Angry Old Lady

Friday, February 03, 2012

Question

I moved into a retirement home because health problems were making it too difficult for me to maintain my own home. My doctor recommended massage to treat some pain I was having. A young man licensed as a massage therapist came to the nursing home twice a week to see clients. I was embarrassed to realize how much I was enjoying being touched. The edge of his hand grazed me in a sensitive area, and I was surprised to have an orgasm.

He asked me if I was all right and I was so flustered. “I understand,” he said, and I think he really did. He encouraged me to just relax and enjoy my massage, and not judge myself for how it made me feel.

Now I understood why so many of the other ladies here saw him, and give him generous tips. But we have gotten the terrible news that he has been fired. I guess the administration found out and sent him away. Can we complain and get this decision reversed? I don't know where we will find anyone else like him. He was so kind to all of us! I really don't understand why the people who run this place think they should “protect” us. All of us were married once, and we are not children!

 

Answer

This is quite a can of worms. Several prejudices and laws intersect here. First, there's the stupid idea that at some vague age, people quit feeling desire or having sex, especially if those people are women. Second, there's the assumption that providing pleasure and getting paid ought to be mutually exclusive. Third, there's a quite valid idea that people in positions of authority (which includes any sort of doctor, nurse, therapist, teacher, etc.) ought not to exploit patients or clients for their own gain. That includes using your position to get sex. Although it doesn't sound like this person was getting much direct pleasure for himself. Nor was he necessarily trying to give anyone an orgasm. Most massage therapists, when talking honestly among themselves, admit that clients frequently become aroused. It is a normal reflex when experiencing pleasant physical touch.

Bodyworkers (including massage therapists) have had an uphill battle to gain any kind of respect for the validity of their professional skills because touching people is seen as a sexual act—even if no erotic intentions are present. Sex workers are always looking for some kind of legal shelter from police entrapment and harassment. Brothels that call themselves “massage parlors” to gain a sliver of protection from getting raided and shut down by police contribute to the ambiguous position of chiropractors, acupuncture therapists, masseurs and masseuses, etc. 

Many if not most people would assume that a young man who discreetly provided sexual pleasure for elderly clients was somehow molesting or exploiting them. I can't say whether your masseur was a sensual saint, doing what would get him bigger tips, or feeling some kind of perverse thrill that motivated him to continue. But I do know that he could lose his license if it became public knowledge that he sexually stimulated clients. The retirement home is going to be touchy about anything that could give their establishment a bad reputation or result in licensing or insurance problems for them.

Talk to your friends at the retirement home and find out how motivated they are to get the masseur back in the good graces of the administration. The only way to do this, unfortunately, is to clear him of any and all allegations of sexual “misconduct.” If this turns out to be the reason why he got fired, everyone will have to pretend to be shocked and offended at such an outrageous piece of slander. Can all of you collude in such a piece of acting and activism?

Knowing how expensive most retirement homes are, high-handed behavior on the part of your management makes me indignant. The residents are customers who have hired the staff to take care of them. You ought to have the right to fire them as well, and to tell them honestly what your needs are. But because all of you are past retirement age, the people who work for you are behaving as if they are in charge and you are all children. Human nature is such a bitch. “Being taken care of” is always right next door to being disempowered and bossed around.

In the meantime, I am very sorry to hear that you feel so touch-deprived and sexually neglected. While serious health problems can put sex on the back burner, many people continue to want physical closeness and even erotic fulfillment no matter how challenged they are healthwise. Simply getting older doesn't automatically cancel out desire—for men or women!

Giving yourself an orgasm won't meet all of your needs, I realize, but it could help keep your sense of frustration within more manageable limits. Get yourself an electrical massager, otherwise known as a vibrator. I hope the people who run your retirement home are not so intrusive and nosy that they'd object to that! Since they took away your massage therapist, and you are still in pain, you need to be able to give yourself treatments for all that muscle pain to make yourself comfortable. Wink, wink.

 

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