No touching, no indecency, no nudity

SEX is a learned act.

That's right, said Dr Martha Lee, who is believed to be Singapore's first female sexologist. Otherwise, how does one explain the couples who seek her advice in their uncertainty of how to consummate their marriage?

She said women have to first get comfortable with their own sexuality. The problem now is that some women here are simply too shy.

Dr Lee is not a fertility doctor but a clinical sexologist who provides sexuality and intimacy coaching. Think of her this way, it's like turning to a friend for advice - the only difference is, she has a good knowledge of human sexuality.

That Dr Lee is a woman makes it easier for other women to share their dark bedroom secrets.

Dr Lee, 33, told The New Paper on Sunday: "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."

Dr Lee has a doctorate in human sexuality from the Institute of Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco and a certificate in sex therapy from the Florida Sex Therapy Institute.

Yet, the term "sexologist" still rings unfamiliar with many people and she often gets questions about the work she does from people she meets for the first time.

Dr Lee said a clinical sexologist helps people with their sexual concerns in a clinic or counselling setting - unlike the gynaecologists, urologists and general practitioners that those who struggle with sexual difficulties and concerns may commonly approach.

There is also self-styled sex guru Wei Siang Yu, better known by his nickname "Dr Love".

He recently launched an online sexuality education portal, which is aimed at providing young people with interactive online sex education in Singapore.

To be a board-certified sexologist, one has to complete between 300 and 500 hours of training in human sexuality.

Those who possess an academic degree such as a doctorate, like Dr Lee, would have completed between 3,000 and 5,000 hours. Ice-breaker

Dr Lee said: "Indeed, I have an interesting profession."

Shocking

Which can be a good ice-breaker at events and parties unless one meets the occasional shocked someone.

She said: "The person takes a look at my name card then walks away at once and completely ignores me. And it's usually a woman."

But such incidents rarely happen - perhaps in one out of every 100 introductions, conceded the founder of Eros Coaching, set up in June last year.

Married couples make up more than half of her clients. She sees an average of five clients a week. Dr Lee said: "There are the very desperate ones who have had a condition for a long time.

"Often too, these include those who have been married for 10 years and more. There is tremendous pressure on them (to either get the sex right or to procreate).

"They have struggled and found no solution, resentment has likely set in and their marriage could even be at risk."

Other clients include the ones planning to get married, friends who come to learn together and even mother-daughter pairs.

Dr Lee also conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events.

When she began her practice, she encountered a handful of clients who made offensive demands and kinky requests. This, despite her stating clearly that she conducts "no touch, no nudity sessions".

She said: "Some (male) clients tell me things like, 'I feel so comfortable with you, why can't we have sex?' or "How can you treat me if you don't touch me.'

"Well, just because I'm a sexologist does not mean I provide that kind of service."

Then, there are those who think "you can't be a sexologist if you don't have sex", she added. Said Dr Lee: "There really is more to sex than just the act (of penetration). This includes not having the same routine, and mind you, we're not talking about positions here.

"Other areas to explore include using food props, making love in different spots of the home, the ambience, right down to the clothes that you wear."

Most who call Dr Lee would have gone through her company's website and surfed through the pages. She said: "They come mentally prepared, knowing what to ask and what to expect."

The constant media exposure has also helped raise awareness of her profession, admitted Dr Lee, who made it to the list of "Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40" in the July issue of Her World.

The New Paper also ran a report on how vaginismus affected some marriages in May.

Vaginismus is an unusual condition in which the muscles around the vagina involuntarily tighten, making intercourse painful or impossible.

Dr Lee said: "Few had responded even though I'd started the treatment sessions early this year." Following the report in TNP, she received "some 30 over calls".

And with the Singapore government's call for couples to have more than one child, it is important for couples to rekindle the sexual spark.

She said: "It's a fact that many women lose interest in sex after they have babies, brought on by both physical and emotional changes."

Dr Lee feels it is necessary for "more accurate and positive sexual information and education". That way, "many sexual concerns would not take on a life of its own or seem bigger than they actually are".

She added: "Singaporeans can and ought to take ownership of their sexual pleasure, the same way they tackle the different areas of their life such as family and work.

"All are important."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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