Straight talk with Singapore’s sex doctor

Elena Torrijos
SingaporeScene

Dr Martha Lee broke ground in Singapore a few years ago when she started offering sexuality and intimacy coaching. (Photo courtesy of Martha Lee)

By Deborah Choo

Beautiful, confident, outspoken. Those who know Dr. Martha Lee or have come across her name would know that she is Singapore's only certified clinical sexologist and sexuality educator.

Lee created a sensation in Singapore when she founded Eros Coaching in 2009 and started offering sexuality and intimacy consultancy.

Often cited in the media, she is the appointed sex expert for Men's Health magazine both in Singapore and Malaysia, and for Durex Singapore's Facebook page. Also a writer with local website publichouse.sg, she was most recently voted in March 2011 as among the "Top 100 Inspiring Women" by CozyCot, an online women's site in Asia.

But perhaps what most do not know is that Eros Coaching is not Lee's first entrepreneurship venture.

Prior to this in 2005, Lee founded Youth Employment (Singapore), a youth-initiated non-profit society aimed at establishing itself as a focal resource point for youths in employment. She spent three years for this project — two of which she ran the organisation full-time, from working on administrative matters, recruiting volunteers, and even organising fundraisers.

The initiative came after she quit her job as a corporate communications executive. She entered the industry upon graduation from Monash University, Australia with a communications degree.

"Leaving the corporate world after eight years for a non-profit was a scary step as my future, including my source of income, was uncertain. And having done that, it made me realise that there are many different models of lifestyle which may work better for different people," Lee says.

Running YES proved to be challenging and draining. She honed her counseling skills during that period, but she wanted her own company. So she left to pursue a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in the United States. Immediately after graduation, Eros Coaching was born.

Her career change from an executive to a full-time counselor may seem worlds apart, but Lee argues otherwise. The similarity in both jobs, she says, is being able to render help which is something that brings her the most satisfaction. The only difference is the target audience.

While she enjoyed her previous job, the politics proved to be too much. "I just wanted to do the job without the drama. My own practice, I decided, would be lean, flexible, and focused on operating effectively," she says.

The title "clinical sexologist" alone does raise some eyebrows in Singapore's relatively conservative society, but only because most are unfamiliar with this field. A common question she receives is whether her family approved of her pursuing this field. To this, she replies tirelessly that is was never an issue.

"I don't think my parents or siblings understood what my studies or work would include. They didn't ask and I didn't share. My attitude has always been that it is my life and I lead it the way I feel is best for me."

Capitalising on the Internet and writing articles for various publications and online sites from time to time to educate Singaporeans on sexual issues in general, her business venture has done well in a relatively short time.

Her firm offers services ranging from sexuality and life coaching, to workshops on sexual techniques such as mastering the art of hand jobs or blow jobs, to accompanied visits to a sex shop for fun, educational tours.

Of course, with the Internet nowadays, learning about sex -- from reading articles, or watching videos -- is not difficult. But if you are looking to learn the most in the shortest time, or even further your sexual knowledge with some hands-on workshops, then Eros Coaching may be your answer.

Lee may seem vocal when you read her articles. But one thing you can be assured of, she is extremely protective and tight lipped not only of her own privacy but also of her clients'. Right from the beginning upon accepting the interview, Lee was quick to lay down the ground rules: No to any talks about sex with her husband, and no to any information concerning her clients.

Not only that, she does not discriminate. A statement she intentionally included on her website caught my eye. It stated that she welcomes "individuals as well as couples of all sexual orientations".

When queried about her take on the local government's repeated refusal to legalise homogenous marriages, she unapologetically questioned the stance of the ruling party.

"We all want the freedom to lead our lives without fear of repercussion. It is our right as human beings. But the ruling party doesn't want to lose voters. It's simply politics. It doesn't make it right in my eyes," she said readily.

In her line of work, just like everybody else's, Lee reveals that while there are bad days, but she is not giving up on her calling. Sharing her life motto based on a quote from one of her role models, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lee says, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."