or a romantic confession, even if we did already have a platonic friendship. With a less intimate service provider, like a hairdresser, personal trainer, dentist, even a general doctor, I think I'd find it easier to compartmentalise it as "a friend caught some feels", and put our professional relationship to one side. With a gyno, no, I don't think I could just get over it. YMMV.

I agree that a friendship with a service provider is a really bad idea, but I can sort of see how it could develop incrementally and seem harmless, especially from the POV of the client, who hasn't been specifically trained in the importance of maintaining professional boundaries and may not give it a second thought. You strike up an interesting conversation during your appointment, maybe you run into them outside of work, you talk some more, recommend their services to your friends, then suddenly you have people in common, etc etc. Not a great situation for sure, but I can see how a client might not necessarily experience THAT level of interaction as boundary-crossing. It's on the trained professional to recognise the erosion of boundaries at this early stage and put a stop to it, by ending either the friendship or the service relationship. Moving from this already iffy grey area to a romantic ouverture is a whole other layer of wrong, and I don't blame RUBBED for feeling blindsided and upset.

fubar @56, thank you for that insight. It sounds like RUBBED's RMT should have known better, and really messed up here - maybe not enough to be struck off by an ethics board, but only just. I hope he learns from this.

63

wayne@61
Go re-read that sentence. It was self-deprecating humor.

64

@21 fubar: "Make America GGG Again" hats? I'd buy one.
How about this, too, for a slogan: "Sterilize the American Taliban"
hats and T-shirts? That would go well with my pink pussy hat.

65

Griz @64: I like it. How about a condensed message: "Sterilize the Texiban." Too obscure, maybe...

66

@65 fubar: How about: "Sterilize the Ameriban" ? That should cover addressing chauvinistic neofascist MAGA idiots in all 50 states (in addition to Texas).

67

@66: Holy shit--Sterilize the Ameriban---YESsssss! I'd wear such a t-shirt proudly downtown.

68

...and this week's luscious Lucky @69 winner IS (see what I did here?).............

69

Fox @60, I don't think it's necessarily motivated by vengeance. It's just that our society has limited options for anyone who feels that their boundaries have been crossed in some way, especially in a "grey area" situation involving a friend or acquaintance. The typical advice is to go to the police if the violation was serious enough, or report it to HR or another established accountability system (like an ethics board in this case). The alternative is either to confront the boundary crosser yourself (which is a lot to ask of someone who already feels violated), or just do nothing and try to move on with your life, while the other person suffers no consequences and maybe even remains oblivious to the whole thing (and then does it again to someone else). Sadly, this last option is what most people choose to do in these situations, because the system is stacked against them.

I think we agree that the responsibility in RUBBED's case falls more heavily on the professional RMT than on RUBBED as a client (though I perhaps feel this more strongly). I think he demonstrated terrible professional judgement in allowing this situation to escalate like it did. RUBBED may feel responsible for recommending his services to her friends; she may be wondering if he'll continue to blur professional boundaries and make passes at them like he did with her. She clearly doesn't want to see or speak to him again, but probably wants him to be aware that what he did felt deeply upsetting and inappropriate to her, and make sure it doesn't happen again. I am reading hesitation in her question - "should I report him to his ethics board?" - because that feels like an overly harsh and vindictive thing to do to a former friend, and maybe it is. But really, what's her other options?

70

@69 Lost Margarita: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congratulations on scoring this week's luscious Lucky @69 Award honors! Bask in the glory and savor your newfound numeric honors. :)

Griz is currently working on a ghostly new score. What better an inspirational film to follow after a good evening's work than Beetlejuice?

71

Lost @69 - you make some really excellent points. I'm coming at RUBBED's letter from my own bias of having worked in a field where professional boundaries between providers and clients has been bludgeoned into my brain for over a decade. RUBBED may not have that kind of background and so it was likely much less obvious to her that befriending Mr. RMT was inherently problematic (in no small part because one blurred boundary often leads to further, blurrier boundaries down the line).

