Sexual Healing: Do Women Deserve a Happy Ending?
One woman who had enough of a sexless relationship chose a novel way to get her mojo back.
Welcome to a long-awaited service whose time has finally come. Now it’s your turn to do so too.
I snapped my laptop shut, as I tried to sit up straight on the couch. My dog blinked at me. I was undeniably turned on. I hunched back over, opened the laptop and read on
My friend and I were getting foot massages at our favorite place on Grand and Orchard, where we drink green tea and swap relationship woes. Isla was on and off with a girl for four years who was trying to be on again. My latest was a man who had tattooed my name across his chest in devotion, but wouldn’t have sex with me because he “loved me too much.” He was raised by two psychiatrists.
Out of nowhere, Isla blurts, “Have you ever thought about getting a happy ending massage?”
The middle-aged Chinese men kneading our feet look up briefly, then resume kneading.
“What?!” I scream-whisper. “Is that even a thing? For women?”
“I heard of someone who got one in Tulum,” she continued. “He did it all with his hands. It’s always been a fantasy for me. And yes, I want to do it with a man,” Isla, the devoted lesbian added quietly.
I immediately think, God. What would it be like to put myself in a situation where by literal financial agreement I wouldn’t be expected to reciprocate? Where the terms were so black and white, the situation so clearly defined in advance, that maybe I could even feel safe?
“We need to find this service,” I say. Isla insists it’s not that easy.
Oh please, I tell her. This is New York City.
Back on my couch that afternoon I find a New York Magazine article about “Dr. M,” New York’s erotic masseuse for women. The reviews say things like: “I had multiple orgasms…I’m not sure what he does but when he is touching my vagina it feels like he is pulling back layers.” Then there was the line that sold me: “It’s so vanilla, yet so kinky.”
Why would something like this appeal to me? After all, great sex was supposed to be my legacy.
My parents have been married almost 40 years, and to this day they make out. In the laundry room, in the car. She sits on his lap. My mother’s sex talk to my sister and I in our teens emphasized that finding someone you like to have sex with is crucial to a successful relationship.
And really, I’ve always been horny. As a pre-teen I watched Cruel Intentions a lot. I had the box set. I figured out creative uses for an electric toothbrush; loved a jacuzzi jet. I was ready to dive into the marvelous world of sex, to begin what was to be my surely exceptional romps, my movie-worthy escapades, and inevitably my loving, long-lasting, sex-filled marriage.
Then, I met Elijah. He had an epic smile, dimples carved into his handsome face. He held a black lab puppy in his arms in his Facebook profile photo. We went to my favorite dance club that night. I only have small flashes of memory, but I remember exactly the tone of the coral pink underwear I was wearing. My favorite dark jeans, painful shoes. In his bathtub, I lost one of the silver heart earrings my father had given me on Valentine’s Day at 13. I don’t know why I was in his bathtub. I have flashes of memory sitting on the cold sidewalk outside, trying to define where the pain was coming from. I never found out how I got home. It was only six months after I lost my virginity when I was raped. I dropped out of school. I was only 19.
The CDC tells us that about 25 percent of women experience date rape at some point in their lives. It took me years to admit what happened wasn’t just a wild night, my first crazy, casual hookup—to realize what had been taken from me.
After that night, I could only have sex after drinking a lot. I was down for anything—my body, your wonderland. It didn’t matter if it hurt, if I enjoyed it, I was barely there. I never had many partners, instead attached myself to terrible long-term relationships that were at least reliable in their known horrors. Through many years of repetition, eyes always squeezed shut and mind focused on fantasies, I’d eventually get off, but serving was where I was most comfortable. The vulnerability, the literal openness, the surrender required to be on the other side of it just wasn’t an option.
Over a decade later, this was still the norm.
I stare at my dog, holding my phone in my hand. I mean . . . This would be a great story. He blinks back. I take a deep breath and call Dr. M.
After a brief introductory chat he explains his business is a “non-profit” with a suggested donation of $180. He sees his guests at his apartment and has been doing this for 15 years. He mentions things like his excellent read of body language, and how subtle signals like a wiggle or a moan are great ways to convey your approval. I report back to Isla. This is the kind of event that demanded a wing woman; we would have back-to-back appointments.
The day comes, and we enjoy a 5PM steak dinner and two martinis before making our way to 66th and Amsterdam. Dr. M had instructed us to meet at a Starbucks across from his building. We walk in and he motions to us right away. “Step into my office,” he says.
Dr. M is not in fact a doctor; he is a practicing attorney, with Man’s Best Side Hustle—which he sees as his calling. He’s been providing erotic massage for 15 years, and has served around 1,000 women, by his estimation. He is a plain, nice looking, slightly balding midsize Jewish guy in glasses with a Long Island accent. Honestly, I would not be able to pick him out of a lineup.
Dr. M repeats most of what we had discussed already. The word “consent” is emphasized as we awkwardly shuffle over to his building. “So, you’re a lawyer?” I ask. “How’s the uh, balance?”
