Sex-Positive Podcast Stirs Online Chinese Community

Have you ever wondered where all the sex talk is in Asian communities?

In Episode 1, I’m speaking with Jess - a community builder who hosts a massively popular sex-positive podcast.


Circling China - an online Circling platform: circlingchina.org

Jess' Podcasts and Blogs: jingshu.love

Octopus Awakening Community (in Chinese only): 下载知识星球app,搜索“章鱼觉醒”

YouTube Channel: Jingshu Zhu

WeChat Channel: 神爱玩财

Weibo: @神爱玩财Jess

Previous Episode
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Jess, Sen Zhan

Jess  00:00

Because sex education is sometimes still, like very mechanic or just directive, you should do this, you should do that. But oftentimes it wipes away people's diversity. How does it feel like to have unprotected sex because a lot of people do have it that that I think is what made us very real and vulnerable and sometimes not so decent because we also make mistakes, we hurt people, and we get hurt.

Sen Zhan  00:30

The third culture is what emerges at the intersection between your culture of origin and the other cultures in which you've been shaped. Beyond Asian is a place for stories of global nomads with Asian roots brought up in diversity. Together, we explore the interplay of our pasts with our presence, and our relationships with the multiple cultures we move in. These are more than conversations about Asian identity, their portraits of whole people, what keeps them up at night, what their hearts longed for, and the impact they hope to have. On our communities. I'm your host, Sen. JOHN, a third culture kid born in China, raised in Canada and currently based in Berlin. This series is a first step towards making peace with my own Asian background. And it's my hope that other third culture Asians will hear themselves reflected in our stories. Have you ever wondered where all the sex talk is in Asian communities? In Episode One, nine speaking with Jess, a community builder who hosts a massively popular sex positive podcast. Jess, thank you for taking the time today. And you're really busy schedule to talk to me and to be on the podcast. Thank you for inviting me. This is my first interview that I received, which I find really surprising considering the fact that you've done I think I counted 80 plus episodes on your podcast and something like 21 blog posts on your YouTube channel.

Jess  01:56

Yeah, well, I always enjoyed interviewing people and actually Actually like sharing about my own opinions in my life. So I guess most of the time I mixed both. So when I interview, I already expressed some of my own ideas, but I've never received this kind of serious interview. Well, we won't be serious story.


We'll keep it as close as possible.

Sen Zhan  02:21

I have listened to a few episodes, both the English episodes and the Chinese episodes of your sex positive podcast, even though my Chinese isn't the best. So I don't catch all of it. But I remember when you told me about it, and you said, it's the only sex positive podcast in China, which is something to say in and of itself. And on top of that, you have 1 million followers. Is that right?

Jess  02:47

Well, nowadays I think number is not that accurate or important because I used to have more than 100,000 followers and 10 million views. But this number was wiped away because the whole podcast was taken down by the government several times actually already. And so so that afterwards now, we only have, like about 220 thousand followers, but I guess those are the real, like what they call true fans. They found you despite being

Sen Zhan  03:22

you being censored.

Jess  03:23

Yeah, exactly, exactly. We call it the only sex positive podcast, but there are and there were already some sex education podcast. But from our perspective is different because sex education is sometimes still, like very mechanic or just directive, you should do this, you should do that. But oftentimes, it wipes away people's diversity. And there's a lot of nuances in some act. And, for example, for unprotected sex and sex sex education podcast will only say don't do that, but maybe we will approach it from a very realistic point of view like how what does it feel? How does it feel like to have unprotected sex because a lot of people do have it. So something like that. So that's why we call it the only sex positive one, because of the nuances and because we approach it from our own experiences, not just the three of us, but also like people who we interviewed, they also share about their own lived experience. So we found that very valuable. Tell me about the title of the podcast, the name of the podcast is called a chart. So it's a bitch as a way to reclaim this world into this stigmatize this world. And big shot is like similar to people who say, you man up and we say, pitcher, pitcher.

Sen Zhan  04:43

Yeah, and there's also the Chinese word, the Chinese title, which is, of course, much more well known because it's a Chinese podcast.

Jess  04:50

It's called Belgium is pitch and john is both literally Miss sauce, but it also can use as a Like you put in the end of a female name, yeah, I don't know how to translate it but but the essence is their pitch.

Sen Zhan  05:08

The essence is it's really this because I listened to the first podcast as well. And this was where you, you were talking about the, you know, the origins of this word, bitch Bo in in Chinese and and even though you know again my Chinese isn't isn't the best I captured that there was this reclaiming of a word that usually you know is meant to label a woman as as difficult or slow, sluggish or anything really, you know, anything that Yes. That's not desirable in the in the mainstream sense of the word for a woman

Jess  05:45

Yeah, or desirable but dangerous. Okay, so there's also that

Sen Zhan  05:49

femme fatale kind of feeling. Yeah.

Jess  05:52

So So yeah, so the first episode is was called Why? Why do we want to be pitches? Yeah, that was the whole Episode and we just want to use this word and and feel free to feel sweaty and to also navigate this whole world of sex positivity and taking care of ourselves in and taking care of our boundaries and also doing fun things. I have quite many episodes on sex workers it because I've met a mad some workers and or but in others play parties or others scenarios and then we clicked and I was like Do you mind? Do you want to be my podcast guest and many of them said yes. So that's how we ended up doing an episode. So yeah, it was really spontaneous.

