This Filipino Sex Therapist Was Just Recognized by a Global Sex Research Organization

It's a win for the Philippines.
IMAGE FACEBOOK/RICA CRUZ

Dr. Rica Cruz is one of the Philippines’ foremost experts on sex and relationships. We wrote about her when we quite literally bumped into her at a bar in Boracay earlier this year. Besides her professional practice of counseling clients who have issues related to her fields of expertise, Cruz hosts a TV show that attempts to educate viewers about sex positivity. 

Last month, Cruz flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico upon the invitation of the Society of Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), one of the world’s top organizations in the field of sex research. She was invited to deliver a lecture on her research paper entitled “Sexual Pleasure for the Filipino Woman: The Wife, The Mother, and The Slut.”

What Cruz didn’t know was that the invitation was also an inaugural award and travel grant for early career professionals from marginalized groups. Cruz was one of two recipients of the grant handpicked by a selection committee from multiple entries across the world; the other was Dr. Natalie Blanc, who is an assistant professor at the University of Rochester.

It’s a significant achievement for Cruz and for the Philippines, a deeply conservative country where many people still hold antiquated beliefs about sex and the role of women in society.

“I have spent all my years in the field as a sex therapist and educator, to understand the Filipino women’s relationship with their sexuality,” Cruz says. “And what I’ve found is that most Filipino women tend to feel self-conscious and lewd when it comes to exploring what makes them feel good because we’ve been taught to feel guilty about sexual relations—or even just thinking about sex.” 

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Cruz has a PhD in Psychology and further training from the University of Guelph, Cambridge Alliance-Harvard Medical School, International Academy of Sex Research, and the SSSS. Presenting her paper in front of some of the top sex scientists of the world, she says she was overwhelmed, particularly when she discovered that many of the giants of the industry present at the event actually knew her by name.

According to recent studies, more than 40 percent of Filipino women report having sexual issues like the inability to orgasm and feel pleasure during sex due to guilt and shame.

“I know because I’ve been there,” Cruz shares. “The shame, the guilt, the criticisms and judgements. This is what’s ‘normal’ for the Filipino woman, and it needs to change.”

Cruz’s study highlights the importance of husbands and partners for Filipino women to experience optimal sexual pleasure, and that the journey to sex positivity is not just exclusive for women, but for men as well.

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“The sexual struggles of Filipino men and their roles also need to be recognized,” Cruz’s study says. “Both men and women need to support each other in the healthy conversation and exploration of sex if we are to overcome the pressures each of us have, and allow ourselves to fully experience our own pleasures.”

Cruz’s advocacy of a more open and welcoming view towards sex also led her to co-found Unprude, a sexual wellness platform where sex isn’t thought of as lewd, vulgar, or naughty. Cruz says it’s a space where Filipino women—or all women, for that matter—can freely explore and shop for their sexual desires and curiosities without feeling guilt, shame, and self-consciousness, no matter where they are on their sexual journey.

“So many of us still feel ashamed about exploring our sexual comforts and curiosities, but the reality is, pursuing our desires should be as ordinary and rewarding as finding the perfect pair of jeans,” she says. “Loving sex shouldn’t make us feel lewd or vulgar—it just makes us women.”

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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