Susan (not her real name) arrived in Australia over 10 years ago as an international student from Thailand and has worked as a professional massage therapist for most of her life.
As part of her visa arrangement, she was allowed to work 20 hours a week, so she found a housekeeping job and a massage therapist shift in Sydney. Massage work is one of her easy jobs for those who are not good at English, but over time she has come to enjoy this profession.
She studied traditional Thai massage in Bangkok and holds a Diploma in Remedial Massage from the Australian College of Massage. Susan loves her job, but her sexual harassment is a regular occurrence.
“95% are good clients,” she says. “It makes me feel good when you give me good feedback…I love my job.” and thought that a “happy ending” (when the masseuse ends the session by doing a sexual favor to the client) was part of the service.
Susan (not pictured) has received inappropriate demands throughout her career. sauce: Getty / kaia picture
“It was very scary at first,” says Susan. “When I was inexperienced and couldn’t speak English well”
Researchers at Monash University are trying to understand the experiences and responses to sexual harassment of Australian immigrants and refugees like Susan as part of a collaboration between the Harmony Alliance and the National Alliance for Women.
“Immigrant and refugee women continue to be largely overshadowed in major national surveys and national efforts to end sexual harassment in the workplace,” said lead author Associate Professor Marie Segrave. says.
Professor Segrave says about 1,000 responses were received So far, more responses are expected this week before the survey closes at midnight Friday.
The harassment experienced by Susan varies. Some of the men tried to touch her legs and other parts of her body while she was giving her a massage.
“When you’re not aware, they try to touch you.
“They may try to touch you, they may try to talk to you and ask… they may make suggestive comments.”
When you are unaware they will try to touch your body.
Susan, massage therapist
Some clients will try to “negotiate” the price of what they want, while others will find an excuse to “open up” by shifting the unassuming towel that covers them.
Over the years, she has gained experience identifying which customers want something special. One possible red flag is if a man requests a full body massage.
“In my experience, when a guy asks about the whole body, I recognize what it means,” she says.
Susan is a warm stone massage specialist. sauce: Getty / Yuri Arculus
Now in her 40s, Susan owns a massage business in a rural Queensland city.
But despite her touting as a private medical fund-certified specialist in traditional Thai massage, therapeutic, deep-tissue and hot stone massage, she still gets calls and texts at least a few times a week inquiring about “happy endings.” I am receiving a message.
She offers a firm but polite refusal and asks the man to respect her. If the client makes progress in the massage room, tell the staff that she should stay away from them and leave her room if in the same situation.
In Susan’s experience, young staff who were inexperienced and didn’t speak English very well were often harassed because they “didn’t know how to complain.”
“When I was younger, we were just scared. We used to cry.”
Rebecca Barnett, chief executive of the Association of Massage Therapists, said it would be difficult to find a massage therapist in Australia, including for men who have never been asked for sexual services at some point in their career. , which believes its behavior is aimed specifically at women. From Asian background.
“Asian therapists experience a lot of harassment,” she says. “Thai therapists experience particular harassment because it is effectively assumed that Thai massage must contain a sexual component.
“There is an absolutely racist element to it.”
There is absolutely a racist element to it.
Rebecca Burnett, Association of Massage Therapists
Professor Segrave agrees.
“[Susan’s] The experience sits at the intersection of not only sexual harassment, but also racist stereotypes and expectations,” she says.
Thailand is a center of “sex tourism” where sex work is openly practiced despite being illegal. The industry is estimated to contribute about $8 billion to the national economy annually.
Barnett has also been asked for a “happy ending” while working as a massage therapist, but was never touched as Susan says.
“To me, it sounds like a real power imbalance.
“The harassment I would have received was more of an invitation, not an assumption that it was okay to do something like that.”
According to the National Skills Commission’s Labor Market Insights, there are over 18,000 massage therapists working in Australia. About 46% of massage therapists were born overseas, according to 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics. About 31% are from Asian countries, including about 12% from Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Confusion with a brothel
One additional problem, Susan says, is that some massage parlors in Australia also function as brothels.
“Some people compare our work to a brothel,” she says. “Some people have an attitude towards Thai massage as sex workers.”
“It makes a man…try to bargain with any type of Asian or any type of massage.
flashing sign spruiks massage for sale sauce: SBS News / SBSThai
Brothels are legal in New South Wales and Victoria, partially decriminalized in the Northern Territory, Queensland and the ACT, and remain illegal in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
Certain rules apply to massage parlors that offer sexual services, depending on the location. It is legal in Sydney but should be classified in the same category as a brothel. All sexual activity requires consent.
Barnett said there was a degree of “accidental behavior” from some people, even at companies that aggressively advertised their professional credentials to indicate they didn’t offer sexual services, and that sexual It states that there is a possibility of receiving a request for public service.
“I think there’s a bit of a thrill in trying to lure a licensed therapist into offering sexual services, and that actually leads to harassment during the table treatment.”
anxiety about visa
Professor Segrave says working illegally because visas do not allow people to work, and precarious employment such as long hours can lead to risks of sexual harassment. .
Susan says she knows women without permanent residency visas in Australia who have been pressured into providing sexual services to keep their jobs and pay their bills.
In the case of a massage business, clients may feel they have more power because they are the paying customers, Segrave says.
“It’s particularly difficult in the client context because that’s a different kind of relationship than, say, a big workplace, where there’s potentially a great HR system that can trigger some intervention in behavior. There is a possibility. ”
Not all allegations are reported to managers, and not all businesses report incidents to the police.
“It’s very complicated because we’re caught without a clear system for engaging and responding to people in a way that works for business. Attention is key,” Segrave said. say.
Padma Raman, CEO of ANROWS, said studies of migrant and refugee women provide evidence to governments, employers and industry groups.
“We know these groups of women have high levels of sexual harassment, and this research will help develop more effective and culturally safe strategies to prevent and respond to it. increase.”
take part in a survey .
Call 000 if you or someone at work is in imminent danger.
1800RESPECT is 1800 737 732 or
The Australian Human Rights Commission provides information on reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. When .
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https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/susan-is-a-professional-massage-therapist-but-regularly-gets-asked-for-happy-endings/7tepdzwl0 Australian massage therapists in Asia regularly asked for a ‘happy ending’. SBS News