Six years ago, I went for a massage session in the Kinondoni area of Dar es Salaam. I remember the woman masseuse in the parlour asking me if I wanted to “go all the way” or not. By going all the way, it meant having a sexual service. This is how massage is perceived by most. There are two major types of massages.
Healing, clinical and therapeutic massage and erotic massage. The erotic massage sits in the minds of many. That if you are touched –with oils and so on- there must be a sexual conclusion.
Author gives upper body massage on a special mobile chair, to an elderly client during Health Champions Festival in Thamesmead, South London, July 2015. Pic by Yub Mulyasanga
Technically, erotic massage involves caressing, stimulation and fondling of our erogenous zones. Zones that feel excited and eventually lead to copulation. This type of massage is good in a romantic relationship. Enhances and fulfils lovemaking.
However, the subject matter of this article is not erotic massage.
In old times, it was common to be massaged and touched for health and repair. Today massage is a specialist thing. Restricted in hospitals, sports and health clinics. In health and beauty clinics, it is very expensive. Stimulation of the neck area, scalp and face during haircuts is made to relieve mental stress and headaches. It can also spark hair growth, reduce wrinkles in the face and calm an agitated person. One of the most known forms is Indian head massage, which needs a separate article.
Sports massage is practised regularly to top-level athletes. It does not only relax and relieve muscle fatigue; equally pushes better performance. General body massage assists the body to relax and function better. The most known is Swedish massage which involves kneading with oil through long, short intensive and gentle strokes called “effleurage”. Usually called “classic” massage, the Swedish form helps reduce stiff joints, painful muscles and tendons and improve blood circulation. However, not all massage styles require oils and long or short strokes. Japanese Shiatsu and Reflexology uses fingers (acupressure) to relieve, balance and even cure certain general ailments. Thai and Chinese massages utilises deep tissue pressure as well; but can be too much for those not accustomed to very physical manipulation.Wikipedia
I started to develop an interest in massage while living in Brazil.
Brazilians love taking care of their bodies through regular exercise, swimming, massage and sports. So then it was quite normal, for some my music colleagues to pay massage to relieve chronic pain due to repetitive strain while playing. For example if you are a guitarist, you tend to develop discomfort on the muscle between elbow and wrist while pianists and computer users suffer upper back, shoulder and neck pain.
I learnt that having regular massage took care of most physical pain, assisted in relaxation, stress relief, deep sleep and general well-being. Not only did massage promote better digestion and relief of constipation it thrashed out fat residues and enriched the skin.
After a few years, I decided to study massage and began practising professionally. I went to a few workshops and eventually took a full reflexology massage course in Canada. Reflexology massage utilizes finger techniques and manipulations to manage points on the foot that affect the whole body. This manipulation of reflexes can also be found in the ears, head, hands and the belly.
Since then I have learnt several forms of massage, which I incorporate in my work as a freelance masseuse. Over the years I have keenly noticed how some of our people, I mean us black people; still view massage, principally as a sexual activity. As said earlier we still look at this subject through the eyes of erotic stimulation.
Another factor is the fact of being massaged by a man. In my experience, men who are comfortable being treated by a male professional masseuse tend to be artists, athletes and martial artists. Some black males still harbour prejudices about this type of touch by another male. Fact is, like medical practise, therapeutic, holistic and health massage does not have gender preference. Our people still confuse professional touch and healing with a narrow of sex; therefore, a masseuse has to be female. No wonder the Kinondoni masseuse asked me whether I wanted to “go all the way...”
This misunderstanding of body science and personal health management is not only restricted to massage. A topic that has been discussed for many years now is prostate health. One of the main ways of testing whether the prostate is enlarged (or not) is by a doctor inserting a gloved finger through the rectum for analysis. This is considered “a humiliation” (i.e. homosexual) to most of us black males.
Conclusively, by the time the prostate has ballooned, it is too late. No wonder prostate cancer is one of our major problems. Of course, studies have revealed other causes for a black prostate suffers. They include genetics, social economics and education.
Published in Citizen Tanzania, July 2015.