Sen Zhan  06:38

And you also live in Amsterdam, which is renowned for its red light district. Did you? Did you meet some of your guests for their podcast?

Jess  06:45

Yes, actually, our second episode was about that. So we and my my housemate, the housemates, we went to a brothel actually in the red light district and then we interviewed this. The owner of the We were really lucky because that was our second episode. And then it was put on the homepage on that platform at that time by maybe by the editor because they saw this very interesting topic. And then they helped us to, to just get get known.

Sen Zhan  07:17

So your podcast was on the on the website of the Bravo

Jess  07:20

No, was on the website of the homepage of this podcast platform. So in China, kind of all sorts of platforms like, okay, I

Sen Zhan  07:30

was asking myself, I was like, brothels have.

Jess  07:33

They do they do many of them do? Yeah, it's a stairs.

Sen Zhan  07:37

Sleep is serious. And it's a Yes, really well managed and a well regulated industry. So did you learn things that were surprising about the sex work industry, because you already have a base in knowledge that a lot of people don't have. So going into an interview with the manager of a brothel or with sex. Workers, were you surprised by things that you learned?

Jess  08:02

Yeah, in a way at that time, I only knew things from by reading like in Amsterdam in Sligo and things like that. But when I really went there, I got a more like, embodied feeling of what's it like to work there because I also, we also met a few girls for for working there and we will talk to the owner and we went to, to their, their working space and so everything was more alive when we were really there. And then I also got more details about how, what's the work like there? And yeah, so so I guess I was very impressed how organized and also how, how open. These girls were talking about their work. But of course, this is only a tip of iceberg of this whole sexy industry because of course, there are other Darker sides and also people are not very happy about actually the Dutch model which is legalization because with the legalization there's also the basically you draw a line and people who are registered illegal and and then you have a lot of illegal sex workers who are either infected or gave a given penalty. So, so it's not ideal.

Sen Zhan  09:26

What were some of the the effects what were some of the reverberations that you felt in the community once you started to do this more regularly?

Jess  09:34

So So back to the second episode already, like we started to see skyrocketing of the followers. So suddenly, we just very quickly had had it had thousands of followers and of course, the whole sex topic is always very eye catching. So, so I guess there were a lot of people following us And getting some kind of information. And many of them actually responded very positively saying that they haven't. They feel first of all liberated and because there were three girls talking about their own sex life and talking about their own and interviewing other people who are very experimental, or explorative. So that in and of itself has encouraged a lot of people to, to open up. And also we we talk a lot about health and consent, those kind of things, which also, I believe set a pretty healthy tone for for all the sex activities we're doing or other people are going to do. So that's in essence, it's also a little bit educational.

Sen Zhan  10:54

Yeah, when you talk about doing a specific act, you know, like doing a tying act or or engaging in any kind of, you know, sexual experiment. You talk a lot about just the details, you know, specifics of like practical things more like, okay when you are in the act and you know, say you're in a in a funny position, I guess what do you actually do? Like how do you navigate that? That very real problem?

Jess  11:20

Yeah. Because I always believed that meetings and meeting details and all the all the fun all the other juicy stays are are in the details. So that's also what's missing in most of those very dry educational sex, like sex education, articles or things like that. So we always try we try to really just to take a really close up look at how you feel in the saying and how you how you how you move, and and especially if you have some struggles and which a lot of people do cuz sex is not just found or nothing. Just not found because a lot of times we are in this very ambivalent position and how we feel about that. And we also talk about all those kind of struggles and that that I think is what made us very real and vulnerable and sometimes not so decent because we also make mistakes we hurt people, we get hurt. And sometimes we also share like one of our hosts like got an STD which also all those kind of things and guess they happen to everyone.

Sen Zhan  12:36

Not everyone but a lot of people they happen to much more people than we realize then we hear about and the way that that you talk about sex on your podcast is the way that a lot of people talk about hair or talk about cooking, you know, like very, very Matter of fact very everyday, there's no issue with talking about exactly what the knife technique is when you cut a piece of garlic for cooking, you know, or exactly

Jess  13:00

what to angle and how hard to go and those kind of things. Yeah, yeah. And

Sen Zhan  13:07

you talked about being shut down by the government a couple of times. What is that like to be censored? When it when that first happened? What was that experience? Oh, yeah.