The responsibility really is/was in Mr. RMT's court. He is the professional who has no doubt taken courses in ethics specific to his field and is under the oversight of an ethics board. And as you pointed out, he may have no idea the extent to which he crossed a line; he's lost RUBBED as a client and a friend, but might not be fully cognizant of the extent to which he violated his professional's code of ethics and the implications it could have on his career. This one instance is unlikely to cost him his job and business if he's reported to the ethics board (assuming it was just this one instance), but could give him the learning opportunity and wake-up call he needs. That he was willing to continue treating RUBBED after professing his feelings really is squiggy and shows a tremendous lack of insight.

72

Larry @44, I'd rate a friendship's chances better if one took them out of the wank bank as soon as it became clear there was only a platonic future ahead. I have no problem being friends with someone who politely asked me out on a date, but I wasn't attracted, or vice versa. I don't feel great about the idea of a friend wanking over me, nor would I feel that was conducive to putting someone I fancy back in the friend zone where they belong. Better advice would be to find a new crush/wank object as soon as possible.

Curious @48, that is sad. One would think it would be obvious that a male masseur might have stronger hands and arm muscles and could do a better job perhaps than a woman. They are probably more afraid of being seen as gay enough to allow a man to touch them, than they are of being touched by a man. Their professional loss indeed.

Harriet @46, one does not "desexualise" one's OB/GYN as one does not sexualise them in the first place. (Or, indeed, one might, very secretly.) But go back to Dan's excellent point that RMT did not catch feelings for RUBBED in his capacity as massage therapist, but in his role as friend. Completely desexualising one's friends is disrespectful and naive.

Agree with Margarita @50 that there is a large difference of degree between someone who has, at most, rubbed one's naked buttocks and someone who has inserted medical implements into one's vagina. Not only are the body parts involved hugely different in degree of vulnerability/intimacy, but massages are an optional indulgence while medical care is a necessity. I also can't see forming a friendship with one's gynecologist, at least not without feeling compelled to switch gynecologists after the first time that relationship switched from doctor/patient to pals.

Fubar @56, interesting. If RMT lives in the same jurisdiction as you, then he did violate professional ethics, and he should have known that his expression of feelings violated professional ethics. I still don't think RUBBED should report him, not unless he did indeed disclose this in his capacity as masseur, as Mrs Fox describes, rather than his capacity as friend.

"Nailed it" awards for Mrs Fox @55 and @60.

Wayne @61, I think this was tongue in cheek. Dan says that people who write to him often make the decision they need to make even without a response, while the responses he does write get criticised, so he concludes the advice he doesn't give must be more valuable than the advice he does give. Get it?

Lost @69, congrats! "But really, what's her other options?" Learn not to form friendships with service providers, and hope her ex-masseur has learned that too?
Good point that she could also clue in her friends that she's referred to him, but I suspect she already has.

Mrs Fox @71: Squiggy? But is it Lenny? ;)

73

BDF @72

"Agree with Margarita @50 that there is a large difference of degree between someone who has, at most, rubbed one's naked buttocks and someone who has inserted medical implements into one's vagina."

That's not what I was trying to say @50. I've never had a regular RMT so can't comment on what that particular relationship is like. Massage seems pretty intimate to me, so I would guess an RMT is probably closer to a gynecologist than to a hairdresser in intimacy stakes, though this is of course highly individual. My point was that RUBBED's reaction DOESN'T seem excessive to me, as I can imagine feeling similarly shocked and put out if my gynecologist professed romantic love for me, even if, hypothetically, we were already friends. You seem to be saying the opposite.

"Learn not to form friendships with service providers, and hope her ex-masseur has learned that too?"

Hope? So basically "do nothing and try to move on with your life, while the other person suffers no consequences and maybe even remains oblivious to the whole thing (and then ~possibly~ does it again to someone else)". Yeah, I don't think I agree.

