ON THE COUCH
At Ma Li’s psychosexual therapy center in Shanghai, the color scheme in the consulting room is relaxing; pale yellows, light greens and blues. Soft mats and cushions allow the patients to make themselves comfortable.
However, sexual harassment has been a common theme since the center opened. Some men thought Ma was offering sexual services, not therapy. “Some male clients asked directly how much they should pay to sleep with me,” she said. To promote the center as widely as possible, she initially provided consultancy services to both sexes, although only women were offered one-on-one sessions. So far, around 10 women have received step-by-step guidance, ranging from basic anatomical knowledge to sexual techniques.
In countries such as the UK, the US and Germany, problems can be dealt with in two ways — sex therapists and surrogates, usually women who have “therapeutic sex” with men with sexual disfunctions.
“Surrogates can also treat sexual problems in the US, under the surveillance and guidance of two or more therapists. But many people still believe they are practically no different from prostitutes,” said Ma.
At Ma’s center, the treatment guides patients through their sexual problems, forcing them to confront their issues with behavioral changes and promote new opportunities for genuine intimacy.
While fully acknowledging important factors such as technique, the therapy focuses on essentials such as communication, identifying and recognizing problems, and providing emotional support and guidance to build better intimacy, boost confidence and raise self-awareness.
Ma is planning to run a workshop for men next year. “It will be a challenging task. I didn’t think it would be easy for me to maintain control with 10 men on my own, so a male therapist from the China Sexology Association will attend too,” she said.