Jess  13:17

Oh we always Yeah, cuz nowadays we've been shut down so many times and sometimes it's just several episodes were deleted and sometimes it's the whole park has been deleted. Nowadays I'm more like cool about it. I of course I get frustrated, but I get more resilience. So I don't feel sad for too long. But I still remember the first the first time we had that we were like, oh, like we're shocked. We were crying and we didn't know what to do and definitely scared because we don't know like if the podcast was shut down, whether like we will get in trouble personally as well. So this kind of fear is still there. I think even now this this is always like in the background of me like, maybe one day I'm gonna be I, I don't know so so there are a lot of risks and fear still, but I guess at that time, we also got frustrated and we almost started giving up quitting doing this podcast but after a few days, I guess or a week or so we're still where we're back

Sen Zhan  14:31

this kind of censorship especially, you know, in a place like China where censorship it's kind of the the rule you know, anything that that is a little bit incendiary. Anything that talks about taboo topics or pushes the envelope is immediately looked at is as if it could be dangerous to the state. Do you mind sharing a bit about how that came to your attention? You know, were you were you sent some an email or did you just arrive one day on The platform and you saw that your podcast wasn't there anymore. Like how does how does censorship manifest itself

Jess  15:05

most of the time is just gone, even without noticing, notifying you. And sometimes it's also gone by and you you receive a system message saying that you're This podcast is against some law and which is a bit very vague law, or some specific legal provisions, which is oftentimes about pornographic description, something like that. So you touched, you broke that law, and then this episode was gone, or this whole podcast was gone. So so but also censorship manifests itself in a more implicit way as well, because oftentimes, it's in our own mind because we definitely internalized censorship. And, for example, in our way, when we're making a podcast, we're already thinking like, maybe this one is going to be censored or should I say this or if I said something And then I may edit it out because yeah, maybe this is unsafe. So we are running this giant censorship machine

Sen Zhan  16:09

on our own as well. This is the effect of censorship by the state is that you learn that habit you you as you say you internalize the habit of censorship so that the state doesn't have to censor you anymore you censor yourself and and and I know what this is like, you know it, you don't need to live in totalitarian government to know what it's like to internally censor yourself, you know, we do it all the time. Let's say if you're with a group of people who you know, hold different beliefs, and you do, you don't say certain things, you know, or if you're with your family, and they, there's a certain you know, thing that you never talk about with your family, you, you just do that naturally. And I think that's something while it is, let's say a quote unquote, normal thing that we do just to get through our everyday lives. It's so important to be aware of, when we're doing it and why we feel the need Do that.

Jess  17:00

Totally. I really agree with you that oftentimes people project censorship only on to China or to other totalitarian countries. But yeah, it's happening everywhere. And I think it's I don't know if you read Foucault, so he talks about this kind of panopticon, which is a prison without guards basically because everyone is looking at each other and, and so everyone's like, internalized that, that shape that that whole structure in the system and then yeah, you don't even need a big brother.

Sen Zhan  17:35

That's what I was thinking. You have all these little brothers and little sisters, which is what happened in the in the communist regime. I mean, it's still a communist regime, but that's what happened in the Cultural Revolution is that you had neighbors spying on neighbors, family members, spying on family members, and, and everybody was a spy. How has it affected you to be a famous podcaster

Jess  17:54

I wouldn't consider myself famous still because China is so big have a 10 like 100,000 And followers, it's not that

Sen Zhan  18:00

for everything in Chinese standards, it's like if you take everything in Chinese standards and you, like multiply it by 10, then then that's actually the scale

Jess  18:09

or 100,000. I don't know. So for me, I never consider myself famous. But indeed, I, I do consider this whole podcast and myself having some influence. I think during the years while I was doing this podcast, I did feel this kind of responsibility to, to continue and also also sometimes to deliver better quality content. And I like this whole whole identity which can can make me very easy to socialize with people, for example with you, like, because I remember when we first met, we were both like, kind of maybe movie I don't know who's who's projection, but we didn't. Were you doing the were you doing the the mutual avoidance of Asian people think, yeah, that's very typical. So we have that kind of, yeah, mutual avoidance. I want to discuss this topic with you like, this kind of avoidance. How do you understand that because even nowadays, I'm so aware of it, I still, sometimes if I bump into a shoe place in a yoga studio, for example, after class, I was still like, I don't know how to approach them. And maybe I also part of me is not very interested if it's the you know, the look is not very welcoming, or Yeah, no, it's not that I only want to hang out with open a little liberal people, but I also like you said, I never know how how interesting people a person can be. So But still, there's some some layer of ice that I don't know how to break, whereas I can easily break ice with with your pain. You know,

