secret side hustles

‘It’s Like I’m a Naked Shrink’

Photo: Photo Illustration by Stevie Remsberg; Photo Getty

Get That Money is an exploration of the many ways we think about our finances — what we earn, what we have, and what we want. In Secret Side Hustles, we talk to people with “normal” jobs who make extra cash on the sly. Here, a costume designer explains her side gig as a tantric masseuse.

I’m a costume designer, but for the past three years I’ve had a side-gig at a temple where I do tantric massage. Before this, I was working in a corporate design job. I got unhappy executing someone else’s vision, so I quit. I really needed to make money, and a friend of mine was like, “I run a temple. If you’re ever looking for side work and you want to learn tantric massage, come to my workshop.” I was intrigued. I wanted a job where I could pull in a lot of cash in a short amount of time, and this seemed like a good way to do that.

I took a weekend course, got certified, and did a few private training sessions. There’s about six or seven women who work out of the same space, and we have a booker who plays Tetris with our schedule to make sure all the shifts are covered. Tuesday is my steady day and then I pick up more shifts based on what costume work I have going on. They know I have two schedules to juggle.

On a typical shift I show up early, meditate, and then wait for clients. On a busy day I’ll see about five clients back to back, with maybe 15 minutes in between. I do a little shower rinse in between each person, but if there’s not enough time I just use baby wipes and disinfect my hands. On a dead day I might end up just reading books or sewing. If nobody comes in, I don’t get paid.

I do one- or two-hour sessions that involve massage and a little bit of meditation, and finish with the sensual “release” portion. There’s also a sacred bath ritual add-on where we set up a candle-lit bubble bath and I’m there with a pitcher of water, like a Greek goddess. That’s often when the talk starts — I learn why they’re really there. Sometimes clients want to vent about their love life and other times they want to talk about work. Other guys come to me to prepare to go home to their wives. They’re very specific about it, like, “I don’t want to come!” I guess I’m their pre-game. In the particular temple I work, there is always an erotic component. But a “release” — the physical ejaculation — is not always incorporated. In fact, some clients want help extending that release.

Most clients are really concerned about privacy. Some of them use fake names. They want to make sure the building is safe, and that it will be secluded. Legally, I exist in a gray area. I can say I do tantric massage but I can’t say I do erotic massage. Technically I’m only doing prostitution if I do this add-on called “the rose bud massage,” where I put on a glove and I go about one and a half inches deep with my finger to massage the prostate. It can be a very sensual, intimate experience. It releases a lot of emotions — sometimes men cry.

We’re not the highest end but we’re definitely not low end, either. It costs $220 an hour or $400 dollars for two, and $60 extra for a sacred bath ritual or the rose bud massage. I usually do a day and a night shift each week, and I always have to be prepared for no clients to come in. I split my earnings in half with the temple. I also get tips. Once I got a $200 tip from a client who travels all the way to New York from upstate to treat himself. I average about $450 a week.

Sometimes it’s like I’m a naked shrink. In fact, I’ve had a whole session where we didn’t even do anything sexy because the client just wanted naked shrinking. I take notes on each client, almost as if they’re a patient. Sadly, many of these men don’t have anyone to talk to. One of the wonderful things about tantric massage is that I’m reconnecting all of a person’s chakras so they have a full, total-body orgasm. A lot of men are stuck in their third chakra. I guide them to breathe a certain way based on where I notice that they’re holding stress, and how they’re clenching when they’re about to come. Some have porn addictions and are so disconnected from their bodies.

I had one client who only had one nut because he had testicular cancer and after the session, he was wouldn’t stop raving about how he connected with his body. He asked if I noticed that he only had one nut, and I said no. I never want a client to feel judged.

I don’t tell most people that I do tantric massage. I tell my family that I’m a massage therapist — it’s close enough, and they don’t need to know the details.

For my costume work, I get paid per assignment. I mostly do custom orders. Occasionally I get a really well-paid gig. Like, for Halloween I did a samurai costume for $2,000 but it took almost two weeks. Having a regular side gig that makes decent money calms my nervous system. When I started this work, I told myself I would give it five years, and then I would go back into costuming full-time. Most massage practitioners generally don’t do it for more than seven or eight years because it’s so hard on your body.

The most stressful part is not knowing who’s going to come in the door. We have a database that we run names and numbers through to see if the client is lying about who he is, but our booker can usually tell if they’re hiding something because they sound so nervous. When that happens I get warned: “Young guy coming in, he sounded really nervous. He gave me a fake name but he sounds like a genuine customer.”

We’re encouraged to never endure a session. We can kick out whoever we want. The worst client I ever had was demanding things we don’t offer. We’re not a brothel. I grabbed his hands and put them on the table. I looked him in the eye and was like, “Listen, do you really want to sit here and argue with me for an hour, or do you want to receive the session the way I design it? Put on your clothes and get out.”

‘It’s Like I’m a Naked Shrink’