James E. Clapp jeclapp at WANS.NET
Wed Jun 30 02:54:58 UTC 1999

The June 29, 1999, issue of The Village Voice contains an article that
provides a bit of political and legal context for our recent thread on
"bodywork."   A column by Guy Trebay under the headline "Rubbed the Wrong
Way" (p. 46, also at ) talks about a
recent bust of a shiatsu practitioner, apparently because the police
thought that she was doing something naughty (the cops are not very clear
on the fine points of shiatsu massage--or sex, for that matter).
Eventually they changed the charge to "practicing massage without a
license"--a felony equal to practicing medicine without a license--and
the court let her off on condition that she never do it again.

The article mentions a New York City clean-up campaign against "massage"
parlors commenced in 1967 and abetted by a state law requiring 500 hours
of training and a license to practice "massage."  The training required
is all in Swedish massage--a state of affairs regarded as absurd and
offensive by the "Coalition of Non-Massage Organizations," an umbrella
group of 14 organizations each promoting its own type of massage (except
that, for legal reasons, they can't call it that).

The whole thing is a legal and linguistic mess--what in my mother's
family was referred to as "a doubled and twisted lord-a-massy"
(presumably referring to something so hopelessly tangled that when you
look at it you say "Lord have mercy").  But it helps explain why more or
less "legitimate" massage practitioners and sex workers alike would seize
upon "bodywork" as a substitute for the word "massage."

James E. Clapp

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