American massage therapists are struggling to fill a critical demand that has driven up their rates.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that of the more than 3 million American masseuse hourly workers, around 3,500 are earning $1,200 to $1.500 an hour.
That is less than a quarter of the $6,300 an hour average in the UK, and less than half the $14,400 an hour that American women earn.
The lack of a market for these women is a major concern, and they have pushed for a solution.
In 2014, the American Association of Massage Therapists launched the MAs Demand for Massage in the US to lobby Congress to increase the minimum wage and pay women the same as their male colleagues.
But it was a slow-burn campaign that was soon overtaken by the demand for more sex work.
By the end of the year, more than 100 massage therapists had signed up to become MAs and by the end and first quarter of next year more than 40,000 will.
“In the first year, we were pretty busy,” said Jennifer Zwicker, the executive director of the MAS, which helps to run a massage school in Los Angeles.
“Then we were overwhelmed by the number of women who wanted to learn about our business.
We’ve seen that the demand is building up quickly and we’re not going to stop until we get our demand up.”
The rise of internet pornography has made the demand even more urgent, Ms Zwickers said.
“We have to have our female colleagues aware of the internet to be able to speak to them about the availability of sex work.”
So far, however, it has been the women who have been speaking out.
One of the biggest challenges for massage therapists is finding an agent.
The American Association for Massaged Therapist estimates that 20% of their clients are male and that about 40% of those clients are working from home.
While there is a growing awareness of the shortage, the lack of agents means many therapists struggle to find the right candidates.
The National Organization for Marriage, a conservative Christian group, has been advocating for more women in the massage industry, arguing that men are paid far less for their time than women.
But many of those women do not have the time or experience to negotiate with their male clients and that is where the massage therapists come in.
Many of the massage therapist’s clients are women who are willing to pay the same or more than $20 an hour to have sex with them.
Ms Zdziarski said it is not just the cost of living that has led to the shortage but the “perception that it’s acceptable to pay for sex and then use your time to find a job.”
“I have a client who has a massage therapist that is willing to negotiate on her hourly rate for her and I am paying $40 per hour,” she said.
She said many of the women are very comfortable talking to men, but many feel it is more of a taboo.
“When a woman talks to a male client, she has to have that same amount of confidence that a male clients talk to her,” Ms Zmick said.
That lack of confidence is why Ms Zszackis decided to help her client find a massage.
She has become so close with her client that she even took a trip to visit the massage house to meet him.
The couple are happy with their decision to work together and say they have no regrets.
“This has been a really positive experience,” she added.
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