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I’m a 35-year-old straight woman living in the Midwest. I was seeing a massage therapist for three years and we became very close friends. I referred my friends to him and helped him grow his business. He eventually disclosed that he had developed feelings for me. I went into instant shock and said that I had no idea; I thought we were only growing in our friendship. He told me that he had to tell me and wanted to leave it up to me if I felt comfortable continuing to see him. I was really numb from my shock and thought I was OK at first, only later realizing how upset and violated I felt. I never went back to him. I found out that he closed his practice during COVID. My question is, should I report him to his ethics board?  —Really Upset By Bewildering Erotic Disclosure

No. This guy was initially your massage therapist, RUBBED, but you eventually became very close friends. I’m going to assume this was one of those consensual friendships—meaning, your former massage therapist didn’t force his friendship on you—and that you welcomed it. So, while you may have gotten to know him in a unique professional setting, you wound up in a kind of two-track relationship with him: He was your massage therapist and also your friend. It’s not uncommon for friends to catch feelings for each other and it would seem to be in that capacity—in his capacity as your friend—that your massage therapist caught feelings for you.

Given that he developed feelings for you, I don’t see how he could avoid making this disclosure. Indeed, keeping these feelings to himself while continuing to see you as a client—or dropping you as a client without explanation (an explanation that you, as a friend, would have felt entitled to)—would have constituted an ethical violation.

“What he did was borderline, but not unethical,” says a healthcare provider I shared your question with. “That he brought up the fact that she could/should consider no longer seeing him keeps it just in bounds. The most correct thing would’ve been to maintain boundaries and not become friends in the first place.”

A massage therapist I shared your email with says that your former massage therapist handled this the way he was trained to handle similar situations in the professional ethics courses he was required to take to get his license: Disclose and discontinue the professional relationship.

Another massage therapist thought your former massage therapist was guilty of an ethical lapse. He referred me to the professional code of conduct published by his professional association—the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia—which bars entering into a “close personal relationship” with a client. He felt the friendship was the ethical violation; if your massage therapist had done the right thing and kept your relationship strictly professional, he wouldn’t have caught feelings for you the way he did. And if he hadn’t caught feelings for you the way he did, RUBBED, he wouldn’t have put himself in the position of having to disclose those feelings to you. Or put you in the position of having to listen to him make that discomforting disclosure. 

I understand not wanting to see this massage therapist again, RUBBED, and I understand feeling squicky about this. If I were in your shoes, I would probably wonder how much time, if any, passed between my friend/massage therapist becoming consciously aware of his romantic feelings for me and the moment he disclosed those feelings—and I might find myself thinking back on our previous sessions and feeling a little goobed out. But while it’s uncomfortable to contemplate a massage therapist taking his own pleasure in your sessions, RUBBED, that’s always a risk. (Kind of like how friends catching feelings for friends is always a risk.) We rely on massage therapists to be professionals and to quash feelings of sexual attraction during a session, regardless of how long we’ve been seeing them. And regardless of what kind of relationship we might have with them outside the treatment room.

Some of the massage therapists I spoke with felt you should report him, but the majority did not—and I’m going to stick with my advice not to report him. But you get to make your own call. —Dan Savage

I’m a healthy and active 72-year-old man who found love the second time around. In fact, I have discovered not only a depth of love I never knew existed, but with my new mate I have the most active and satisfying sex life I’ve ever known. My question is this: During nearly a year of solitary processing after my marriage ended, I chanced upon writings about tantric lovemaking practices and was fascinated by them. I began to practice withholding ejaculation, which is a tantric practice that has tremendous benefits. One of those benefits is existing in a state of perpetual desire for my partner and this lovely hum of continual sexual energy between us. But after two years of practicing withholding semen, I now find it almost impossible to come at the time of my choosing. It is almost as if my inner tantric shaman has taken hold of the controls. The wonderful woman in my life consistently has multiple orgasms, but I come about once every seventh or eighth time, and only when we have a long, involved, and deeply connected sex session. While the release, when it comes, is always spectacular, I would like to have more control over my orgasms. Do you have any suggestions? —Wanting A Direction

Men who practice orgasm denial—whether they’re withholding their own orgasms or being denied orgasms by their dominant partners—often report existing in a pleasantly buzzy state of perpetual horniness. Doms who lock their lovers’ cocks up in chastity devices (instead of relying on them to refrain climaxing or jacking off) often report that their perpetually horny partners are more attentive. And while those are attractive perks, I’ve never been tempted to go the orgasm denial route myself. First and foremost, I enjoy coming too much to give it up. And coming in a close second, multiple studies have shown a link between frequent ejaculation and a lower incidence of prostate cancer. Maybe at 72 you’re not worried about prostate cancer—seeing as you haven’t gotten it by now—but guys who don’t want to risk prostate cancer should err on the side of busting those nuts (which is not to be confused with busting those balls).

As for your problem, WAD, if withholding orgasms is making it difficult for you to have ‘em when you want ‘em, well, then you might want to stop withholding ‘em. But considering how much pleasure you get out of withholding them—that buzz, those spectacular orgasms when you do come—maybe unpredictable orgasms are a price you’re willing to pay. It’s also possible that age caught up with you and your orgasms became a little less reliable at the same time you took up tantric sex practices. (For the record, tantra is a nearly two-millennia old tradition/body of wisdom that originated in India and is typically practiced by Hindus and Buddhists. While sex is a part of tantra, sex isn’t the only thing tantra is about.)—DS

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