Some people grew up loving fashion, cars or cooking — I had an affinity for sex.
Let’s talk about sex, baby.
You heard me. Let’s talk about sex, and let’s talk about it like adults. Does that make you uncomfortable? Why, all the more reason to read on. You know what they say,
life sex begins at the end of your comfort zone.
To be honest, sex has been on our minds a lot lately, thanks to a few good articles we have been reading on goop and even Rookie. They made us wonder: How is it that we haven’t already jumped into bed, so to speak, with people who know sex? Not the act of intercourse, but conversations about “the human sexual experience and its connection to culture, psychology, wellness, relationships”… and to ourselves.
Shortly after this discussion came up at the WoW office, a conspiracy occured. The universe sent us Erin Chen. Like an arrow from Cupid’s bow, an email whooshed into our mailbox a few weeks ago.
The subject read: “SPARK Fest 2018: Asia’s 1st Sexual Wellness Festival”
The preview, albeit truncated, teased sufficiently: “Dear Wear Oh Where, It’s time for sex, pleasure and…”
Say no more. We clicked on the email. And eeeverything else clicked into place. Fast forward to the day we met with the sexual wellness advocate and founder of SPARK Fest Asia for this interview and photo shoot. The 33-year-old turned up in a simple ensemble — grey T-shirt and jeans with a black blazer, accessorised only with a lovely smile and a pendant necklace that rests nonchalantly on her baby bump. “It’s a vibrator,” she says, smiling like she knew the reactions that were coming. Eyebrows were raised. Jaws dropped. Giggles.
“OMG, that’s so cool,” we say in a jejune chorus.
Growing up, when everyone else was into fashion and cars, Erin was fascinated with the topic of sex instead. “I was that friend who would share every new fact that I came across about sex with friends. I was that friend with whom friends felt safe confiding in when it came to talking about sex,” she says. We couldn’t help but notice the “toy” in her hands. “It’s a vulva puppet.” The next thing we knew, she was educating us, showing us where the erogenous zones are, where the “elusive” G-spot is.
So much we don’t know. So much to talk about. So many questions. Without further ado, let’s get started. Let’s talk about sex with Erin Chen.
Sex is related to our overall wellness, how we feel in our skin, the quality of our relationships, how connected we are with our sexuality — it is related to our emotional, physical and relational wellbeing.
How did you become a sexual wellness advocate? When did you realise that this is a topic you’re passionate about?
Erin: I’ve always been a sex geek at heart. Some people grew up loving fashion, cars or cooking — I had an affinity for sex. Not the act of sex, but a curiosity about the human sexual experience and its connection to culture, psychology, wellness, relationships, etc. I was that friend who’d share every new fact that I came across about sex with friends. Friends felt safe confiding in me when it came to talking about sex. Although I’ve always known this was something that I was passionate about, what inspired me to take action was a company called Blue Bella (which has since pivoted to become a lingerie company). At the time, it was a home-party company that conducted workshops for women where they could also purchase pleasure products. What inspired me was the woman who started it — she was Oxford educated, and the company also had a social mission to educate and develop young women. It was the first time I saw that it was possible to do something different in this industry. And I realised how much room there was to do things better and differently in this space.
In your opinion, why is it important to have and talk about sex?
Erin: First, I want to emphasise that sex isn’t just intercourse or masturbation. We often automatically think about sex that way because that is the usual way it is portrayed around us. Sex is related to our overall wellness, how we feel in our skin, the quality of our relationships, how connected we are with our sexuality — it is related to our emotional, physical and relational wellbeing. So, in that context, it is important to be able to talk about sex because it is an integral part of being human. This doesn’t mean that you HAVE to talk about sex. It means being comfortable with the topic such that you are able to express yourself in this area. Paying attention to our sexual wellness also doesn’t mean that we MUST have sex. Not everyone feels sexual — some people are asexual (meaning, they may have romantic feelings or inclinations, but they don’t feel sexual desire). It’s not so much that it is important for people to have sex, rather, for people to understand what sexual wellness is and what they can do to maintain this part of their life in a way that contributes to their overall happiness and health.
Can a relationship be healthy without sex, or without good sex?
