James E. Clapp jeclapp at WANS.NET
Wed Jun 16 07:15:53 UTC 1999

Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:

> Is it "bodywork" anywhere else?  When did "bodywork" come into vogue?

I concur with Andrea Vine that "bodywork" has been around a long time as
a term New Agey term for massage (of any nonsexual type).

I await Barry's definitive report on when, why, and by whom the term was
coined; but I speculate that it caught on for various reasons including
(1) it provides a neat parallel to the noncorporeal "work" of therapy and
the like (working through your anger at your parents, working out your
ambivalence about bisexuality, working on reaching a better space), (2)
at the same time, it ties in nicely with healthy physical "work" (working
out with Jane Fonda, working on your abs and thighs), (3) it fits with
the trend of jamming words together in form streamlined names like
Citibank and Banccorp and Buycomp and webnetworking, (4) it avoided the
ambiguity of "massage," which had become a standard euphemism for
prostitution and risked evoking snickers even when the word was clearly
not being used in reference to sexual services.

No doubt the trendinesss of the term "bodywork" has now commended it to
those who used to offer sexual "massage"--the latter term having begun to
sound stodgy and (ironically) too much like something you'd get from a
very stern Swede.

Now we'll have to see if the assorted (nonsexual) massage therapists come
up with yet another term to distinguish themselves from the prostitutes,
or whether they stick with "bodywork" on the ground that it still sounds
pretty trendy and they'll never be able to monopolize any term for what
they do anyway.  (Complicating the picture is what I understand to be
some controversy within the field as to whether "legitimate" massage
must, or even can, necessarily be free from erotic content--though I
think the way they treat you in some schools of massage you'd have to be
pretty masochistic to find it erotic.)

James E. Clapp

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