This article first appeared on PublicHouse.sg, where I have a weekly column.
When I started my practice, Eros Coaching, I was told unreservedly by many well-meaning people, often complete strangers, not to do so. Will I have enough business? Are Singaporeans going to come forward? “We are too shy!”, they exclaimed. “Why didn’t you stay in the United States and practice there? Surely, you don’t want to waste your time with this lot.”
As Singapore’s only clinical sexologist with a doctorate in human sexuality, I work solely with individuals or couples with sexual concerns, as well as promote positive messages about sex and sexuality in the numerous talks and workshops I conduct. We all want to lead happy and fulfilling life – why eliminate the sexual aspect? Sex can be pleasurable, fun, and it certainly deserves meaningful discussions.
I would be lying if I said that my resolve never wavered as I encountered these naysayers again and again. What was more distressing was to be mistaken as a masseur who gives a happy ending, or a thinly-disguised escort. And then, there are also the nuisance callers. Ah, a sexologist, who thinks, breathes and talks about sex all the time, she must be horny – and ever-ready for sex with all kinds of people?
Sure, I had my moments of doubt, but I knew the work I was doing was too important not to continue. I was working with people – effecting lives and transforming relationships. My focus has always been on the people coming in through my doors.
Two years on, I am still here. Most of my clients find me on the internet. Others learn about me through the numerous articles and quotes I contribute to the media. And now, people are beginning to remember and learn about my work through their doctors, family members or friends.
A few months ago, I decided to support a small local community portal which also has its own quarterly print edition. For S$500, my company would be acknowledged as a partner on their website for a year, as well as featured in one of their print editions. While this is a good chunk of money for a small practice like mine, I liked the work they did and decided to go for it.
I was shocked beyond words when I was told that all mention of sexuality has been removed from my company profile. Instead of “Eros Coaching is a sexuality and intimacy coaching company which believes in the innate solutions we each already hold in achieving and enjoying a fulfilling, healthy and pleasurable life”, it would read “Eros Coaching is an intimacy coaching company ….”
Their reason was: “As XXX is read by students from age ten and above, we have to modify your profile page. We removed sexuality totally and the mention of Good Vibrations Magazine (which a portal I contribute articles towards) as the blog is too graphics (sic). Please let me know whether you are agreeable with the changes.”
So I challenged: “Please tell me you are joking. Are you saying I should deny that sexuality IS what I do and misrepresent myself so you will feel more comfortable? You should know that I am fully-qualified, certified and also highly regarded in this field of sexology within Singapore. Is it the stance of XXX that sexuality is something that those above ten should not be thinking of or discussing? Or worse, are you implying that your young readers will be ‘damaged’ if they are exposed to anything sexual? It is impossible for me to approve this revised copy.”
I was given a refund. Certainly, this particular portal reserves the right to accept or reject advertisers. Yet, their policies were not stated and they have shown themselves not to be the enlightened folks that I had originally perceived. It was on days such as these that I asked myself what the $%^& I was doing – why bother?
The people who are coming to see me have often struggled with their sexual issues for years, often stemming from the lack of any sexual education while they were growing up, as well as inadequate (or simply inaccurate) sexual information and knowledge. It is alternative publications such as XXX that could further the cause of positive sexuality, but instead bring us two steps back into the stone ages. My work feels like an uphill battle, against who and what, sometimes I don’t even know. I feel like a lone warrior – soldiering on.
Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexologist with American College of Sexologists with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com.