Erin: Yes, relationships can be healthy without sex. Every relationship is different, and sex looks different for every couple and also through different life stages. It really comes down to the people in that relationship: Their needs, expectations and working through that when it comes to sex.
As for what “good” sex is — again, that depends on the relationship. I’ve noticed that there is this societal pressure to have amazing sex, all the time. These expectations and portrayals of how sex should be often comes from the media and porn. There is a concept called “good enough” sex that was introduced by Barry McCarthy, where less emphasis is put on having amazing, perfect sex all the time but rather, the fluid experience of sex. In that context, sometimes a relationship can actually be healthier without the pressure of needing to have good sex all the
time. When that pressure is removed, more energy can be spent on creating an enjoyable experience for both.
If yes, what are the first things a couple should do to rectify the situation?
Erin: Stop trying to have perfect sex 🙂
What are the top five sex mistakes from what you know? 🙅🏻🙅🏻♂️
Erin: 1. Expecting that real life sex is like what you see in porn.
2. Expecting your and your partner’s sexual desires, needs, abilities and preferences to remain constant throughout your life.
3. Faking an orgasm.
4. Assuming that a man always wants sex and that women’s sex drives are naturally lower.
5. Waiting for that spontaneous sexual desire to appear or “come back”.
IT WILL TAKE SOME TRIAL AND ERROR — HAVE FUN WITH IT!
What is the one sex myth you’d like to debunk?
Erin: Myth: If you are not feeling sexual regularly, something is wrong with you. It might be the pop culture that we grew up with, but I often get questions from men and women asking how to get the “spark” back. They feel panic because they think they should be having more sex. What we don’t learn or hear about is that it is normal for our sexual drive to ebb and flow. The myth that follows then is the expectation for that “horniness” to return spontaneously — aka “the spark”.
What we don’t learn or hear is that most of the time sexual desire is responsive — meaning, the desire manifests in response to something. That something might be a sensation that you physically feel, or something in your environment that triggers a feeling or memory, or it could be something visual… It really depends on you. What this means is that we have some degree of control and ability to cultivate sexual desire within ourselves and within our relationship. So next time, instead of waiting to feel sexual, try doing an action that makes you feel relaxed or sensual. Or, try focusing your thoughts on a fantasy that you like. Stay with it and see what comes next. It will take some trial and error — have fun with it! You can even involve your partner in this discovery.
Get naked, grab a hand mirror and have a look! You might learn something new about how you feel about your sexuality or how connected you are.
Masturbation: Should women do it or no?
Erin: When it comes to sex, there isn’t a particular sexual act, like masturbation, that all women or all men must do. While there are definitely health benefits to masturbation such as improving circulation and maintaining vagina health, I don’t think it is healthy to be prescriptive about how people should or should not masturbate.
That said, I do invite women to become familiar with their own bodies. There are many women who have never or rarely have looked at their own vulvas. If you haven’t looked at your vulva in a while, I invite you to get naked, grab a hand mirror and have a look! No need to masturbate if you don’t feel like it. Just look and pay attention to the thoughts that come up and how you feel. You might learn something new about how you feel about your sexuality or how connected you are.
What are a few gender stereotypes you’ve observed? How can we start changing mindsets and conversations?
Erin: A common stereotype I’ve come across is the perception that men
are always horny and ready for sex. This ties in with the general pressure that men feel to be able to perform sexually. Stereotypes are unavoidable, and the first step to having open conversations, to breaking these stereotypes, is to first reflect on the stereotypes that we hold.
One exercise that opened my eyes to just how prevalent gender stereotypes are was to examine my own. This is a simple exercise that you can try. Over a week, write down instances where you see or hear or experience a gender stereotype and spend a bit of time to journal your observation, your reactions and any reflections you have towards these instances.
I suggest letting the people around you know that you are doing this exercise. More often than not, the people who know that you are doing this exercise will start to point out your own gender stereotypes. It’s a fun process to go through when you realise the kind of stereotypes you also hold. Start to change mindsets by first challenging yourself to change your own!
PHOTOGRAPHY // KARMAN TSE
LOCATION // THE HIVE LAVENDER
Spark Fest, Asia’s first sexual wellness festival, takes place on May 19 (this Saturday) at The Hive, Lavender. Have you got your ticket?
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