Teaching Chinese women how to have orgasm is an awkward business

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/18 19:03:39

Along with the growing economic freedom of Chinese women and rising individualism, a company dedicated to improving women's sexual fulfillment has gained an increasing number of fans. But due to many women's reluctance to discuss sex and society's conservatism, these sexual pioneers are finding it hard to break the taboo around talking about sex.

Sam, founder of Yummy, looks at a clock in her office in Beijing's Chaoyang district. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Sam, founder of Yummy, looks at a clock in her office in Beijing's Chaoyang district. Photo: Li Hao/GT

"Do you know what is this used for? A necklace? No. It's actually a sex toy that can be worn as a decoration," said Qing Yue (pseudonym), while pulling out a silver chain with two trapezoid-shaped pendants attached to both ends of it.

She went on, explaining to the audience watching her live streaming feed that the "necklace" is actually designed to act as a vibrator for women's nipples.

There were more than 1,000 people watching her show, which acquainted the audience with all the innovative sex toys on offer that can help women explore their sexuality.

By day, the 32-year-old is a radiologist at a children's hospital in Beijing, but after dark Qing transforms into a sex expert, adult toy reviewer and broadcaster.

"Evaluating sex toys and teaching women about sex is no different from being a doctor. It also needs scientific observation and for me, it's a quiet thing," she told the Global Times.

Qing once had a boyfriend. Although she felt a strong attraction to, and a strong affection for, him, she was unable to orgasm in bed. She then decided to master the mysteries of the female orgasm on her own.

"Sexual pleasure is an important thing for women. But now many women neglect it," she said. "I want to help women better satisfy their own sexual needs."

Qing is not alone in her quest to help Chinese women find better sexual satisfaction. She and a handful of other sex experts run Yummy, the first company in China dedicated to women's sexual needs. Yummy has its own app and also publishes articles and videos on social media platforms including WeChat and Sina Weibo.

"We want to create a community exclusively for women in which we can talk about sex at length and even recommend toys to each other," Qing explained.

But breaking the taboo around women's sexuality isn't straightforward. Overcoming women's reluctance to discuss sex and society's conservatism has been no easy task.

Sex toys sold by Yummy are on display in their office. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Sex toys sold by Yummy are on display in their office. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Let's talk about sex

Sam is the founder of Yummy. The 30-something has always been a fighter for women's rights.

Before Yummy, she set up Les+, a lesbian magazine, in 2005 which advocated for lesbian civil rights. Several years later she left the magazine and pursued a master's degree in the US.

For her graduation thesis, she chose to evaluate sex toys in the US. That inspired her to found Yummy upon her return to her homeland.

In March 2015, Sam returned to China and officially set up the company in May that year. For her, the motivation to create Yummy was similar to what drove her to found Les+.

"The magazine aims to erase the stigma in regards to women's sexuality. Yummy tries to remove the stigma about women and sex," she explained, adding that regardless of their orientation, all Chinese women are facing similar dilemmas when it comes to expressing and exploring their sexuality.

Before creating the app, Sam opened a WeChat public account in 2014 where she shared women's personal stories as well as articles on women and sex. The account received lots of positive feedback among users, which reinforced her confidence about Yummy.

For Sam, on the surface Yummy has little relation with feminism. "Feminism is a non-mainstream word and it's also a stained word in China," she told the Global Times.

In her eyes, Yummy is more related to the growing consumption power of women and society's rising individualism.

Each year about 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) is spent on sex toys on China's e-commerce websites. About half of the money is spent by women. "These women recognize their sexual desire," she said. "Also, as more and more Chinese women gain economic independence, they are paying more attention to their own needs."

Women born in the 1980s and 1990s have been influenced by the message of individualism contained in popular Western TV shows and they are more willing to express their own needs. "But there was no exclusive platform for them to find out about good sex products and address their sexual demands. So we created one," she said.

Yummy sells both domestically-made and imported sex toys, ranging from vibrators to whips  and restraints for those looking to trying sadomasochism. Many of the toys Sam introduces to her customers come in bright pastel colors and look quite cute, so as to ensure that customers unfamiliar with this topic are not made uncomfortable.

But the price of sexual exploration isn't cheap. Their best-selling pink rabbit-shaped vibrator costs 299 yuan.

In the Yummy community, the core value is to improve women's sexual pleasure and the only thing that matters is women's sexual needs.

In a discussion about the most commonly used condom brands, sex expert Meagloria's most important question was "How do women feel about them?"

