Women’s sexual wellness conversation has been a hot topic recently in Singapore. Several new Singapore-based businesses have been popping up just in the past year that relate to sexual and reproductive health services – accompanying the few that already existed – in spreading awareness and pushing the envelope on sexual health acceptance in Singapore and the region.
Among these is ZaZaZu, the first personalized sexual wellness hub in Asia Pacific for women. At ZaZaZu they bring together education, digital services and products in order to aid women in attaining agency over their own sexual health. They hold workshops, webinars and consultations with sex and relationship experts as well as offer subscription pleasure boxes curated with luxury products.
ZaZaZu boasts to be the first sexual wellness company in Singapore to be backed by Angel and Venture Capitalists investors in Singapore, raising USD135,000, despite being rejected by a start-up incubator. Jingjin Liu, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZaZaZu talks to The Peak about how they managed to achieve this, more about the sexual wellness of Asian women, and even about how men come into the picture.
What drove you to start ZaZaZu?
My passion and calling has always been to build a business that helps women to establish intrinsic confidence.
My passion and drive to start ZaZaZu has its roots in my childhood. I grew up in China, where sexual education is close to zero. Back then, information was not as easily available online and asking sex-related questions were difficult. I grew up without much knowledge on sex-related topics.
At the age of 16, I went to Germany and was fortunate to experience how school and society openly approached sex-related topics to young adults. In my twenties, as I gained more security in my sexuality, I gained the confidence to study and work in male-dominated industries.
With the conviction of building a positive-impact business, I moved to Singapore to pursue an EMBA at INSEAD in 2018. I realized that the market for women empowerment is saturated, and I wanted to spearhead a business that builds confidence from within.
As the only sexual wellness company backed by Venture Capitalists in Singapore, what do you feel makes a company like ZaZaZu important and attractive?
The category of Femtech focusing on female sexual wellbeing and reproductive health has grown rapidly across the world. However, I have noticed that a majority of start-ups are currently located in Europe and the US or run by Western business professionals.
As sexual wellness remains a taboo topic and an uncommon industry in APAC, SexTech may be the last category that business people in the region would look into. As I have the passion and business acumen for running a sexual wellness company for women, it was relatively easy to attract institutional investors. VCs, especially in the western world, have experienced the success of sexual wellness businesses, and they want to invest in a brand like ZaZaZu―a company that is designed in an Asian culture context and fulfils Asian women’s sexual needs.
In the curation of the line-up of products in ZaZaZu’s pleasure boxes, do you have criteria for them being chosen?
Absolutely! We have positioned ZaZaZu as an experience-focused sexual wellness brand and community, where we take the shame out of the game.
Our pleasure box contains 4 elements:
- Stimulants: a product which sets you in the mood―it could be organic essential oils, massage candles, and so on
- Accessories: for when you play with your partner―it could be a silk blind fold, luxury hand cuff, and more
- Main: a pleasure toy that is visually discreet
- Relaxant: a product that helps you wind down and serves as aftercare―it could be a vulva musk or even chocolate if you are a sweet tooth
All our products are visually discreet and body safe. To illustrate, we work at the co-working space Trehaus which is also a pre-school. We place our products openly on the desk, and it has never occurred to anyone that it has anything to do with sexual intimacy. We aim to help women elevate our intimacy journey and treat sex not as a duty but as a spa experience with luxury products.
You’ve iterated a very interesting statement before that sexual wellness links to self-esteem and confidence, what to you is the importance of sexual wellness in the context of women’s empowerment?
In my capacity as an EIR (Entrepreneur in residence) in INSEAD, I am well-positioned to help female founders present their business to investors as well as female graduates to find their role in the corporate world after their INSEAD education. It occurred to me that most women are willing to compromise for less, and self-reject from the beginning.
Most do not feel entitled to have that job title, ask for that amount of salary or funding. How does one feel entitled if you can’t even ask for pleasure in the bedroom to the closest person in their life? If a woman doesn’t feel empowered in the bedroom, she will never confidently ask for a seat in the boardroom.
The sexual wellness of women is a goal that needs to be strived for in a society entrenched with patriarchal ideals, however, these ideals affect men’s perception of sex and sexual wellness as well. What do you think is the role of men in the conversation of sexual health and wellness?
Sexual education is poor for all genders. Even today, sexual education tends to be outdated and focuses on biology. People may have learned about sex through porn. Unfortunately, ethical porn that places women’s pleasure in the forefront is still rare. Mainstream porn lends little respect to women and offers a skewed view and false expectations of how to treat women during intercourse.
One of our customer in their late 20s, texted me in the middle in the night and said, “You know what, if a guy would simply ask what I like upfront, it would make sex so much more fun and nice for me.” After receiving this message, we conducted a small survey with 50 of our female members, with 5 exceptions, all unanimously said that no Asian men have ever asked about their pleasure preferences. The conversation around sexual health and wellness needs to involve all genders. If women’s sexual counterparts can communicate more and start the conversation, it will facilitate the act and help women to gain more confidence in the conversation as well.
In the age of social media, information and even education about sex is becoming more accessible, what do you think is the role of companies like ZaZaZu in helping individuals to navigate this landscape?
Easily accessible information is a curse and blessing at the same time; there is still no authority governing sexual health and well-being information. There are so many unauthorized, self-claimed experts using unverified knowledge to sell unsafe products, and it can cause more harm rather than enhance anyone’s sexual journey. We work with a broad range of consultants from pelvic floor specialists to intimacy coaches and sexologists to create verified content. ZaZaZu’s mission is to normalize sexual wellness for women in daily lives and establish authority in female sexual well-being. Through this, we aim to create a safe space for women to explore, experiment and enhance our intimacy journey.
How did your experience on the rhetoric of sexual wellness in Germany differ from your experience in Singapore? Do you feel that there is possible transferable practice given the difference of Asian culture?
German society was open towards female reproductive health from an early age and the education was also explorational rather than abstinence-focused. This is because they understood that the more you forbid sexual activities, the more likely young people would try. Thus, they would rather monitor such activities in a controlled environment. I went to boarding school when I was 16, my roommate’s mum gave both of us condoms and said: “In case you would ever be intimate with a boy and decide not to tell me, protect yourself!” Additionally, when I told my mentor in school that I fell in love with a boy, the first thing she said was if we ever decide to be intimate, she would bring me to see a gynaecologist to understand the act and how to practice safe sex.
I think it would require cultural and mindset changes in Asian societies to break the taboo and educate the next generation that sex is healthy, and that pleasure is natural and encouraged.
What’s behind the name ZaZaZu?
The name is inspired from the television series “Sex and the City”, where the protagonist Carrie describes the butterfly in the stomach feeling when you are in love, the indescribable, sweet, magical feeling when you can’t keep the hands off the other person – a “Zsa Zsa Zsu” feeling. How does one sustain a relationship without the “Zsa Zsa Zsu”? And so we want to help every woman in Asia to find and sustain her ZaZaZu.