As much as a hug and/or a kiss may be used to console a loved one, sometimes it's just not enough. What can be a nice alternate way to express that physical love without involving becoming intimate? A nice massage.
Whereas there are massages that are either seen as painful due to either malice or inexperience from the other party or that do lead to sex, this one lies in the middle of the road by being tender and showing affection without necessarily going any further. The location of where a person is massaged may vary, but the shoulders, back, and feet are usually the most popular.
This is seen as a form of Intimate Healing. See also Shower of Love, Intimate Haircut, Intimate Hair Brushing, Ear Cleaning, Cooldown Hug, Holding Hands, and Cuddle Bug for other intimate and (usually) non-sexual touching. Contrast with Miserable Massage.
- Child of the Storm has a scene opening with Carol moaning in pleasure. The narration lampshades the immediate conclusions that everyone jumps to, especially as it's almost immediately after a scene where they very nearly had sex. Given the prior stressful situations they'd both been in and the rampaging UST, no one would be particularly surprised if they had, even if they weren't dating by this point. It then reveals that it's 'just' this, with Harry providing a distinctly sensual and intimate one. As she smugly notes to her friends, the fact that he's psychic, a wizard, and thanks to his martial arts training, very familiar with human physiology, he gives mind-meltingly good massages.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: Discussed when Ami gets a massage and a teaser says they were expecting her Love Interest to be involved.
- In the Laverne & Shirley fanfic The Bed, the title characters win a stay at a hotel, but There Is Only One Bed. Laverne massages Shirley, and then they end up falling in love.
- Law & Order: UK. A handful of scenes like this between Matt and Alesha are sprinkled throughout the series written by Spookfan. At least one ends with a Sexy Discretion Shot.
- Towards the end of Fifteen & Pregnant, the reconciling couple of Cal and Evie are lying on the family's porch swing as he massages her feet.
- Barbie (2023): After the Kens take over Barbieland, the formerly powerful Barbies give the Kens foot massages as part of their subservient Stepford wife brainwashing.
- Played With in God Bless America: Roxy tries really hard to seduce Frank (at least 20 years her senior and appalled by the very idea of dating "a child"), so when she demands to massage his hand in order to relieve his migraine, he assumes she wants to be Holding Hands with him... but she actually just does what she promised. Later on, their deepening trust is demonstrated when he becomes more willing to submit to her massaging, and, to her credit, she never tries to turn it into anything sensual at any point, despite never quite giving up on her other romantic advances towards him.
- In Pulp Fiction, Jules and Vincent talk about how their boss, Marsellus Wallace, threw a guy named Antwan Rockamora off a balcony for giving his wife Mia Wallace a foot massage. Jules believes that Marsellus was a bit overzealous in how he handled the situation, arguing that foot massages don't mean shit but Vincent, who "has given a million ladies a million foot massages", argues that every one he gave meant something to both the guy and girl involved, that Marsellus knew full well the implications of such a thing, and that "Antwan should have fuckin' better known better".
- Played for Laughs in Tango and Cash. Cash is given shelter by Katherine, Tango's sister (whom Cash believes is actually his girlfriend). She gives him a friendly massage to help fix his back, injured in their prison escape, and he makes a point of not letting it get too friendly even though he gets a crush on her. Unfortunately, Tango quietly enters as they enthusiastically slip a disc back into place, and is dismayed to think they're having sex (to his credit, he doesn't immediately interrupt to beat the shit out of Cash).
- Alien: Resurrection. Sabra is shown moaning with pleasure—apparently having sex, but as the camera pans back we see it's actually her boyfriend Elgyn massaging her feet.
- In the trilogy A Legacy of Light, Pharaoh Tutankhamun deeply appreciates his valet Semerkhet's skills as a massage therapist. Wistfully remembering times past when he had looked after his own younger brother, Semerkhet is sincerely glad to be able to bring his friend comfort, and, at times, help him fall asleep at all. As the trilogy progresses, Tut's sister Queen Ankhesenamun often rubs his back to help him sleep.
- One episode of Any Day Now has M.E., on the advice of her big brother Johnny, giving Collier a foot massage. After learning that it was a hoax, however, she then pinches one of his toes in response.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a variation in the Dream Episode "Restless". One dream sequence shows Tara lying nude in bed with her back exposed and covered by a blanket folded into a classic massage position. Willow leans over her, apparently giving her a rubdown, until we see she's actually painting a Sapphic love poem in runes on Tara's back. Since they've already begun falling for each other, it evokes this trope.
