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Cape Town - Dr Eve has come of age. After 18 years she has evolved so much, it’s time for a change.
Clinical sexologist Dr Marlene Wasserman, 56, describes her main role as a sexual health activist, but she’s taking this to a new level with the launch of the Dr Eve Sexual Health Centre.
The hub, based in Sea Point, will have three components: her practice, an events centre and a store for sexual health aids and toys.
Wasserman explains that Dr Eve has become self-sustainable, having evolved into a stand-alone brand. The centre is the next step. It’s about expanding the brand.
“There was a need for it to have a home,” she says.
In the beginning, Wasserman didn’t realise just how much discomfort people felt about issues of sex. These days, she’s come across people who spread her message. One woman in particular, she says, told her she was the Dr Eve of the townships.
“It’s magnificent to have served as a role model, and that people are now taking that role further.”
Wasserman loves that the country has such a strong and active civil society. In fact, South Africa is the one place that Dr Eve has never been censored. She says there are places in the US where she couldn’t say half of the things she does in South Africa.
“It’s extraordinary.” she adds.
Wasserman recalls how Dr Eve came into being. The country had just undergone its democratic transition. HIV-Aids had become a huge talking point, but talking openly about sex was still largely taboo.
She was living in Durban at the time and had just been to a sexual health training programme. She wanted to reach out to the broader public.
Invigorated, partly arrogant, and partly ignorant, Wasserman says she marched into the Capital Radio station on a Monday morning, and said she wanted to go on air and talk about sex.
The station manager gave her the green light, but told her she had three days to come up with a name other than Marlene Wasserman. She did and by the Friday she was on air, educating listeners about sex.
“That is where Dr Eve was born,” she says.
She later moved to Cape Town and still has regular radio slots, gives many talks and maximises social media. She has witnessed how South Africans have, over the years, opened up about their sexuality and health. The feeling of having contributed to this makes her “proud and humble”.
“I started off as a naïve clinician on radio. Now Dr Eve has taken on a life of its own,” says Wasserman.
Always busy – travelling the world, further exploring the academic side of her industry, and touching base with other international sexual health activists – the idea of the next step came about over a year ago. She had started becoming comfortable with her life, and “living a comfortable life, that’s not me. I like to push the edges,” she says.
Wasserman says that the launch of the centre, and the Dr Eve brand’s coming of age has signalled a new era. Visit the centre on the fifth floor and you first encounter double doors painted in Dr E’s trademark pink. On entering you pass a chaise lounge and the décor is warm, while retaining a clinical feel. Each room has large windows, allowing in a lot of light.
Wasserman says every aspect of the design is deliberate. When people come to the centre, they must feel comfortable and safe in the space.
The purpose of the hub is part entertainment, but mostly educational. The centre allows Wasserman to focus on her practice, while still having people drop in for events and to purchase from the store.
One of the first events Wasserman has booked is the screening of the documentary Sexy Baby, which was made to educate schools and parents about children and online relationships.
She has several other plans to host sexual health educational events in the new year. Members of the public, academics, businesses, and book clubs will be able to host their events at her venue.
In the store, a computer will be available to people wanting to know how to use the products for sale, and Wasserman will be available to recommend which items people should use, based on a clinical assessment.
Other future plans include starting an internet radio show from the centre.
When Wasserman is not being an activist, she still finds time to be alone, enjoy her family, take walks on the Sea Point promenade, read, watch movies, and spend hours listening to or watching operas. She also enjoys Nia dancing, which helps relieves her stress, she says.
It’s all a fine balancing act, but Wasserman says with very little sleep she manages to pull it off. - Cape Argus