Sen Zhan  19:57

I'm really glad that you brought this topic up. Because it's actually the reason why I started this podcast. I have spent a lot of my childhood and my, you know, growing up years, running away from my cultural identity running away from being Chinese and being Asian. When I was young, it was a huge part of my identity I would introduce myself as Hi, I'm Sen I'm Chinese Canadian. And because I you know, I was born in China, we immigrated when I was six to Calgary in Canada. And at that time, there weren't that many other Chinese immigrants or Mandarin speaking Chinese immigrants, there were a lot of Cantonese speaking immigrants. And and so I thought it was really important that I, that I label myself as Chinese Canadian. And as I grew up also, because I moved to Montreal, when I was 18, the label of Chinese Canadian or hyphen, Canadian became superseded by a larger political narrative, which was, are you an Anglophone or a Francophone because I was living in Quebec. And that conversation became much more important, at least the way that I felt about it was much more important in society than necessarily what kind of hyphen hyphenated Canadian you are. So for a long time, it wasn't something that was discussed also, because a lot of the agents that I knew were French speaking Asians, so that was a whole other kind of, you know, experience of being Asian that I didn't have any familiarity with. And so, for all the time that I was living in, in Montreal, I didn't think of myself as Chinese. I thought of myself as an Anglophone Canadian. And, and then when I came to Europe, you know, that was five and a half years ago than it was I was North American. It wasn't so much that I was a hyphenated Anglophone Chinese Canadian anymore. It was okay. You You speak English like North American, that's what you are. So you know, it's kind of like everywhere that I've gone. The question of of being Asian started to fade in importance and became replaced by by larger societal narratives. But these days, I feel like I have kind of moved far enough away from my own Chinese identity, Asian identity that I feel like I have a lot more perspective on it than I did when I was younger. And I also see that there's a lot of good that that comes from having that kind of background. And there are many parts of myself which are undeniably Chinese undeniably Asian. But those parts may be different from somebody else who's undeniably Asian, they're just different. And there are so many interesting people like yourself, who are fortunately in my life who have approached their you know, how they integrate their Asian roots with with the the branches of their the rest of their life, and I feel like I I have a lot to learn from these people in my life. And so that's why I'm now much more interested in talking to people who, who are living really interesting lives and who still maintain some, you know, some part of their Asian pneus. So that's kind of like the long background of, you know, where I'm coming from with this and how I do, how I navigate this mutual agent avoidance is, you know, practically I think that going to places or going to events where you feel like that resonates with your values, and you see other other people who look like you there, there's a greater chance that you're going to be able to connect with them. Like for example, when we connected at the acting course, that wasn't like running into any Chinese person at the Asian grocery store, right. The lowest common denominator for Asian people, we all have to go to the Asian superstore. So I you know, I guess that would be my my answer and that would be my answer for it for anyone looking for any kind of of resonance with their, you know, with their community is to just do the things that you like to do And naturally, you will find your community there. And you know, you might find people who are of your ethnicity or or not. But I think it's also different for for me versus you because I don't speak Chinese as, as naturally like it doesn't come as naturally to me to approach people in Chinese whereas I think for you, it's you know, it's uh, you know, it's still both are good for you,

Jess  24:29

right? Well, that can be weird though can be can be awkward, because sometimes you thought this person is Chinese and you're approaching Chinese, but they are not or they're either Dutch, Chinese who doesn't speak any Chinese or they're they're like Japan, or Korea, which can be very embarrassing. So I don't I don't approach people nowadays by just speaking Chinese. But now I also think of another tricky thing because it's always hard for me to ask where you're from. was already like super weird, right? So that's also definitely part of the reason why I couldn't I almost become speechless. I don't know how to. After I say hi, we say something and there's inevitably there is a moment where we're going to ask. It's so weird. I also, I don't like people who ask me where I'm from. It's right. So I don't also dare to ask people. Yeah,

Sen Zhan  25:32

yeah, I can totally relate. I can totally relate. Just the other week I met someone who was we were at a Toastmasters class and he was clearly of, of either Chinese or Taiwanese or something, you know, very close to my descent, but he was speaking perfect English. He was speaking perfect German. And so we were walking and I looked at him and I said, so I'm gonna ask you the question, and he's, like, What? What question I was like, you know what question I'm not gonna say it, but I didn't. asked me the question, he was like, oh, Where am I from? I was like, that's the question, but I'm not gonna ask it.

Jess  26:05

I like it. I like

Sen Zhan  26:05

it. I think it's, it illustrates to me that we all have this human curiosity to know where people are from, you know, what their origins are. And it gave me just a little bit of compassion for other people who asked me the same question. So when I say other people, I mean non Asian people, typically people not of color, you know, because usually, like, I just don't take it as seriously when people of color asked me where I'm from, you know, if I'm at a Vietnamese restaurant, or if I, you know, I'm at a, an event where there's a lot of diversity. People ask me where I'm from. It's fine, it's normal. I feel much more sensitive to that question, when it's the first and only thing that people are interested in. And, and there's not any any deeper question about what is your lifelike or if we're at an event You know, talking about the event, what do you think about, you know, what the speaker said? When the only question is about my, my heritage, and that's when I try to fuck with people. Which is, I mean, it's just that, you know, I So the truth is I was born in China and I grew up in Canada. But when I detect that there's that there's that, like, I just want to know where your faces from, I'll just say I'm from Canada, which could very well be true because many are from Canada, or from anywhere else that they're from. And then they look and then they, they ask the second question, No, you know what the second question is, right?