“Yes. Obviously, no one at work knows about this part of my life,” he says. Can you imagine the Monday morning small talk: ‘Hey Jim! How was the weekend?’ ‘Ah good, great turnout at golf, took the kids out. You know! How about yours?’ ‘Oh, just made 12 women orgasm.’ Haha! Imagine?!”
Ha, ha! Ha! We squeak.
We reach the doorman building. Dr. M explains that he hopes it’s alright, but for appearances’ sake we will go up the service elevator in the back. Isla goes first. I feel the need to give her a sailor’s salute but instead turn back to the door and wait my turn at a wine bar where I stress-eat bar nuts and try not to lose my mind.
After approximately a decade, Isla texts me that her session is finished. I meet them both downstairs and try desperately to read her face. She shows no trace of her experience.
Was it horrible? I whisper before Dr M walks up behind her.
Did you come?!
I’m a wreck. It’s all fun and games until you are going up the back elevator with a strange man about to touch your vagina. We chat about the weather as an old Russian woman in a cape side-eyes us while clutching her tiny dog.
Eventually the woman gets off on the 18th floor with a long look back, and as we continue climbing I ask him how this all began.
“I was always interested in massage, so I took a class, just a regular Swedish massage class—thought it could be a nice treat for a girlfriend someday. He glances upward wistfully.“I was the only man there, and as part of the curriculum we were put into small groups for practice on our own time. One thing kind of led to another and I realized I had a talent for a different modality, let’s say.” He shrugs, grinning. “We wore white coats in class, so I had the Doctor idea.”
This was over a decade ago. “I decided to create a Craigslist ad offering my services and started seeing ‘patients’,” he continued. “I did the doctor patient role-play thing for a long while, and eventually dropped that, and the coat.”
Finally, we walk into his dimly lit studio. There’s a massage bed by the desk, new age music playing from a laptop, a diffuser with a lilac light buzzing in the corner. Was that bergamot?
“Okay Mona!” he says brightly. “The bathroom is to your left, there’s a towel behind the door. Just come on out and lie here on your stomach. And remember, no question is a dumb question.”
The bathroom lights are off and a small candle burns on the right-hand side of the sink. I stare at myself in the mirror for a long time. Eventually, I take a deep breath. Do it for the story, I say in my head, and open the door.
An hour later I’m still on my back, legs butterflied in front of me as Dr. M straddles my waist, his back to me as he continues to perform God’s work. His touch, whether it was on my neck or inside me, was like nothing I’d ever felt. I figured I’d be getting a massage, you know, shoulders and whatnot, and maybe in the last 10 minutes there would be a dabble in the vajajay. But no. We go straight for it. Glorious, gentle, effective, absolutely 10 out of 10 feathery strokery, perfect, professional-level fingering. This stranger in basketball shorts—without penis, porn, mouth or equipment—working absolute magic.
I basically transcend. The sheer luxury and pleasure of being catered to with zero pressure of reciprocation, zero insecurities brought about by the complications of lust or love, the god-damn professional expertise! My mind and body, for once, connected, both awake.
When I orgasmed, I’m pretty sure I screamed. I know for sure I cried. Of all the things to say, I said, “Thank you.”
When I tell this story, some women recoil, some are envious—all are intrigued. The universal question I always get asked: was Dr. M aroused? He was; it was expertly and subtly evident that he was (see: basketball shorts). Some people respond to that fact with horror, others with excitement; some ask if I wanted to have sex with him.
My answer is always the same. The entire purpose of the experience was to finally be in a sexual situation that was all about me. His arousal was respectful—a tribute, not a demand. The fact that he was something of a tabula rasa—unremarkable in appearance and personality—did not for a moment diminish a night I will forever remember. He was, in the best way, a prop, a pathway, a facilitator back to myself.
Dr M started looking at me like he knew I was going to be one of those that didn’t want to leave, so eventually I got dressed and came back outside, grateful that I brought more cash and giddily gave him $200, thinking I’d give him whatever he’d ask for. I hugged him like an old friend at the door, telling him “Dr M, you should win the Nobel Prize for PEACE.”
connected, both awake.
Throughout my life, so much was taken from me by men I didn’t consent to, others I’ve loved and trusted. It took a happy ending massage—on the Upper West Side, no less—to realize I didn’t need to perform, that sex wasn’t an audition. To remind me of what I was so lucky to be taught early on, that sex is important, that it’s good.
It still took me a year to leave the Freud guy, but I’d like to think how empowered that experience made me feel, helped me remember that I still had an entire world of sex to discover. I got more than the best dinner party fodder and an orgasm that taught me I do, indeed, have a G spot. Through an experience that was unequivocally all about me, Dr M evened me out. Made me realize I can be an equal player, that I did not have to be defined by what I’ve survived. An experience that since then, I have even found for free.
Most of all, I know now that even through trauma, I have a right to my own desire—and a right to find it, if it doesn’t find me first.
Hero photo by Justin Pumfrey via Getty images