This article is a continuation about some of the tribulations I face as Singapore’s first certified sexologist with a doctorate in human sexuality. You can read part 1 here.
By way of introduction, my work involves working with individuals or couples with sexual concerns, as well as promoting positive messages about sex and sexuality in the numerous talks and workshops I conduct. Essentially, I run a one-person coaching practice with limited outreach, and I do not possess a big marketing budget; so, when starting my practice I decided to make a concerted effort to contribute articles to various media outlets, where and when I am able to. Published articles give me publicity, enhance my credibility, and, more importantly, spread the much-needed messages about sex and sexuality I want to convey.
I do not feel I am a good writer and, in fact, writing does not come easily to me. My husband, who happens to be a professional editor, helps fine-tune the language used in my articles. What I am unable to communicate in words, I try to relay through my heart and passion for my work, and I have been told my writing is often effective. Imagine my surprise, then, when I was told by a parenting magazine in a one-sentence e-mail: “Just wanted to let you know, I had to change the part about oral sex as on consultation with a senior editor, I was advised that it’s not appropriate to talk about it in the magazine”.
Needless to say, I was not going to take this lying down: “Does your senior editor realise that oral sex is legal in Singapore for a few years now? I haven’t had any issues talking about oral sex with any publication…. Please speak with your senior editor again. If it cannot appear in entirety, my choice is to withdraw my article rather than have it edited”. (my edit)
I never received a reply, and I believe the article was subsequently published without my consent (which is why I will never work with them again). I was not being paid, and there was no respect of my rights as a contributor.
I have also met with problems trying to secure venue space for giving bigger workshops. In one particular case, I had already performed my due diligence of viewing the rooms, checking the organisation’s rules and regulations, and, knowing I was ready to make my booking, I had even brought my cheque book to pay any necessary deposit. Instead, upon my arrival at the venue, I was directed into the office of the centre manager (whom I happened to know personally).
I was puzzled when she had me sit down with her. Surely this was a routine procedure her staff could have handled? She began, “Martha, I wished your company name wasn’t Eros Coaching. I wished your job title wasn’t clinical sexologist. I wished your company said something along the lines of couples counselling or relationship coaching. Anything but…”
I was shocked beyond words. This was coming from a friend (I thought), a feminist, and someone I thought was enlightened. I sat there, numb – not believing what I was hearing, and what was even worse was the accusative manner in which she was speaking to me – as if I was some disreputable person off the street.
She repeated herself, using the exact same words as above, as I stared at her.
Finally, enough was enough. I gathered enough of my wits to respond in a firm tone, (even though what I actually wanted to do was shout at her), “(Her name), I am not going to apologise for my company name, or my job title, or what I do. I have helped enough people to know that I am good and professional at what I do. If this is about my company name, or my job title, or what I do, then I suggest you change the topic.”
I could see she was visibly startled. She explained that her hands were tied since she is accountable to her board and their building was on state land. Wasn’t this a decision her board, not her, should be making? I didn’t implore. There was no need. She wasn’t going to help by any means and she never will. We exchanged some pleasantries, and I left – I was shaken, and then, later, sad.
Later that night I recounted the episode to my husband, and he replied: “You know why she said that, right?”
“Why?” I asked.
“She wanted you to blame yourself for inconveniencing her… she wanted you to believe that somehow it was your fault for even making her make the decision.”
“But it really wasn’t her decision to make… she is supposed to consult with the board,” I wailed.
“I know. In a way, you should take it as a compliment. She was sufficiently threatened to think you could actually hurt her job.”
So, here I am, finding myself going this way and that, not knowing where to turn or go, at times. I continue to meet with people who say the darndest things about my work, and me. I take it all in stride. I soldier on because sex does matter, and someone has to make a stand.
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.