And sure, she can talk to her friends, and probably already has, but what about people outside of her friend network? She can post about her experience on social media, of course, and leave it in the court of public opinion, but in my view that would be more damaging to the RMT than reporting to the ethics board, who would hopefully weigh up all the facts fairly and objectively, listen to his side of the story, and probably just give him a warning in this case (if this is his first reported ethical lapse). That way RUBBED would at least ~know~ that he got the message, instead of ~hoping~ that he did.

I would advise RUBBED to ask herself: looking at this friendship now, with the benefit of hindsight, does she think that this was her RMT's first and only lapse of professional judgement, a genuine rookie mistake situation that they both let get out of control? Or does she get a sense that he is in the habit of forming friendships and initiating relationships with clients, while skirting juuust inside the ethical guidelines? Only RUBBED can answer this, and she's known this guy for 3 years. If it's the latter, yes, report him to the ethics board and let them deal with it. If it's the former, maybe consider writing him an email, or communicating her experience to him through an intermediary.

74

I'm sorry I misread you, Margarita @73. I was away for the weekend and skim reading comments. I would view a massage therapist as halfway between a hairdresser and a gynecologist. I've never had a regular massage therapist, but by coincidence I went for a spa hour and massage last week and it confirmed my memory that not much talking happens in that situation, so my guess is that their friendship developed outside of the professional setting, meaning that if he also disclosed his feelings outside the professional setting, no professional ethics were breached, other than becoming friends in the first place, which I go back to being poor judgment that they'll hopefully both learn from. Oblivious? No, RMT can't have been oblivious to RUBBED's reaction of dumping him as both masseur and friend. He has suffered a consequence of his actions.

If he made this disclosure while she was naked on the massage table, I agree with you entirely.

75

BTW, I'm looking at this from the perspective of someone who has been on the receiving end of a fairly traumatic "grey area" boundary violation. Different situation to RUBBED, but I think I can relate on some level.

My incident was also with someone acting in a professional capacity, though not a friend. Actually a "celebrity" rope bondage teacher, so also a touchy-feely type of profession, albeit one without any kind of ethics board. When it happened, I went through similar emotions to RUBBED: instant shock, trying to "act normal", thinking afterwards that I was okay, but later realising the full effects of the violation. I also found myself at a loss as to what to do next. I knew I definitely didn't want to talk about it with the person who's done it. The rope studio where the incident occurred mostly wanted to brush it under the carpet (though to their credit they stopped inviting him to teach). Speaking out publicly on social media would invite a shitstorm, and as there were circumstances that put the incident in the grey area of consent, I really didn't want to deal with strangers mimimising it and mansplaining that it was really my fault. And of course, I questioned myself too.

In the end I did what most people do in these situations - say nothing (other than to my circle of friends), learn not to make myself vulnerable in this way again, try to move on. Two years later, someone else publicly accused this same teacher of a much more serious violation. I told my story in support, and other women told theirs. Many of the stories were similar, almost all were grey, and together they showed a clear MO. The guy knew what he was doing.

This is why I can see a benefit to RUBBED accurately reporting her experience to her former RMT's ethics board. If this is an isolated incident he shouldn't lose his business, but would hopefully get a much-needed warning and won't put himself and his clients in this situation again. If there was precedent, maybe harsher measures are justified. But if no one reports these grey area incidents, how would the board know if it's pattern?

76

BDF @74, sure, the RMT isn't oblivious to losing RUBBED's custom and friendship, but he probably IS oblivious to the fact that she felt "numb from the shock, upset and violated" by his actions, and seriously considered reporting him for an ethical breach. As things stand, his take away may well be "she didn't feel the same and things got awkward, what a shame, better luck next time", rather than "oh shit, I might have done something borderline unethical here, I hurt my client and friend, and could have lost my business". If you are right and no professional ethics were breached, then surely his professional body would share this view? They are the experts in this field, after all. It would be stressful to get investigated, for sure, but this is the risk in all professions with established codes of practice and ethics committees.