- Family Matters: After Urkel strained himself while trying out for the basketball team, Laura gives him one as he then happily moans and contorts in reaction. Laura then scolds him not to make the noises, so he stops, but continues to silently mime the moans while still contorting, much to her annoyance.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- An episode has Phil giving Vivian a foot massage as they sit on the couch and hum "Let's Get it On".
- "Grumpy Young Men" has Will trying to invoke this while on a double date with Carlton. Unfortunately, he picks up on the signal much quicker than his date does, to his chagrin.
- Friends: During their Secret Relationship, Chandler and Monica are seen spending an evening taking turns giving each other massages. Chandler appears to do a pretty good job for Monica but sneakily winds the timer forward so he can get his turn. He quickly regrets it as Monica turns out to be a terrible masseuse.
- In the Full House episode "Shape Up", right before the family sits down for dinner, Jesse is seen giving Becky a romantic foot massage in the background as she sits on a countertop.
- A subversion happens in The Golden Girls episode "Dateline: Miami" where Rose talks about a bad date she had with a man grieving his dead wife who then lures her into giving one of these. He tried to let it mutate into a different kind of massage to which she angrily refused and is immediately thrown out after it's revealed that the wife wasn't dead, just at a fat farm in Sarasota.
- House of Anubis: Downplayed in one episode, and as part of some ongoing Belligerent Sexual Tension. When setting up for the Masquerade Ball, Eddie intentionally drops Patricia, causing her to hurt her hand. When she complains about it before the party, Eddie massages her hand to try and make it feel better, which she admits does actually help. This helps to warm Patricia up to him for the rest of the party, but it unfortunately sours again by the next day.
- An episode of Hunter has McCall, who had just recovered from having a bullet removed from her neck after being shot on the job, giving her partner Hunter a massage.
- In the pilot episode of The Nanny, C.C. Babcock is shown trying to win over Maxwell Sheffield's affections by giving a shoulder massage, leading to this exchange between Niles and her:
Niles: I see you're busy as always, Miss Babcock.C.C.: Theatre has always been a passion of mine.
- In the Little House on the Prairie Episode "Founder's Day," both Pa Ingalls and Mr. Tyler work themselves to the point of total exhaustion in a competitive session of crosscut-sawing, and after going home, both need their wives to rub liniment on their backs.
- A Picket Fences episode has the murder investigation of a local masseuse who dealt out these and Happy Ending Massages with Jimmy becoming upset that both Jill and Kimberly patronized him (although they were harmless back and foot massages, respectively, and the former woman explained that part of the reason why he was so successful and well-liked by the women in town was that he also listened to their problems whereas their husbands didn't). At the end of the episode, intercut with scenes of the man's funeral, Jimmy gives Jill a tender body massage.
- Saved by the Bell:
- At one point in the "Palm Springs Weekend" two-parter, Kelly gives Zack a shoulder massage after he strained his muscles trying to impress an aerobics instructor who happened to be Jessie's future stepmother.
- "Love Machine" has Slater's former girlfriend Jennifer giving him a platonic massage hours after Jessie put him in a headlock out of believing he still had feelings for her.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Shore Leave", Kirk (who's been very stressed and is refusing to admit it) complains of a backache, and one of the lieutenants moves to alleviate it. Spock is standing behind Kirk at the time and Kirk asks him to push harder, implying that the Vulcan has been known to take a hand in alleviating the captain's aches and pains in this manner. Canonically, this is a platonic example, though shippers will of course have their own ideas.
- In the Spike miniseries Tut, after the wounded Tutankhamun, disguised as an anonymous soldier, has been transported to safety by Suhad, she compassionately gives him a back and shoulder massage to comfort him as he begins to recover.
- Titans (2018). In Season 3, Hawk is implanted with a bomb activated by his heartbeat. When he gets (understandably) aggravated causing his heart rate to speed up, Dove gives him a carotid massage to slow it down again.
- The Sims 3: Sims with a strong romantic connection (in at least the "very alluring" stage) can offer each other massages.
- Princess Evangile: In Marika's fandisc route, one of the many requests that Masaya asks the Student Council President to do for him is to have her massage his back in his room. This massage, along with a few other requests that include her serving him homemade bentos and even giving him a bath and washing his back, are what eventually lead to them dating one another.
- Batman: The Animated Series: Poison Ivy gives a seductive variant of this to Batman in "Pretty Poison".
- One Family Guy Cutaway Gag has Darth Vader's wife giving him a massage after a hard day's work.
- Subverted in the The Simpsons episode "Black Widower": whereas Selma believes that her newlywed husband Sideshow Bob is giving her one by rubbing her feet while on their honeymoon, he's really just biding his time before killing her to get her life insurance. He even threatens her underneath his breath which he passes off as sweet nothings uttered in different languages.