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Relationships: Sexual pioneers on the march

By Yang Wanli | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-31 09:08

Relationships: Sexual pioneers on the march

More people willing to seek advise on enhancing their sex lives, Yang Wanli reports in Beijing.

Relationships: Sexual pioneers on the march

'They've all got little quirks, like cars. Some you've got to jiggle the key in the ignition. Some ride hot. Some need a jump-start. But they've all got wheels. You just need to know which pedal to push."

Those lines are dialogue from the popular US TV drama Masters of Sex, the story of two 1960s pioneers of sexual therapy. However, in China - a country often seen by Westerners as sexually conservative or even intolerant of women's enjoyment of sex - the pioneers are only just getting into their stride and are stepping out to explore the secrets of sex and the pleasure they expect to gain from it, and all without shame.

"A client in her 40s came to me a few days ago. She asked why she can't attain orgasm every time she has sex, and then only in certain positions. Clients looking to improve their sex lives now account for 20 to 30 percent of my clients," said Ma Li, a psychosexual therapist in Shanghai.

Ma began offering part-time psychosexual consultations in 2004. Earlier this year, she opened her therapy center on a full-time basis while she is studying to obtain a license from the American College of Sex. Around 20 clients, mostly women, consult her every month.

"Many of the clients who turned to me 10 years ago believed themselves to be cranks. Some only felt sexually excited in public, while others had a fascination with certain parts of the body, such as the feet. That sort of thing is quite acceptable now, but it wasn't at that time. Almost all of those clients were men," she said.

Related: On the couch

People's attitudes to sex have changed in recent years, though. An increasing number of women are visiting Ma's clinic in downtown Shanghai to seek advice or therapy. They range from women in their 20s who want to know how to deal with their "first time", to long-married wives who are unable to achieve orgasm.

Last week, Ma was visited by a woman who had never experienced an orgasm during 30 years of marriage. The therapist explained a few "self-help" techniques and when the woman tried them she was able to achieve climax. "It was the first time she had ever experienced the feeling. She was laughing, but crying too. I felt a mixture of happiness and bitterness, but I was still pleased. At least, she decided to try. Better late than never, I suppose," she said.

High sex drive

On average, Chinese people have sex nine times a month, the highest frequency rate among nine countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the 2013 Asia-Pacific Sexual Behaviors and Satisfaction Survey published in May. Conducted by Kantar Health and commissioned by the pharmaceutical company Menarini, more than 3,500 men and women were surveyed across nine countries, including Australia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

The survey indicated that three in four people in the region desired sex more frequently and at 84 percent, the urge was higher among males than females, at 69 percent. However, the figure for Chinese women, 96 percent, was far higher than the regional averages for either men or women.

Statistics from Maple Women's Psychological Consulting Center in Beijing show that the number of calls asking for advice on sexual problems was 497 in the January to November period, a rise from the 299 calls the center received in 1996.

Na Lixin, director of the hotline department, said that most calls involve questions such as: "Why does my husband have affairs?" or "I've fallen in love with another man, what shall I do?"

"Many clients who approach me with those kinds of questions have poor sex lives with their spouses," said Ma. "To be frank, around 60 percent of Chinese couples who divorce blame the separation on 'character conflict', but what they really have is 'sexual conflict'."

Relationships: Sexual pioneers on the march

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Relationships: Sexual pioneers on the march

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