Jess  27:36

Where are you really from? What or do parents

Sen Zhan  27:41

know for exactly Yeah, exactly. Or, or it might just be like a comment, you know, like, but you look like from, you know, an insert any any other Asian country, you know, I'm like, and then I just am very simple, like, almost stupidly simple. I'm like, No, I'm from Canada. You know, and, and I I feel only a little bit bad about this because I don't I don't give this answer to people when I, I feel like they're just, you know, the where you from pieces, just one one little part, you know, and they're just like, Okay, cool. I just know what your background is. And I'm going to talk about other stuff with you like you're a regular person. Or, you know, I also don't don't take as much issue when it's other Asian people asking me because they're, they want to I think they want to make a connection. Like, are you did you also come over from Vietnam during that whole migration? Or did you also come over from Korea when all the Korean nurses were like, you know, I, they just want to place me and understand where I fit into the community. I gained compassion for other people when I want to ask other Asian people where they're from, but I try to ask it in I don't know, a little bit more of an interesting way a little bit more creative, you know? Well, you know, some Other subtle ways of asking that question and questions would be if I'm encountering, you know, an Asian person in Berlin, I would ask them So how long have you been in Berlin? Because Berlin is also a place of a lot of travelers who you know, who come and go and everything. And if they say, Oh, I am from Berlin, I was like, Okay, great. Now I know you were born here. Now I can change the way that I that I speak in terms of like, what kind of narrative do I use? Because I'm going to talk to you as if you are a European because you are. But if someone then says, oh, I've only been in Berlin for three years, and then I might ask them well, where did you Where were you living before Berlin? And if they say, Well, I you know, I came here as an A student because you know, I got a scholarship from from Thailand or something, then then I would Okay, that now I know that you spend your life growing up in Thailand and you only arrived in Europe three years ago. That's a different kind of narrative. So I guess it's you know, it is all about like trying to understand Like how to align yourself with people's life stories and so that it's like code switching in many ways right. And code switching is like is changing the way that you talk to someone. So that you can both be on as common of a ground as you can be.

Jess  30:21

I like it because no I like it because from your answer, I see a lot of care from you and to and your genuine wish to connect with someone and and willing the willingness to, to use their their language or as close as to their language as possible. And then I guess all your resistance of those kind of very single minded question was more like, yeah, you send some hostility or you send some some kind of pushing away so you'd rather just protect yourself by

Sen Zhan  30:55

Yeah, exactly. If I if I sense that there's the and you know, of course, You got to be careful about what you sense in terms of what you think someone's intention is versus what you fear their intention is. Because in the end, we may not know I may be wrong, you know, I may be just a little over protective but typically if I sense that someone is trying to just put me in a box, right and in other me into a category, like okay, she's blah, blah, blah, she's okay. She's from China, even though I would never say that. I'm from China, not not for 30 years now, I wouldn't say that. And Chinese people are like this. Or the other thing, which like, immediately makes me shut down is if someone hears Oh, you were born in China, but you grew up in Canada, and that whole born in Canada grown up us right growing up in Canada and gets cut out and they they start to say, Oh, well, I used to have a Chinese girlfriend. These are the words that I learned to say in Chinese and of course, you know, the words are, are just like completely The inappropriate for any normal conversation. Or they'll say like, Oh, I you know, I traveled to China which is not as as difficult because, you know, why is it cool? You travel to China you know, I don't know what that has to do with me but at least like not just like, okay you, you're from China so therefore I'm going to find some connection between you and this other Chinese woman that I dated. This Yeah, this I just I tried to, like get out of those conversations like, go to the bathroom, you know, as soon as possible.

Jess  32:34

Well, they're also really trying hard to find stuff. Well,

Sen Zhan  32:40

you know, I don't, I wouldn't give the credit of trying hard because,



Sen Zhan  32:48

making you know, the connection between your, your origins, your ethnicity, and someone that you dated before is like it just feels very, very lazy to me. Where you can talk about anything else? You could talk about living in the same city you could talk about what are you doing in life? You know, you could talk you could say How is your day been going? And and that would be more interesting and human than comparing you know you to some other person that he's dated once.

Jess  33:18

So agree actually Yeah, yeah. Cuz because it's actually yeah it's it's a the way lazy or it's actually easy to put someone in the box and it's see this person from the box, but actually the positive person is in front of you. And you can you can get curious about so many things. Exactly. That's exactly it. Yeah,

Sen Zhan  33:39

yeah. You have this living human being in front of you that you can, you can ask so many questions of or you can, you know, if you're at a party, like talk about the hosts, you know, talk about how you know, people here just normal conversation, whatever normal conversation is at a party, you can do that without making a reference someone's ethnicity. But I do want to want to share like another nuance that I learned recently when I was in Greece. So I was at a Vipassana meditation course in Greece, where I would say like a good 50% of the people there were Greek. And at the end, a lot of people asked me that question, Where are you from? And I went immediately into my normal, my normal way of answering which is, you know, I'm, either I'm born in China or grew up in Canada, or I'm just Canadian. And people really insisted, you know, in a very nice way, they really insisted, they're like, no, you're not from Canada. Like you're, even if you were born in Canada, which, you know, I wasn't your parents were somewhere around if they were born in Canada, and their parents were from somewhere, you know, and, and I first I was like, this is really annoying. This is really insistently annoying, and then I talked to another younger Greek woman, she said, Let me explain why. They do this because it's not just to you that they do it, they do it to everybody they do it to like a Greek person, you know, where you may you may live in Athens, but your family might be from like north of Greece or something, and they're just trying to trace your lineage to understand what has been what has been the path of your entire family, so that we are now meeting each other here. It's not about putting you in a box it's about understanding your history. And once you said that, to me, I thought you know, okay, I can I can appreciate that. That they're not just taking you know, the snapshot of the present and an only dealing with the present and not thinking about like, oh, what has this person looped through in order to get here? They they were actually interested in like that whole story because when I asked the some people back, where are you from? Is it okay, so I was I was born here, but my parents moved here this you know, at this time and then my grandparents are actually from, you know, Poland or something. So, You know, I felt like I softened up to that question after, after I spent time in Greece,

