First published on The Online Citizen.
If there is one question I am asked almost every time I meet somebody new, it is this: “Why did you become a sexologist?”
Even complete strangers on Facebook find it is their business to pose one-liner questions along the lines of: “Is your job for real?”
Occasionally my polite replies would be followed by cheekier replies of: “Can I know you?”
Or I will receive lengthier ones trying to draw me into philosophical, theoretical or academic discussions related to sex and sexuality.
Indeed, I have an interesting profession.
This is my official answer, all of which is true:
“Personally, I was curious to learn more about sex because I did not receive any sexuality education growing up in Singapore. I missed out on biology completely because I was in the Arts stream. The compulsory annual school assemblies I attended through my secondary school career were on why women bled monthly and how we young ladies have to pay particular attention to personal hygiene.
I saw that there was a sore lack of trained sexuality educators in Singapore. Surely, there was more to understanding sex and sexuality than learning to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), making babies and getting your period? This was why I decided to pursue a Doctorate in Human Sexuality and am now a trained Clinical Sexologist.
The best thing about my job is seeing the glimmer of hope on the faces of clients, reigniting the sparkle of light in their eyes and of course, helping them overcome their sexual difficulties and, consequently, achieve a more fulfilling life.”
A slightly longer, more honest answer is: I had to.
I was tired of the lack of any real and meaningful conversations about sex and sexuality. If sex was this wonderful, beautiful and intimate act between two people in love, why is it always talked about so negatively? Nobody was acknowledging the importance of sex and sexuality to one’s sense of well-being, not to mention the role it plays in a relationship.
Prior to this, I had already worked in corporate communications for eight years – doing public relations, marketing and advertising. I left a comfortable career to start a non-profit helping young people in the area of career guidance. I did so because I was no longer satisfied with the status quo. I could no longer deny that I care about people more than money, and helping people was more important to me than climbing the corporate ladder. I broke out of my comfort zone and there was no turning back. And yes, it was scary.
After two years doing a combination of volunteer recruitment and management, fundraising and everything in between, I realised my heart was with working with people directly. To ‘help’ from a distance was safe for me and I knew it. I had to put myself on the line.
I had been doing volunteer counselling work for three years by then, and realised that there was a jarring gap in the dialogues revolving around sexuality in Singapore. I knew as a professional sexologist, I would have the unique expertise that would allow me to contribute to the well-being of men and women – including helping them develop an understanding of their sexuality and better express themselves through sex and intimacy.
I also knew in my heart of hearts that I could make a difference, but I had to get the training. And I did.
For most of my life (even whilst in the corporate world), I have been told: (audible gasp first) “You are a woman. You shouldn’t be talking like that.”
I know! Whatever does that mean? And who defines what a woman should say or do?
As a woman, am I supposed to be one (or several?) step behind men (or all men?). And the ones who say so are invariably men – including my bosses. And why shouldn’t I speak up? Don’t I have a say if something affects me directly? I wasn’t trying to be a man. I was being me.
Now, I am grateful for what seems like the instant rapport and comfort women have when they communicate with me – women who would otherwise not seek my support if I weren’t a woman.
Sex is not everything. But sex is important.
I became a Clinical Sexologist because I had to.
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sex educational workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.