While condoms are usually seen as something only men need to think about, Meagloria tried to tell women how they impact their sexual fulfillment.

She rated those condoms based on five aspects: thickness, attachment, safety, moisturizing and convenience.

Her most astonishing finding was that the ribbed condoms advertised by manufacturers as being more pleasurable for women actually bring nothing special to the bedroom. She described one brand's ribbed condoms as "like putting on a glove."

One user agreed with Meagloria and shared her experience that "all ribbed condoms can go to hell."

Equipment for sadomasochism are on display in Yummy's office. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Equipment for sadomasochism are on display in Yummy's office. Photo: Li Hao/GT

No-man zone

On Yummy, only women are entitled to speak. Men can download the app but they are limited to only viewing the content. Any kind of male involvement in the discussions is forbidden.

"I wanted to create a space only for women. If men come in, some may very possibly leave messages looking for hookups. Then everything will go sour," said Sam. If a man is found joining a conversation, he is immediately kicked out.

There are 300,000 users of the Yummy app. The Wechat account has is 100,000 and there are more than 10,000 followers on Weibo.

Most of the users are aged between 18 and 35. Some 45 percent come from China's first-tier cities and about 15 to 20 percent are in the second- and third-tier cities. 35 percent are college students.

According to Sam, people need an invitation code from either existing users or the company to register.

When you are registering with Yummy, a window will appear on your cellphone which requires you to take a selfie. The Yummy workers at the back end will take a look to check your gender, she said. 

Previously, the process was even more complicated. Users had to upload a photo of themselves posing with their ID card for inspection.

Besides their efforts to keep men away, the other obstacle that Yummy faces is online censorship.

"Due to the content of our articles, sometimes they are reported by users and sometimes they can't get past WeChat's inspection," she said.

According to Sam, content which includes direct descriptions of sex organs and the details of sex have been deleted.

Qing said that in the very beginning, shows about sex toys would be blocked by some live streaming apps but now things are getting better.

"The process is about learning to walk within the 'red line,'" she said, adding that recently, WeChat has imposed a more restrictive inspection process on their content.

"This inconvenience of other platforms was an important incentive for me to create our own app," she said.


Mind the gap

Sexologist Li Yinhe said in an interview with Yummy that Chinese women's sexual pleasure has improved compared with decades ago. But they still lag behind Western women.

She noted that in Western countries, women who say they haven't experienced a single orgasm in their whole life make up less than 10 percent of the population but in China the figure is likely higher.

According to Li, a lack of knowledge about sex and more importantly, the anti-sex atmosphere of society as well as the double standards in regard to  gender and sex deprive Chinese women of the chance to enjoy sex.

"There is a double standard in China ... Men can openly say that they love sex and making love. But women who say such things will be criticized," Li said. "Because of this, women are unwilling to learn about sex, which leads to the lack of relevant knowledge."

Qing still remembers when she was invited to a discussion panel along with Sam for the users of an app which records women's periods.

The top question on the list was related to a woman's story, in which she said doesn't want premarital sex but her boyfriend wants it. Unable to reject her boyfriend, she only let him put the tip of his penis into her vagina. She asked "Am I still a virgin?"

To the question, there were different kinds of answers, some saying she is; some saying she isn't; some pointing out that premarital sex isn't a big deal but some harshly criticized her for "losing face."

"Can you image that? I'm dreaming of a world where women are free to speak out about their sexual desires but the reality is they're still worrying about their virginity," Qing said.

Sam pointed out to the Global Times that the "sexual revolution" in China more refers to increasing sexual activity among young people, but this doesn't mean that people's knowledge about sex is increasing too.

"Many people have sex for the first time without any sexual knowledge. This is a problem," she said.

According to Qing, the questions she is most frequently asked are "Am I still a virgin?" "My husband has no interest in having sex with me, how can I deal with that?" "I want to give birth to a baby boy. When should I have sex to reach this goal?"

When facing these questions, she said she sometimes feels "low" about what she does. "What I'm doing now is more about educating women on very basic sex knowledge," she said.

The company holds regular classes to help women learn techniques to maximize their sexual fulfillment, from successfully achieving orgasm to trying sadomasochism safely.

But she is optimistic about the future. "I'm lowering my ambitions … It takes time. As more and more businesses begin to tap into the female sex market, it will bring fundamental changes to people's conceptions eventually," she noted.

Newspaper headline: Lust liberation

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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