77

Google "RMT charged with assault". It seems that it's a common occurrence (at least around here), which may explain why the laws regulating RMTs are so draconian.

78

Super creepy MT! Yes, the friendship complicates reporting him, which is one of the things making this so creepy. At the very least, RUBBED if you recommended this guy to me, please tell ME!

Fair point, feelings don’t necessarily mean boners. But, come on, this guy was trying to add sex to a professional friendship. CREEPY!

79

After reading about RMTs and their codes of conduct (and legal restrictions), I've come to the conclusion that RUBBED's RMT did indeed commit an ethical violation, no matter where he declared his feelings. Simply put, and regardless of whether or not her feelings were "justified", RUBBED was left feeling violated. RMT was obliged by his professional status to make sure that didn't happen.

Regardless of being an RMT (or any other medical or quasi-medical professional), who declares feelings to a friend without having the slightest clue about how it will land? Okay, he may have misread, but "feelings not reciprocated" is one thing, while "shock and horror" means that RMT is clueless. That's not a good thing in his position.

I don't think that RUBBED should report him, 18 months after the fact, but he probably needs to give his head a shake.

80

BDF@74
"I've never had a regular massage therapist, but by coincidence I went for a spa hour and massage last week and it confirmed my memory that not much talking happens in that situation"

I've almost only had regular bodyworkers, and (as I touched on @58) that's always meant quite a bit of talking. Maybe that's just my big mouth.

Fox@55 "Don't go out for lunch and drinks with your service providers"
Curious@58 "That's a good summary, I think, of a complex set of boundaries....I once met at a cafe with a massage therapist."

I've thought of many dozens of examples of times providers and I have gotten less close than a cafe to the "lunch and drinks" boundary.

And then I just remembered a time I partied with my community college teacher (which I told here about three years ago at https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2018/05/04/26137236/savage-love-letter-of-the-day-kicking-this-one-to-you-savage-love-commenters/comments/73 ). In this case I thought it might go a long ways beyond where it did.
Anyway, remembering that story reinforces for me the greater responsibility she had as the teacher to not let it even go that far mid-session. And, to my disappointment, she (good on her) didn't let it go all the way.

81

@72 I hate to break this to you but I guarantee someone in your friendship group has wanted/rubbed/humped while thinking of you. That doesn't mean they can't be their friend. Most healthy people (and even some unhealthy people!) can separate fantasy from reality. It's not like they're Louis CKing it and masturbating at you. They just sometimes let the imagination run a bit wild.

82

@72 I'm also not talking about constant spank bank material. Its probably not easy to get over a big crush if you're going down that path every night. But making that person a deep cut? I see no real issue.

83

Larry @81, you've basically just written my response to you @82, thanks for saving me the trouble.

84

Margarita @75, thank you for sharing, and I'm sorry you had that experience. I would put a rope bondage instructor on the scale of more overtly sexual than a massage therapist, for whatever that is worth. I appreciate your projecting your experience, but I think there is less chance that someone who only confessed to having feelings after three years is a serial predator, though who knows, he might be. Good to know that you are talking about a specific person as a stand-in for this RMT in this situation, whereas I'm picturing "how would I react if a business contact I also hung out with socially said they'd caught feelings for me" as a far more innocuous situation, one I'd ideally be able to navigate with grace.

85

BDF@74
"I don't feel great about the idea of a friend wanking over me"

It seems we all agree that for a friend who catches feelings, for /them/ much wanking would not be "conducive to putting someone...back in the friend zone".

But that consideration aside, for the object of the wanking, wanking they don't know about won't hurt them. Normal not to "feel great about the idea", but when assuming we don't hear about it we won't /experience/ the idea, so no problem.

I'm sure we all know this too. We used to have someone here who problematically couldn't (quoting larry@81)

"separate fantasy from reality"

but they aren't around anymore.

