Essays on Kate Sullivans Arguments on Desexualization at Work Place - Massage Therapy Case Study

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The paper 'Kate Sullivan’ s Arguments on Desexualization at Work Place - Massage Therapy" is a great example of a business case study.   Desexualization is defined as a conscious mental process that aims at repressing the sexual response to the unconscious mind. It is a concept that is applied in workplaces so as to promote professionalisms and help curb problems that may be caused by sexuality in the workplace. However, desexualization is not as easy as it may seem in some workplaces and attempts to maintain it poses a great challenge to workers of both genders.

This essay looks at Kate Sullivan’ s arguments on desexualization at the workplace, particularly in massage therapy. Her arguments are based on Burrell’ s (1984) argument that attempts for desexualization of the efforts to end sexuality from individuals or organizations end up creating more gendered problems rather than mitigating them. Kate Sullivan looks at how attempts to desexualize workers in organizations end up in creating gendered subjectivities characterized by heteronormativity, discrimination and sexual harassment. To support her arguments, she conducted research by use of the feminist poststructuralist framework and feminist ethnographic methods to study desexualization in massage therapy in the United States.

These methods included sourcing for information from scholars who are studying lives of men and women, existing feminist, interpretive and critical paradigms as well as ethnographic methods such as spending time observing and participating in massage classes and interviewing the massage therapists. Ethnographic methods are those methods where the researcher observes from the point of view of the subject (Sullivan 2014). This essay will, therefore, present Kate Sullivan’ s view that pressures towards organizational desexualization in massage therapy maintain heteronormativity, sexual harassment and discrimination, in her article With(out) pleasure: Desexualization, gender and sexuality at work’ (2014).

The essay also contains my own views on Kate Sullivan’ s arguments about desexualization in massage therapy. Author’ s arguments Sullivan’ s main argument in the article is that pressures towards organizational desexualization in massage therapy maintain heteronormativity, sexual harassment and discrimination. Heteronormativity refers to a belief that people fall into distinct genders each with its natural roles; sexual harassment is the inappropriate handling of a person of a sexual nature while discrimination is the differential treatment of a person in this case, due to their sexuality.

In the article, Sullivan states that gendered tensions in professions are more revealed when the drive to monitor and control sexuality rests on an individual. She explains that women are expected to control their bodies properly while men are expected to maintain their masculine status. According to her analysis using the case of massage therapists, the pressure to desexualize is only on female therapists and clients and not so much on men. Sexuality in men is seen as natural and sexual arousal during massage is seen as obvious and that men get horny easily.

Everything regarding male sexuality has been framed as potent and natural. An interaction between a student and the instructor implies that when male clients make sexual advances, the female therapists should understand that it is because they have not been adequately nurtured. The instructor also says that women might be the problem because they provoke men’ s sexual behavior when they view them as problematic (Sullivan2014).


List of References

Katie R S 2014, With(out) pleasure: Desexualization, gender and sexuality at work, Organization, Vol. 21(3): 346-364

Kensbock S., Bailey, J., Jennings, G & Patiar, A., 2015, Sexual Harassment of Women Working as Room Attendants within 5-Star Hotels. Gender, Work and Organization, Vol. 22(1): 36-50

Burrell, G 1984, Sex and Organizational Analysis, Organization Studies, Vol. 5(2): 97-118

American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, 2010, Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.Retrieved from

Sullivan, K. R 2012, ‘Producing Professionals: Exploring Gendered and Embodied Responses to Practicing on the Margins’, ephemera 12(3) 273–93.

Trethewey, A 1999, ‘Disciplined Bodies: Women’s Embodied Identities at Work’, Organizational Studies 20: 423–50.

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Duschinsky, R 2010, ‘Feminism, Sexualisation and Social Status’ Media International Australia, Volume 135: 94-105

Gettman, H.J. and Gefand, M.J. (2007) When the customer shouldn’t be king: antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment by clients and customers, Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 3, 737–70.

Williams, C., Giuffre, P & Dellinger, K 1999, Sexuality in the Workplace: Organizational Control, Sexual Harassment, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 25 (1999), pp. 73-93.

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