NME’s Columnist Katherine Ryan On Massages: ‘I Love Paying People To Touch Me’

I love paying people to touch me. Nail techs, hair stylists, dermatologists, make-up artists, osteopaths: you name it, I love it. Yet I can imagine nothing worse than having sex with any of them. OK, maybe my nail guy. He’s chill. But if I went in for a manicure and he just kinda washed my hands a bit then went down on me for half an hour, I would curse that whole place out till he cried. Sex belongs at home and in hotels and sometimes in a car if it’s an emergency. Certainly not in a nail shop! Not in any other place of business, for that matter.

Imagine ordering a latte only for the barista to take his pants off and you realise, “Oh shit, this is one of those sexy Starbucks,” and you just really want the coffee but it’s Britain so now you’ve gotta be polite and let him finish on you. If bakeries in dodgy neighbourhoods had even a 10 per cent chance of being a front for a knocking shop, I’d never risk ordering a muffin again.

A male friend rang me with an hour to spare between meetings in Soho, so I suggested he go get a massage nearby. (You’re ahead of me.) An hour later, his frantic voice wept through my phone, describing how the lady inside had started, um, releasing his… chakra? “I should have known!” he cried. “Because it was such a terrible massage to begin with!” I asked what kind of shoes she was wearing. “Heels!” He blurted. “Goodbye!”

What is it about the massage that’s allowed itself to be intertwined with hired intercourse? At uni, I met a girl who worked at a ‘massage parlour’ and I once asked her if it was true that they get sexual with the customers. Her reply was, “God no! We only give them handjobs.” Oh OK, princess.

I’m just as perplexed by this today as I was then. I have nightly(ish) sex in my relationships just to get a massage out of him maybe once every three months. So when I pay for a proper therapeutic massage, I’m almost tormented by the notion that people on this Earth would purposely replace even a second of that experience for sex. It’s ruined it for me. I’m constantly distracted by the massage table and my face being cock-level for the standing therapist. I know it rubs against me when he leans over too far. I know it does. Then today, it happened.

I was, as one does, laying on my front, arms at my sides under the blanket, palms up, while a lovely man – a registered osteopath, a scholar – massaged my shoulders. He was wearing black stretch cotton trousers, something a figure skater might wear on his day off. Innocently, he leaned up and over just enough that his penis fell neatly into the palm of my cupped hand. Right in there. Like a limp handshake. I genuinely don’t think he noticed that I cradled it like a baby bird for a full minute, eyes frozen open, just staring blankly through that tiny face hole.

And you know what? I’m not afraid now. Because as it turns out, a dick casually resting in your hand isn’t enough to ruin anything. Please put that on my tombstone.