Jess  36:06

and I really loved that nuance you just shared. Because Yeah, for me as well, like, as I, I understood more of about family family constellation if you approach that as well like, the more I understood how, how important your lineage and your your basically, ancestors are still influencing you. And there's this is something you cannot neglect. So, so, yeah, better embrace that, at least internally. And then when you deal with other people, you can still choose their strategies of saying it but yeah, though, the more resistance you have internally to to your lineage than actually the more empowered you will be, I guess,

Sen Zhan  36:52

and how have you dealt with that questions of what is my ancestry? What is my lineage

Jess  36:58

it's pretty sad because During the war and the Cultural Revolution, I actually lost the whole family tree like my parents, they didn't know their grandparents like their name or their Yeah, so so we don't know actually, this is something I always feel sad about like even thinking of that it's I think it's deeper even then then something intellectual because I can feel the sadness there. But luckily not every Chinese family is in this situation so many of them still have their their, like nice family booklet of all the names like that can trace back to many generations before so before me this loss or the sadness is exactly proving to me how important the ancestors are for me. So I got some of the connection from from sec ducks and and making me also well I think I haven't connected with my ancestors. I don't know. Yes, but I connected definitely more with my my grand parents who I used to not have a very deep connection with. But then now I also feel more at home with at my hometown, which is just a little come the countryside, a village in southwestern China. And then yeah, I think with that, kind of I know where I'm from that kind of backgrounds and it feels really safe and feels really also in a way grounded, that I can I can, there is a piece of land where I was born and I can I can hope that will catch me when I fall or something like that. So it's really really deep.

Sen Zhan  38:51

And do you feel like you belong to that place where you came into the world?

Jess  38:58

awfully Yes. Yeah, that's just part of it. Yeah, sometimes when I when I'm having some challenges that sometimes even just think of my grandfather in this village and he's sitting on the chair, a wooden of bamboo chair, and even that just picked that picture will suit me so much. So, yeah, I think I do have a lot of belonging there. And interestingly, the more I feel belonging there, the more comfortable I I stay here, like here in Amsterdam, like I know, my, my background there and I also feel belonging here because Pillai is, is not something like you can only have one. Now, I totally realized, okay, in Amsterdam, I have my community as well and in China online, I have my community. So I feel belonging in many places. And this is fascinating the idea

Sen Zhan  39:53

of belonging not being relegated to only one sphere or maybe one physical Place, can you share a bit more about what that means, you know, belonging to several different communities?

Jess  40:06

Yeah, um, practically speaking, I think belonging to community means that you show up and you, you care for others and you receive cares from from other people and in a more regular or consistent way. So that's my very practical understanding of belonging. So I do show up in, in the circling community, Amsterdam and and in China, as well. So so that I think really, consistency is key, like this idea of sustainability. And then you can, you know, that it's not just a one time thing you you can always get, it's, it really feels safe, like, you know, when you need someone, people will show up, that kind of safety. So that that's, that's part of the belonging. And another part is, again, very deep down like I Feel belonging to this body and to to myself and to, to where I live now this space and then with this belonging, I don't need to seek for recognition from outside or seek for a lot of reassurance from from outside, which is still important, but it's not it's never like this the only source of belonging So, so yeah, I really feel like when I'm more aligned with myself I feel at home with myself. So then belonging for a external community also becomes easier many of the time times I don't feel that that's alignment. So I would struggle as well.

Sen Zhan  41:45

Well, what it sounds like is that you and this is a process that goes on for the rest of our lives, right? Like belonging to communities and also belonging to oneself, but what it sounds like is when you when you felt like You were alright with yourself living in this body, this vehicle that carries our consciousness, it became easier to feel at ease in many different communities because because your place of belonging is right here with you, you know, every single moment. And it's not so much that the community is what gives you your identity. It's you who gives yourself your identity and existing in different communities can also facilitate the expression of different aspects of your identity. Yeah,

Jess  42:33

yeah, I really like how you frame it. Because it's also like, the more authentic you can be to yourself, and the more natural you will be in, in one community and different communities can entertain different parts of you, that are all very true and very natural and flowing. So that's, that's, that's my ideal sense of belonging. Yeah.

Sen Zhan  42:59

So now I want to ask you about your work in establishing your online community. So you have an online community called octopus awakening. And and this is an online community for for the Chinese community or the Chinese speaking community.

Jess  43:15

Yeah, well, so trialing Chinese speaking communities Yes. Then the name octopus awakening came from. There's a practice from teal swan. And if you know her, she's a spiritual teacher. I don't agree with everything she says. But this practice of she called it octopus technique. It's really inspiring for me. So basically, it's a it's a meditation practice where so for example, both of us imagining ourselves to be an octopus leg. So when I have an extra pass, and then we actually were connected in the octopus head, so we share some a lot of like human archetypes or or the one that The so called oneness so so we are connected there, but we are also individuals. So I really like this metaphor, it's like we're always talking about one is the capital ones, but we're also the smaller ones in each octopus leg. So so this is also my, my ideal concept of community. It's where we have some common interest in common sentiments but we also are individuals in in this community and we can express Of course we can agree to disagree. And, and yet still we have the safety net together. So this is the idea.

Sen Zhan  44:42

Yeah, so it's like you're, you're independent entities, but you're still operating with a connection to the to the collective.