86

For what it's worth, the exclamation "Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick!" can be heard on the 1988 Dead Milkmen track entitled "Stuart". Great album too ("Beelzebubba").

87

Curious @85, well sure, if we don't know about it we don't have to think about it, except that Larry just forced us all to think about it, so thanks for that, Larry! :P

88

I have a few times in my life briefly had the thought pop into my head. At those times I have both immediately extinguished the thought from my head, and very briefly felt vaguely complimented.

89

Who is hungry for this week's Big Hunsky numeric honors?
Tick...tick...tick....

90

BDF @84, I don't think I'm so much "talking about a specific person as a stand-in for this RMT", as just leaning into my own experience with a grey area violation to see this from RUBBED's perspective. The thing that jumped out at me about her letter is how she felt in the aftermath of this confession.

"I went into instant shock"

"I was really numb from my shock and thought I was okay at first, only later realizing how upset and violated I felt"

To me, this does read like the words of a person who has experienced a pretty serious violation, and I think that in itself warrants some consideration. TBH, I think that many comments here were very dismissive and patronising towards RUBBED, in a way that I don't think is helpful. I had to deal with similar reactions myself when I finally spoke about my experience with the shitty rope teacher, even in light of similar stories from his other victims. It was kinda hard to read.

The dismissive and patronising reactions mostly came from people who didn't know me or the other women, so I guess that made it easier to brush us off as some special snowflakes making a big deal out of nothing. There was always this underlying narrative of "well, I wouldn't have let this happen to me, and if it did, I would have done xyz, and I wouldn't let it get to me like that". That's not how it works in reality. I can only assume that these people either haven't experienced this type of traumatic violation, or they have, but the circumstances were so different they just couldn't connect the two. So instead they fell back on the usual defensive knee-jerk reaction that's behind all victim blaming. It's always comforting to think that there must be something wrong with the victim - too sensitive, too melodramatic, too inept, too mentally fragile, etc. - and if the same thing happened to you, a strong and well-adjusted individual, then you would have surely handled it much better. All I can say is: it doesn't work like that.

91

Margarita @90, yes, that jumped out at me too, but for completely different reasons -- that the reaction in no way seemed proportionate to the situation she described ("He eventually disclosed to me that he had developed feelings for me"). So either she was being ridiculous, which a lot of people concluded, or she didn't accurately describe what happened. I didn't see any "victim" blaming in the responses, any hints or assertions that it's her fault he caught feelings. I get that it's hard to talk about this stuff, which may explain why she couldn't find the words to describe a situation that may indeed have been a violation. I go back to my initial advice: therapy.

92

It is endlessly frustrating to me that we usually don't know whether a letter writer is over-reacting, or under-describing.

Maybe the prism Margarita is looking at the letter through is the one that provides clarity.

I wouldn't bet on it...but I'm not eager to bet against it either. This is why at first the most I could gear myself up for, was an "oblique and perhaps worthless comment" @24.

But then I went on to relate numerous stories I thought perhaps relevant, of people over-reacting in various ways for various reasons. (Perhaps my prism was formed by how many times I've seen it myself.) I did so because if I only had to vote on it, I'd vote for over-reacting over under-describing. And for therapy.

I think I'd probably say that about the majority of letter writers; if they were already in top shape, they'd be more likely comfortable figuring it out for themselves as to need to ask Dan for advice.

93

There is simply not enough information in the first letter for anyone to make a judgement call. What does she mean by "close friendship"? Until that is clarified, I think it is awful hard to decide. If they never saw each other outside the parlor, then yes, she probably needs to report him, though she may want to learn to reframe what she considers a close friendship. If they did hang out outside the parlor, then common sense and ethics should have prevailed and she should have gotten a new massage therapist the first moment they went to hang out at a bar, dinner parties, the movies, or each other's homes (because that's what close friends do). He should have known better for sure, and I'm sorry, as a 35 year old adult, she should have known too. People push these lines all the time because they don't want to deal with the annoyance of having to find a new doctor, massage therapist, you name it, but this situation is WHY those boundaries exist. Lesson learned all around, hopefully. Again though, it all depends on what she defines as a "close friendship". Until it is defined, if it ever is, everything we've said in this thread is mere guesswork.

