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Everyone is curious about sex. But instead of finding out what is or isn’t pleasurable for us, we often ignore the question for fear of being reprimanded or shamed.
In a country like the Philippines where sex remains a taboo topic, conversations about sexual needs and pleasure are often met with hushed whispers, awkward giggles, or scolding from close-minded relatives.
“There is something deeply isolating about facing issues related to sex and relationships,” Dr. Rica Cruz, a sex and relationships therapist, educator, and co-founder of the Unprude app, said. “These are some of the most common challenges we all face, yet the shame associated with discussing them often leaves people feeling alone in their struggles.”
The intimidation and guilt that many still feel about sex hinders them from exploring their sexuality, which affects not only their relationship with their sexual selves, but as well as their relationship with other people.
This, Dr. Cruz said, is what drove her to create Unprude. Hailed as the first sex therapy app in Asia, Unprude aims to provide its users with a “culturally-grounded and personalized program based on Cruz’s research on sexual identity, pleasure, and relationships.”
Making Unprude happen
Initially, Dr. Cruz launched Unprude as an e-commerce platform that offers intimate, non-intimidating, and high-quality products for women. The sex toys, she explained, were to help women ease into finding pleasure for themselves.
However, aside from questions about their toy offerings, conversations about sex and relationships began to be raised on their platform as well. She recalled that there were messages sent both directly to her and to their website asking for help on working out sexual problems.
“That’s when I realized that there were really a lot of people who needed help because we lack the fundamental understanding of what sex really is,” Dr. Cruz told Rappler. “A lot of women find that sex is overwhelming. A lot of women need help. And I had to ask myself, how can I help these women? How can I share with them what I know?”
Receiving 100 messages per day, Dr. Cruz took the growing interest as a sign that Filipinas’ perception of sex was already changing.
“Women are becoming sexually curious, open, though a bit shy to face their sexual problems head-on,” she said.
But there’s only a handful of sexual therapists, Dr. Cruz herself included, that could cater to these rising demands. And she’s also aware that going to sex therapy is inaccessible, intimidating, and expensive for many, and training another sex therapist to cater to these women would take years.
“These women need help now,” she said. “So I really pondered on what I can do and how I can multiply myself. I’m not a tech person, but when I thought of the app, it just made sense to me.”
In a span of a year and a half and with the help of her Chief Technology Officer Nicole Bernabe, Dr. Cruz was able to launch the Unprude app – a curriculum-based platform that brings sex therapy within arm’s reach.
What Unprude offers
Sexuality can be an overwhelming aspect of human life, and not having honest and healthy conversations about it makes it even more daunting. This is why Unprude aims to revolutionize the way people discuss sex so that more women would feel more comfortable exploring their own bodies and embracing their sexual selves.
“Right now, when we talk about sex, people think it’s just the penis going in the vagina. It’s not. And it’s not just about intercourse,” Dr. Cruz said. “It’s actually about relationships with ourselves, our relationship with our partners, and our relationship with the whole world.”
With the way they put utmost regard on self-awareness, it’s no surprise that the Unprude app offers a highly-personalized curriculum for each of their users.
The app starts by asking the user to answer a quiz about their life experiences, perception of sex, personal issues, how they think the app would be of help, and their goals about their sexual selves.
Unprude will then create an individualized program depending on the results from the quiz. Meaning, all the accessible content for each user is curated depending on what the app thinks would work best for them and their current status in life.
“Whatever it is that they’re going through – may they just be starting dating, or getting married, pregnant, a new parent, or going through infidelity or loss, the app will cater to you,” Dr. Cruz said.
Among the content available for Unprude app users are 1) modules and guided insights from sexual and mental health experts; 2) podcast episodes of women sharing stories on love, life, lust, and loss; 3) audio meditation materials that address sexual shame, heal trauma, and spark arousal; and 4) exercises to process thoughts and feelings.
Not only can users progress through the program at their own pace and terms, but it’s also tailored to meet the comfort levels of each user. This is why modules and other content that don’t fit a user’s program won’t be accessible to them until they’re ready. For example, religious individuals who are coming to terms with their sexuality can access modules on sexual shame and abstinence, while those who have more sexual experience can access modules about self-pleasure and incorporating toys into your sex life.
But how can Unprude determine how ready a user is? Dr. Cruz said that she takes pride in putting her years-long experience and expertise from research into the app.
“When we were conceptualizing the modules, I had to dig deep within my practice, my research, and the stories that I get presented to find the most common problems that women go through and I categorized them based on: 1) a woman’s life stage (dating, pregnant, new parent, perimenopause, menopause); 2) her sexual stage (careful, curious, conflicted, craving), 3) common relationship problems (break-up, separation, infidelity, grief), and 4) common sex problems (pain, low desire, no pleasure, trauma, and lack of communication,)” she explained.
Dr. Cruz said that after interviewing more women to validate these categories, she also tapped into other medical experts including OB-GYNs, urologists, and infectious disease specialists to get more comprehensive information for Unprude’s modules.
One of the most pivotal features of Unprude is having the module about comprehensive sex education available to all users.
“I fought for this [to be free]. Because when I was going around the country and talking not just to women but also to students, they don’t have proper sex education,” Dr. Cruz said. “It’s either abstinence or based on fear and porn.”
“That’s why our sex education modules are free for everyone to download, so that the users will be guided on how they feel about sex and they can make informed decisions,” she added.
Aside from intercourse, the particular module also addresses questions about contraception, love, and relationships.
Another feature available for all users is its digital games. The variety of interactive games involve discussing relationships and personal experiences, and can be played among a circle of friends, between a couple, or even just with yourself.
For the Unprude team, each particular feature on the app was meant to ease users into coming to terms with their sexuality and asking for help, if needed. Through the expert-guided sessions, users can navigate their personal issues without any fear of judgment or retaliation.
“I really think Filipinos deserve so much more when it comes to sex,” Dr. Cruz said. “It’s really high time for us to let go of the mindset that sex is lewd or malaswa and start welcoming the idea that sex is about how we respect ourselves and others.”
“I think when we have the tools, then we’ll be able to make a difference – not just within ourselves, but our society as well,” she added. – Rappler.com
Unprude is available for download on Google Play. It will be available on the Apple Store soon.