Jess  44:51

Yep. So this is something actually I want to add that for for Chinese communities actually. award people Love and hate, because I guess, as social animals, we do want to have some belonging to a community, not just to your best friends not just to a partner, but if you have a larger whole tribe be there for you. It's going to be very different. So I guess a lot of people have this inner drive to to belong to a community, but in China, it's a challenge because well, we had the, the recent history of the collectivism, which which didn't work, and we were raised in a, for example, most of the schools we were required to wear uniform, and so a lot of people associate community with, okay, we're going to be the same and having this fear of losing the individuality. So So basically, the there is always the tension between how much aye aye aye aye immersed in this community. How much I I still keep my own truth? So, so I my wish was just to have this to experiment and found this community where people can have both people can have others and can have themselves. And this is actually the community I personally I want to belong to. So I was basically I wanting to I wanted to have a community that I

Sen Zhan  46:26

I feel comfortable practically on a day to day level when you're with your community, either online or elsewhere, how do you navigate this fine line between giving to the community and you know, and being there for the people in the community and doing the things that you you feel are necessary to do for the community versus belonging to yourself and just, you know, letting yourself be who you are.

Jess  46:53

I was very, I am still very authentic at the community. So I express something that I Agree, Agree with with someone or I actually welcome conflicts in the community. This is another thing because if a community has no conflict, it's not safe actually. And it's a safe community. If you have conflicts and the after a conflict, you actually get closer. So for an intimate relationship as well, so for me, I'm a huge believer of conflicts. And so, so that's why for me, I'm, I make myself comfortable in this community by sharing myself as authentically and not not being afraid of having tension with someone, and then people would then feel the real, safe safety of this community like they will feel where the boundaries are. Interestingly, when you ask this question, how I how I navigate this, or what I can think of are about conflicts and they're beautiful And oftentimes, I also sometimes feel this nervousness, oh my god, this is a conflict, of course, we will have that fear response. Like, ah, I'm gonna ruin this community and people aren't gonna leave me, of course, we will have that fear. But oftentimes it ended up beautifully.

Sen Zhan  48:19

As you know, and as really anyone who has that background knows, we as a culture tend to avoid conflict. And try, we try to be as as harmonious as possible. And, you know, there's that there's that picture of like, the pictogram of the European way of addressing conflict, which is like, straight on, walk right through the conflict. And then there's the Asian way, which is, here's the conflict, and now we're gonna walk and then we go around it and then we never touch it, and then we, you know, and and I feel like the only examples of conflict that I saw in my childhood, were the ones that were explosive. It was when People had stuffed up their emotions for so long that they simply couldn't handle it anymore. And there was one thing the the straw that broke the camel's back. It just was a volcano. And so those were the only instances where I saw anger or upsetness or, you know, difference in opinion, really strongly expressed. So my association with conflict was extremely traumatic. And you learn as a child to kind of like, watch people and detect who is non verbally angry with whom and you try to navigate that space of Okay, I know that these two people are, are fighting in their heads. They're not saying it to each other. But the way that they're behaving in the way that they're acting is clear that there's something going on and so you're just trying to move through that that tension without setting it off. Because if you set it off, it's going to be Be explosive and who knows what's gonna happen as a result of it? And of course you know coming from that kind of background whenever I detected people outwardly you know more with with other kinds of conflict, which were a lot less serious, I would have that same response of like, Oh my god, you know, something terrible is gonna happen. Or, you know, I need to get ready for for the worst but I'm, you know, I'm so interested in like, witnessing, you know, how, in you know, whether it's an online community or an in person community how when when people are upset with each other or just annoyed or irritated or having a bad day with each other, or someone did something that the other person didn't like, but it wasn't on purpose, how you just address it?

Jess  50:47

Well, I was from this kind of background as well, like I was afraid of conflicts but so basically, I didn't have any positive example of, of fighting in a different way. So so basically growth was about, like, those kind of experiences getting less and less and that we have more and more different experiences. And then I started to shift I started to, to like, even, like complex. So, so So yeah, it's a process of accumulating different experiences. And in circling, it's exactly this kind of process because you go there, not just once it's like meditation, you don't just do it once you do it daily, or you do it weekly. And then you go there and time and time again, you just started to trust that it's okay to express your own irritation, it's okay to even feel aggressive, and you will be well received or if not, it's also then you will take responsibility to to solve that and, and or to find compassion or meet each other in the pathway. So with all that Again, it's about repetition. So you don't do it just once. And then with repetition, you your experience changes. And that new idea changes as well. You're

Sen Zhan  52:10

talking about this, this concept of circling, can you talk a bit more about how that set up what that looks like?

