Sex in Singapore: Sexual wellness is not about porn and dodgy sex toy stores

Niki Bruce
·Contributor
·7-min read
Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu
Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu

Sexual wellness products are a part of a growing market that's expected to expand by 8% in the next five years. The added impetus of lockdown orders and COVID-19 restrictions have only speeded up the demand, and now there is an elegant, anonymous way to shop these products online.

ZaZaZu, described as the "first personalised e-commerce ecosystem that aims to redefine sexual wellness", has just launched in Singapore. Traditionally it has been difficult for many people in Asia to discuss sex, sexual health and sexual wellness openly, with a survey by The Women's Weekly in 2019, finding that "only 20% of respondents [Singapore women] were happy with their sex lives, and only 15.6% of respondents have tried introducing sex toys in the bedroom".

Being able to buy sexual wellness products online is common globally, but in Southeast Asia, most of these types of items are generally still sold in bricks' n' mortar stores - which add to the anxiety and embarrassment of many people, particularly women, who could benefit from improved sex lives.

The continued taboos about sex, particularly about women being sexually active, is why Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu, decided to launch the new website.

"My passion and calling has always been to build a business that helps women to establish intrinsic confidence," explains Liu, 36.

"In China, where I grew up, sexual education is close to zero. Back in the 90s, there was nowhere to 'Google' or to ask sex-related questions. I grew up [with a] deep insecurity about the mystery of sex.

"I went to Germany when I was 16 and was fortunate to experience how school and society openly approached sex-related topics [with] young adults. In my twenties, as I gained more security in my sexuality, I [also] gained the confidence to study and work in male-dominated industries."

What is Sexual Wellness?

Far from being prurient or aimed only at creating a commercial success, Liu designed ZaZaZu to have a more wellness-based focus as a platform to help educate women about sex, in general, and about their own sexual health and enjoyment in particular.

"More than just an e-commerce store, ZaZaZu aims to normalise sexual wellness for women, empowering them to own their pleasure and increase their capacity for sexual intimacy," states the brand's manifesto.

"With the conviction of building a positive-impact business, I moved to Singapore to pursue an EMBA at INSEAD in 2018," says Liu.

"After one and a half years, I realised I did not want to build a business providing career advice and meditation workshops for women's empowerment. Suppose women are comfortable with their sexuality and build confidence from within. In that case, there is little need to practice power poses in presentation pitches or harness the power of attraction to tell the universe what you want.

"Sexuality informs identity: When you are secure in your identity, that builds innate confidence, and confidence is what empowers women to ask for a salary raise, stop doubting [theirselves], pursue a male-dominated career and ultimately go out to change the world," Lui explains.

Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu
Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu

Sexual wellness is not just about sex toys

Just about everyone will agree that great sex is an important part of being human and having a successful relationship with your partner and yourself. However promoting anything connected to sex - whether medical or general wellbeing - continues to come up against preexisting taboos, and sometimes darker parts of human behaviour.

For Liu, working out how to promote and market the ZaZaZu concept in a way that not only reached the right customers, but also one that wouldn't get slammed with automated censorship has been problematic.

"The biggest business hurdle is to promote sexual wellness on major digital marketing channels legitimately and platforms including Google, Facebook, Instagram," Liu says.

"We need these platforms to educate, engage with, and enhance experiences with our marketing messages. We need these platforms to help us change the narrative and drive the cultural conversation – that sexuality is something to be embraced, discovered and enjoyed, not hidden away.

"We have faced some challenges with advertising on major digital platforms – we have noticed that while it is alright to advertise erectile dysfunction drugs, we are not able to advertise a discreet vibrator for women," says Liu.

As for more personal connections, Liu says that she has been blessed with a husband who "unconditionally supports ZaZaZu".

"He is one of the eleven pre-seed investors, and an advisor who brings more than 20 years of B2C and digital marketing experience, which helps our team significantly in shaping and executing the marketing strategy."

While Liu is lucky to have the support of her family, she says that the "misunderstanding and misconception of the term' sexual wellness' is the biggest hurdle" to overcome in launching a site like ZaZaZu in Asian society.

"We grow up being told sex is 'dirty' and 'bad' and pleasure, especially female pleasure, is 'forbidden' and 'slutty’, people associate sexual wellness immediately with 'porn' and 'dodgy sex toy stores," explains Liu.

"The fact that sexual wellbeing is as fundamental to our health as physical and mental wellness is completely ignored due to social stigma. Our sexuality is a living breathing part of who we are; it shapes our relationships, self-esteem, and connects our minds and bodies.

"If we are struggling with difficulties in sexual wellness, it can be incredibly distressing. The taboo prevents us from seeking appropriate support, and even when we do, there is a fundamental lack of solutions for all genders, women in particular," Liu explains.

Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu
Jingjin Liu, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu

Let's talk about sex…

As the co-founder, Liu believes that the best way to break a taboo is to talk about it, and that is why when ZaZaZu was launched she ensured that the site also included a great deal of educational material.

Liu wants to "build a social movement aimed at turning the biggest taboo into a positive conversation by building an engaged female community, empowering them to own their pleasure and create a safe space to exchange, learn and explore all aspects of sexuality and intimacy," she says.

Having engaged in substantial research before launching the portal - did you know that very few women climax during sexual intercourse alone? Liu decided to include workshops and hosted events with in-house sexologists and intimacy coaches on the website.

"We never push product sales or promote services that our target audience would not need. We run various educational campaigns to raise awareness of female sexual wellbeing. If you have never tasted an apple, you would never miss the taste of it – it is the same with female pleasure," explains Liu.

While the goals of the sexual wellness portal have community betterment at heart, Liu doesn't describe ZaZaZu as social enterprise as such: "While I would not consider ZaZaZu a social enterprise, in the long-term, I believe that ZaZaZu's vision and mission can reach a broad audience and make true social impact."

The Business of Sex

Although Liu's new project is linked to a topic that has traditionally been seen as 'dodgy', the world of business investment and development has been able to see past the industry's history, says Liu. Even as a female entrepreneur, Liu says she did not have negative experiences when pitching for funding.

"I was quite fortunate as I went to the business school INSEAD in 2018 with the clear goal of building a female empowerment business. As I was always talking about my motivations with my peers in my cohort long before I incorporated ZaZaZu," says Liu.

"I started to connect with VC and professional angel investors. Start connecting early and build friendships – these connections helped me to close 11 investors for our pre-seed in less than a month."

Liu believes that at the "pre-seed stage, investors put their money behind the founding team and not the idea or its industry". As an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD and an angel investor herself, she knows what she is talking about.

With the launch of ZaZaZu, Liu is planning on growing the platform, not only for sales but also to build a community.

"My long-term goal for ZaZaZu is to become the go-to place in APAC for all sexual wellness-related challenges, to foster discussion and build a community, ZaZaZu aims to create the safe space where sex is healthy, pleasure is positive, and education gaps are sealed."

For more information, go to zazazu.club.

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