How the “she-conomy” boosts the female-targeted startup scene in China

It’s 10 p.m. on April 19 in Beijing.

Yummy, a startup focused on running an online female community, had just started a livestreaming podcast, where a “sexpert” was sharing her views on how to safely get laid and reach maximum pleasure in bed.

“When you see a guy in a ‘hookup app’ uploading heavily filtered photos of himself, it’s not necessarily a negative thing,” said the sexpert Long Xiaotian on the show. “That means they actually put effort in it.”

While Long moved on to make jokes on why she thought men posting photos of themselves in sunglasses are probably less confident, the listenership continued to surge, attracting over 14,000 real-time online listeners with nearly 13,500 likes.

This is just a glimpse of what Yummy does.

Founded in 2015, the Beijing-based startup Yummy has formed an intimate online female community with 1.2 million registered users. The startup’s focus is to create online content to educate Chinese women on sexual health, birth control, pregnancy, and most importantly – sexual pleasure.

“Our articles posted on multiple platforms usually attracts over 20,000 views,” said Sam Zhao, founder and CEO of Yummy, seated in the company’s meeting room surrounded with sex toy displays. “We hope to find a niche among China’s booming ‘she-conomy.’ ”

Sam Zhao, Yummy's founder and CEO (Photo provided by Sam Zhao)
Sam Zhao, Yummy’s founder and CEO (Photo from Yummy)

Indeed, the term “she-conomy” pretty much says it all about the growth of China’s female consumption market in recent years. China Daily reported that female consumption in China reached RMB 2.5 trillion (USD 362 billion) in 2015 and is expected to hit RMB 4.5 trillion in 2019, according to data released by Guotai Junan Securities.

Yummy: to change how women see sex

The potential market seems promising and has encouraged Zhao to start her own business in hope of raising awareness of feminist consciousness. She founded Yummy in May 2015 after she came back from New York, where she stayed for over two years to study her master’s degree in interactive telecommunications.

“I came back thinking that it might be more ‘open’ in China, but later I found out that it was not,” said Zhao. “Most people were and are still putting their temptations on sleep mode while knowing very little about women’s health.”

The best way to solve this, she figured, is to form a close online community to provide a space where women can freely express their opinions and exchange information. She said that lots of Chinese women are not educated on the basics of female health.

“Many people take morning-after pills like having candies,” said Zhao with a frown. “We try to create content to tell them what is considered healthy and also promote how to achieve sexual pleasure.”

Zhao stressed that the idea of “our bodies, ourselves” has been widely embraced in the West, while Chinese people still feel self-conscious when discussing these issues.

“Another thing I want to do is to change how people see sex,” said Zhao. “Sex is a positive thing that’s often linked with love, trust and respect. It’s not something one should ever feel shy talking about,” she said.

Yummy's offline event in Shanghai, instructing participants to experience intimacy through massage. (Photo provided by Yummy)
Participants experiencing intimacy through massages at an offline Yummy event in Shanghai. (Photo from Yummy)

Yummy started out by inviting “experts” to share their experiences on all things lady-related. The writers at Yummy also evaluate sex toys.

Zhao added that even though the female consumption market in China has become larger than ever, Chinese women have yet to grasp the idea of feminist consciousness. “A lot of them still live with the conventional idea that a woman should only serve as a good wife and mom,” she said.

By pushing out content on sex toys, the team hopes to deliver the message – in Zhao’s own words – that “it’s important to please yourselves, not just to please your husbands or to give birth”.

Yummy has also started to develop its own online shop to sell sex toys, which is still in the early stages. “We’re attempting to package our evaluations and tutorials with the items,” said Zhao.

Lack of knowledge in one-night stands & sexual health

While feminist consciousness is awakening China, women are more open to just to keep themselves informed about sexual health and pleasure.

“In recent years, there has been more discussions on female orgasm and masturbation in China,” said Li Yinhe, a well-known sexologist and activist for women and LGBT rights in China, in a phone interview with AllChinaTech.

Li said that Chinese women are now starting to pursue self-pleasure instead of simply pleasing their partners.

“I’ve done a survey many years ago, and the result suggested that a large number of women didn’t experience any pleasure in bed but only to serve men,” said Li, raising her voice. “It’s a good sign that now people are talking more about women’s sexual pleasure.”

With the rising number of dating apps appearing in China, finding a hookup is just a “swipe” away. Information on how to have safe sex while obtaining pleasure is something the country desperately needs.

“I think it’s a fundamental right to have one-night stands, though I don’t necessarily support it,” said Li, adding that sexual health education is nearly undone in China. “We are still at a very early stage when it comes to sex education,” she said with a sigh.

Beijing Normal University recently released sexual health education material for elementary school kids, and has stirred controversy with parents claiming that the textbooks include too much information on private parts.

“These materials can be considered a breakthrough,” said Li, who has read the textbooks herself. “They talk about preventing sexual harassment, masturbation and even homosexuality, which is very rare.”

The lack of health education also bothers another female community startup Dayima. Its app provides a period management tool along with online forums for women.

Founded in 2012, Dayima has now over 60 million monthly active users. With a staff strength of 180 people, the company hopes to help women better manage feminine issues including birth control, pregnancy and period management, with tips and solutions. It also sells feminine hygiene products, skin care products, and sex toys, just to name a few.

The company’s largest problem is that they spend too much energy teaching their users basic health knowledge.

“We spend too much time telling our users how to read pregnancy tests,” said Chaike, founder and CEO of Dayima, over the phone. “It is an issue that Chinese women have fairly little knowledge of their own physical health.”

While female-targeted startups are trying to make a profit from the flourishing “she-conomy,” one thing is for sure: women in China now have more options and fun apps to play around with, health-wise and sex-wise.

As the end of Long’s podcast drew near, she encouraged her listeners to really find a date online. “We’ve talked so much about one night stands, it’d be a pity if you don’t put that into practice,” said Long with a little chuckle. Wonder how many of her listeners will actually do that.

(Top photo from pexels)

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

© 2022 All Tech Asia. All Rights Reserved.

AllTechAsia is a startup media platform dedicated to providing the hottest news, data service and analysis on the tech and startup scene of Asian markets in English. Contact us:

%d bloggers like this: