Let's talk about sex: More Singaporeans seek out sexual wellness coaching and workshops

Let's talk about sex: More Singaporeans seek out sexual wellness coaching and workshops

SINGAPORE – Growing up, Ms Foo Shi Min rarely talked to her friends about sex.

So when she got married five years ago, the project manager was too shy to ask for what she wanted in the bedroom. She waited for her husband to initiate intimacy and let him take the lead when it came to sexual positions – even if she sometimes wanted something different.

But all that changed when she started attending sexual wellness workshops in March conducted at wellness and meditation studio Space 2B.

During the workshops led by Space 2B founder, Mrs Christina Low-Nikolovski, Ms Foo learnt techniques such as somatic breath-work, which involves inhaling and exhaling deeply through the mouth. Practising this during intercourse made her feel more sensual, feminine and confident of her body.

She was also emboldened by Mrs Low-Nikolovski’s own anecdotes about telling ex-boyfriends to slow down and breathe when they got too excited in the bedroom.

“I became more daring about expressing myself and telling my husband what I like and what feels good, such as wanting him to go faster or the session to last longer,” says Ms Foo, 35, who attends the workshops about once a fortnight.

She usually goes alone, but has attended once with her husband, a 33-year-old financial consultant.

Ms Foo is among a generation of Singaporeans shedding the taboo of talking about sex and fuelling demand in the sexual wellness market, one that is growing globally too.

International market research firm Wise Guy Reports estimates that worldwide, the sexual wellness market – which includes adult toys and contraceptives – was worth US$39.42 billion (S$54.19 billion) in 2017 and is expected to reach US$122.96 billion by 2026.

More than just intercourse, sexual wellness refers to people’s physical, emotional and mental well-being in relation to sex, as well as the ability to express their sexuality and preferences.

There are no statistics for Singapore’s nascent sexual wellness industry, but those in the field say there is growing interest among locals.

Sex and relationship counsellor, Ms Erin Chen, who founded sexual wellness festival Spark Fest Asia in 2017, has seen attendance rise. She estimates that about 40 people attended each talk in the first year, compared to about 100 per talk in 2018.

Topics included demystifying female orgasms and how to talk to children about the concept of consent.

Mrs Low-Nikolovski, who also conducts private tantra coaching, has had more students asking about tantra workshops over the past year. Tantra, while usually linked to sex, also refers to harnessing one’s energy through breathing and meditation techniques.

“People are looking for ways to empower themselves, know their body better and awaken their sexual happiness.” She conducts one workshop per week, averaging from 12 to 16 students.

And online sex toy retailer Maison Mika, which launched in 2016, introduced sex toy parties last year where customers can ask questions about toys and accessories. The company conducts about one party per week, with groups of women forming about 80 per cent of their clientele.

Ms Trina Yeung, who founded the company, says: “There are many people who don’t understand how our products work just by seeing them online. So we created parties that had a more educational approach, where people could see and touch the products and learn more about them.”

She adds that people have become more curious and open minded about sex toys in the past two to three years.

In 2016, the company commissioned a survey of 300 sexually active individuals aged 21 to 55. Ninety-five per cent of respondents said they were interested in spicing up their sex life, while 59 per cent felt that their partner would be open to using sex toys.

Industry experts agree that a more liberal mindset and the mainstream use of dating apps have made talking about sex less taboo.

Intimacy coach, Dr Angela Tan, says that intimacy involves connecting with a partner on many levels. “It involves how close you are, how much you trust this person, how accepted and supported you feel. Beyond intercourse, this is actually what most people are looking for.”

That was the case for Mr H. See, 29, who sought intimacy coaching from Dr Tan with his former girlfriend to resolve relationship issues, including a lack of quality time together, frequent conflicts and a lacklustre sex life.

“I could sometimes feel that she was not really into (sex) and just going through the motions. It was a huge turn-off because sex for me is not just about engaging physically but emotionally as well,” he says, adding that he felt rejected whenever this happened.

Dr Tan helped him understand that his fear of rejection stemmed from an underlying need for security.

“I became more in control of that part of myself and could manage my emotions better,” says Mr See, an architectural assistant and trainer. He also learnt to better communicate his feelings with his then girlfriend.

While the couple recently called it quits, he has no regrets about their almost two-and-a-half-year relationship.

And it is not just couples who benefit from discussing sexual wellness.

Nadia (name changed to protect her identity), 34, grew up in a conservative Muslim family that discouraged her from interacting with boys, let alone talk about the birds and the bees. Her married friends, too, were coy about their sex lives.

Although the bachelorette intends to reserve physical intimacy for marriage, she was curious about what happens behind closed doors. “It is human nature to have sexual desires even if you are not married,” says Nadia, who works in the healthcare industry.

Monthly sessions with Dr Tan give her a safe space to ask questions, express desires and feel that she is not alone.

“It has been a journey for me to become comfortable with expressing my sexuality,” she says.

Ways to explore

1. Intimacy coach Dr Angela Tan conducts private coaching sessions, which start at $300 per hour.

She will be holding an upcoming workshop, called The Psychology of Fetishes and Kink, which takes place on May 22. The workshop costs $4 per person.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/angelatan.intimacycoach

2. Mrs Christina Low-Nikolovski, who founded wellness and meditation studio Space 2B, conducts and private coaching sessions and weekly sexual wellness workshops.

Workshop themes change monthly, with two on May 22 and 29 on tantra intimacy and touch. Tantra refers to harnessing one’s energy through breathing and meditation techniques.

Workshops start from $75 per person and private coaching sessions start from $250 per hour.

For more information, go to www.space2b.sg

3. Online sex shop Maison Mika holds sex toy parties for groups and couples, where customers purchase sex toys and accessories and learn how to incorporate them in the bedroom.

A 90-minute session starts from $200. For more information, go to www.maisonmika.com.sg

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