Is Breast Massage Legal in my State ?
I get asked this question from time to time. Why? because as a massage therapist and as a massage teacher of continuing education, I provide clients with the option of full chest and breast massage within the context of an overall wellness massage. Further, as an NCBTMB approved Massage Instructor, I offer Massage Continuing Education courses in full chest and breast massage.
So the answer to this question is, "it depends". There are a number of misconceptions within massage as in any industry or profession, where ideas or notions are handed down verbally or spring from somewhere, usually someones opinion, and over time some of these ideas morph into things people take as fact. For example in my state, Massachusetts, it is a widely held belief that breast massage is either not legal, or that undraping of the breast is not allowed. As to the the draping, the MA State Laws governing massage do not mention draping - however some local Board's of Health Regulations do.
The point is, if you are curious if it is legal where you live, whether as a client or as a therapist, check with laws, don't rely on heresay.
My friend and colleague, Barbara Heard, had made it her life's mission, prior to retiring from teaching, to normalize full chest and breast massage and to make it legal in all 50 States. She tirelessly collected data from each State Board, wrote into officials where there were gray areas and created a comprehensive list that you can refer to here . If you spot any differences or updates to this information relative to your area, you may email Barbara and I'm sure she will update the page. I also provide a link to it on my website as well as alot of information about the benefits, both physical and emotional.
It is an uphill battle for normalization in the US although these values have shifted, form the 70;s when it was more commonly taught as part of a mainstream curriculum.
Public perception, social norms, which vary from region to region, and the continued confusion in the eyes of the public between legitimate massage and adult services that are labeled as massage or bodywork, bear on the challenge of mainstream acceptance, at least to the point where it can become more about a client's choice.
Breast massage has been regarded at best, as an integrative measure in a holistic alternative therapy, or at worst, as an invasive and abusive undertaking, if offered without informed consent in the hands of a therapist lacking experience or integrity. This is the crux of the issues surrounding breast massage. Breast massage administered by trained massage therapists will be more readily accepted by the (American) public if its medical or emotional rationale are spelled out for clients, and if therapists receive adequate training in its psychological ramifications and the appropriate use of specific techniques.
Barbara's view, and one that I share is that it should be legal and it should be up to the client - it will take grass roots efforts to bring about change in the states that prohibit any touching or undraping of the chest. In Washington State, to use as an example, Barbara was able to almost single handedly reverse the Board decision from making it it illegal to making it legal, provided the therapist has sufficient training and with a client's full informed consent. In other words, Washington State had no mention of draping on their books, but when a proposed law threatened to make it illegal, Barbara was able to get them to reverse their decision provided she create a course to properly train therapists in both how to communicate the work and obtain consent as well as how to perform the work safely and professionally. This is the course that I have taken over since her retirement.
It is my hope that Washington State can serve as a model for every other state in how to handle it properly which is to say, properly train those therapists to perform it for those clients who wish to receive it. It may never gain broad mainstream acceptance but it should be available to those who seek it, denying them that choice simply seems wrong.
If you are a massage therapist and stumbled onto this blog post and are interested in learning more about my Chest & Breast Courses, please go here
If you re a client or a potential client and would like more information, I have a number of blog posts, but you may also check out the resources here
A Really Good Massage Blog
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.