94

@53. Lost. Yes. A 'person' visiting their OB-GYN who might expect their doctor to be of an orientation that could find them attractive in extra-professional circumstances might well mentally desexualise them.

@57. Erica. 'Cis-' was relevant in the sense that in visiting a gynaecologist, ciswomen have a privilege of unthinkingness that other patients do not. A ciswoman can presume there is nothing sexual in the air; the doctor can be supposed to be professional. A transman is likely going to have to ask himself, 'what is the atmosphere here?' Is it e.g. supportive, judgmental, sexualized? The letter is about a woman who had her privilege of unthinkingness sharply taken away. It's not conceivable to me that a trans person would have felt the same shock or had the same sustained reaction.

95

@72. Bi. I'm not sure that I found Dan's point that the therapist caught feelings for the lw in the course of his friendship her 'excellent'. It actually seems to me questionable. (But I'm not sure here). Let's say I have a reputation for giving good backrubs (this isn't a million miles away from the truth). A friend or former lover tells his friend to get a backrub from me. I feel nothing for this guy and wouldn't ordinarily find him interesting or attractive. But in touching him, and feeling that I'm helping him or doing him some good, I come to see him more tenderly, or find him sexy. Now, I don't know whether similar dynamics underlie how professional masseurs relate to 'friends' they touch. (After all, they touch so many more people in more specialised ways and are trained to suppress and routinise unprofessional reactions). But it would seem the lw might well think that the RMT got the hots for her in rubbing her down; and it isn't evident to me the rubbing-down had nothing to do with it.

Lots about the story seems to turn on where the power in the relationship lies; and I wouldn't disagree with the lw's assumption that it lies with the male professional, or that she has made herself vulnerable to him. If the service provider making the declaration of feelings were a sex worker, I would think the power lay with the client.

96

@75. Lost. I think it's good that your advice to report the therapist to his ethics board is up, amongst other pieces of advice. The celebrity rigger did cross a boundary and abuse you, and I'd want you to be supported in your feelings of having been violated.

97

OMG, the new column has been up at
https://savage.love/savagelove/2021/09/21/power-tripping/
for at least three hours and it's still not up here at
https://www.thestranger.com/authors/259/dan-savage
yet!

98

Curious @97: I dropped by to make the same comment.

Since there are no comments on savage.love, I'll go first here:

FIRDT!!!

99

So, thanks for sharing, Curious2 and fubar, as no doubt many were wondering. Maybe Dan's moved it there for good? In which case...

100

Hon! Last one!

101

Harriet @95

"Lots about the story seems to turn on where the power in the relationship lies"

Yeah, I agree. If we were talking about a university professor who became "very close friends" with and then declared romantic feelings for a student (even a mature student), I think more people would be inclined to agree that this was unethical and the student had grounds and perhaps a moral obligation to report. In your example of a sex worker, or, say, a barista, I agree that the power differential skews more towards the client than the service provider. I guess a massage therapist/client relationship is somewhere in the middle, and different people would have a different take on where the power lies in this case.

102

@102. Lost. One feature which I'm not sure anyone has noted except me is the absence from the lw of any introduction of how she came to see the RMT regularly--no 'I came for deep treatment on an upper deltoid I had pulled lifting down a suitcase, and stayed because I found I could talk to him about my life'. Almost any mention of a physical injury would be on her side of the ledger--would strengthen her case that he violated a boundary and transgressed against his code of professional ethics. This makes it more plausible to me that getting rubbed down was recreational for her; and thato the professional was more like a hairdresser, who can be seen more or less at will, and less like a gyno, who has to be seen on their terms for the sake of your health.