I did an online search for “How to Ask for Happy Endings,” and I was shocked at what I found—it was not a pleasant experience. Make sure you are not sending the wrong message with your massage therapy business by avoiding these code words and behaviors.
Be Clear with Your Intentions
Sexual solicitors are usually vague. They do not want to get caught asking for a happy ending, so they are very sly and subtle in their requests. If they present with any of the behaviors I have mentioned in the video or in this article, do not schedule the client. Be prepared for them to act shocked and insulted that you would suggest that they are looking for such a thing. This is the natural reaction from someone looking for sex from a massage therapist. Stand your ground and do not let this reaction make you doubt yourself or feel bad. If your gut says you do not want to work with this person, trust it.
Have an extremely thorough intake process and be very clear with your expectations. A possible sexual solicitor may be vague and unclear, but you should not be. Use medical terms, have an intake form, and use your assessment skills. These are all behaviors that do not happen in an illicit “massage parlor.” Make it clear that you are a trained professional with firm boundaries from the very beginning of the massage.
During a Session
Those sexual solicitors looking for happy endings expect them to occur at the end of the massage, when they’re lying supine on the table. To avoid this, start clients face up. That way, at the end of the massage, when the happy ending would be expected to occur, they are prone.
Neon “Open” Signs
Illicit massage parlors typically have a neon “Open” sign. If you want to present yourself as a legitimate massage therapist, do not use neon signs.
Create clear business hours in which you run your business and publicly post the hours. Do not post “by appointment only,” because this could lead to clients who ask for happy endings. If you do provide later hours for certain clients, you do not have to publicly post those hours.
Something that came up during my online search for “How to Ask for Happy Endings” was a blog post where the author said if you find a massage parlor in a basement, that is where the real freaky stuff will happen. So, do not rent an office space in a basement! You will get all sorts of unwanted clients.
Males Lingering Outside the Office
It is typical for males to linger around massage parlors. Sometimes the place is busy and they are told to wait until the next available appointment, so they just hang out outside. As a massage therapist, avoid renting office space locations where there may be men hanging out outside your office. Examples could be an office near a gym or a pizza restaurant. You do not want it to look like there are a bunch of male clients waiting in front of your business.
Reasons to Immediately End the Massage or Not Schedule the Client at All
If, after you have clearly told the client to get on the table under the sheets, blanket, or towel and they choose not to do so, end the massage. If you walk into the treatment room and the client is lying naked on top of the sheets, close the door and tell them the session is over. This is why it is extremely important to be very clear with your clients that you want them under the sheets, and to demonstrate by pulling the sheets down a little, and then get a verbal “Yes, I understand” from the client. This way, if they do not follow the instructions, you will not question yourself for a second when you terminate the massage before it has begun.
When a client is scheduling an appointment with you and they ask about draping or glute work right in the beginning of the conversation, you either need to follow up with more screening, or do not book the client. It is one thing if they genuinely have a groin injury or they are concerned about draping, but if it is the first thing they ask, they are probably looking for a happy ending.
If you find yourself being challenged by a potential client about draping, do not rattle off your local and state laws about draping. State your boundary. Tell them exactly why you drape: because of your own personal boundaries. It is going to hold much more weight if it is a personal boundary as opposed to something you are required to do by law. Keep in mind, the person is looking for a happy ending, which is against the law (in most places)—they most certainly do not care that your state requires you to drape.
Code Words to Avoid
Sexual solicitors will often use code language for happy ending massages. See our blog post “Code Language for Happy Endings” to learn what language to avoid using in your business.
Stay Safe, Therapists
Some of these code words and behaviors were even shocking to me, and shutting down happy endings is my specialty! The more you educate yourself on this topic, the easier it will be for you to shut it down.
Protect You and Your Practice from Solicitors
Take the ABMP Respect Massage CE course, “Ethics: Create A Zero-Tolerance Practice,” for a complete list of 30+ red flags, how to spot sexual solicitors before they are on your schedule, excuses to get out of dangerous solicitations, plus real–life practice scenarios to test how you would react when your boundaries are challenged.
The Logo Works
Protect your business with the Respect Massage logo. Use it as a deterrent for sexual solicitors. The Respect Massage Zero Tolerance logo makes it clear that your business is not a parlor and does not provide happy endings.
Share the #RespectMassage Movement
Share this link and information with other massage therapists and bodyworkers you know. We can shut down sexual solicitations if we stand together and know what to look for.
For more information about ABMP membership, liability insurance, legislative advocacy, podcasts, magazines, and continuing education, go to ABMP.com.