Jess  52:17

suckling is a way of interpersonal meditation. So we we still meditate in this instant, we're staying in the now we're closely connected with our feelings and sensations and thoughts. And we just express authentically. So that's in line with meditation, but it's not like you close your eyes, and you just stay silent, but you're connecting with people. So it can be one on one and oftentimes it's in a group in a circle. So that's called circling. And you just share to the circle, whatever is alive and true in you. So you just speak with our impulse and share Australia. And then in circling, we have This you can imagine this infinity sign where you have all the you share impact, because whatever you share is going to create some impact on people. So, people will share will pick that up and and share how they are impacted and then you will impact you will be impacted by their impact so, so is this infinite infinite interaction with people. So, oftentimes within an hour, especially, so, there are different circles one is like a person circle we call it So, there's one person being the center of attention so, everyone is being curious about what's it like to be this person. So, oftentimes theory, for example, one hour or 40, even 40 minutes or even 20 minutes personal circle, you can get so much into this world as person's worlds you can oftentimes it's even healing or is it can be tricky, like a person can go to their past to their trauma and can release a lot of things and or can can touch upon their really deep wants or something they don't even know that about themselves. And, and then it can be magical in those one circle one session. And it sounds really simple I just say what's alive in me now, which sounds really superficial and really does not sound simple.

Sen Zhan  54:24

If you're being if you're I mean, I'm thinking of me in a group of, you know, six or seven people and even though I've done a lot of work on myself, it's I can still feel the resistance to say, you know, if someone is triggering something where I'm like, Oh, I feel kind of annoyed with I if that's hard that feels very difficult. Yeah,

Jess  54:47

I have to say even for me, like as a circling facilitator, it's very hard to say that and especially for a facilitator, you're supposed to hold space for people and and how am I going to still express my My real feelings without, while still making this whole space safe. It's always it's a constant challenge for me. But also, it's a great practice for me to, to state my truth because, and then I'll give you an example if I really feel annoyed by someone I will share that, but I will not just share as a judgement, like you are annoying, but I will say, I noticed that I feel some tension in my body and I while hearing your speaking I feel some irritation and I don't know what that's about, but we maybe we can explore together or if I do no, what's that about? I would make a request like, could you slow down a little bit or I feel I feel this this whole I feel the atmosphere or because it's true, like maybe the atmosphere feels a little bit tight or cold or maybe I want to just check with the person, are we still connected? So with all those, I'm still expressing my irritation, but with a little bit more care. So my last question

Sen Zhan  56:08

is a little bit in the direction of the sex podcasting. What do you think is still missing in the dialogue about intimacy, sex and relationships? Whether it's for Chinese audience or Western audience,

Jess  56:25

the first thing that came to my mind is spirituality. Because oftentimes sex is seen as the opposite, or from like mainstream religions or it's just like, very rigid, like you're only allowed to have sex in, in certain formats or certain restraints. Or it's in it's often talked about in a very secular way. Like this is the science of female male anatomy kind of face. I think this topic sometimes was scare people away. like as if you you combine sex and sex spirituality, you're, you're entering into college or something. But I really want to make it if possible to connect sex. And like everyday kind of spirituality like an everyday sex, like you said, we talk about sex, like we talk about food. But I have this wish to talk about sex and spirituality, the way we talk about food. So that can be something that I I would be enthusiastic about.

Sen Zhan  57:35

Just I could talk to you for hours, probably days and weeks. And I feel like we just we just stumbled upon this whole other thing. So I will I feel like I need to invite you back for a second round.


So just if

Sen Zhan  57:50

our listeners wanted to look at how to get into circling or check out octopus awakening, how did they do that?

Jess  57:57

Yes, and unfortunately, now My content is more available for Chinese speaking listeners. So if you can Google or just find me on any Chinese platform like WeChat or Weibo you can search for Shanghai once high which means spirituality. I love playfulness and fortune. So for of course this this one is English episode and for English speaking audience, you can find me on YouTube. Just search for my name, Jean shoujo. That's my Chinese name. And about circling. Can they do that? Also, sir? Yeah, if you want to do circling in Europe, in the US or online, you can always go to so clean Europe. Calm or you can go Google authentic revolution. That's a US based platform. And yeah, there are probably a lot of soccer events in major cities in the world because is really growing fast. And yeah. And in Chinese, you can't you can just search for Johnny Jesse, which is octopus awakening,

Sen Zhan  59:10

just thank you so much for taking the time and sharing all of these beautiful insights and experiences. And you're such a fascinating person and I am just so so grateful that we met in life. So, I look forward to having you back on the podcast whenever you're ready. Thank

Jess  59:28

you for having me.

Sen Zhan  59:31

Thanks for listening to beyond Asian stories of a third culture. I hope you enjoy this episode. We have a preview of our next episode coming up for you. Before we roll it, you can find any resources referenced today in the show notes. If you resonated with what you heard on the show today, follow our Facebook page to get updates and what we're working on in our Facebook group to add your voice to the conversation. Got the perfect third culture Asian guests for us. Get in touch on our website beyond Asian calm or Simply Email us at beyond Asian podcast@gmail.com. We'll be back with another story soon. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our show on Spotify, Apple podcasts, spreaker and nearly all your regular podcast watering holes. We are a growing podcast and therefore need your support and reviews to keep bringing you more stories like this. I'd like to thank Mulan soon our creative strategist and lead designer ciccio Coppola, our 3d designer, Remy rush poor, our developer, and Alexandra Heller, our Director of Marketing for helping to bring this podcast to life. Most importantly, I'd like to thank our growing community of courageous guests who have generously shared their stories with us. Beyond Asian stories of a third culture is hosted and produced by me Your Chinese Canadian third culture kid in Berlin. Send john, here's what we've got in store for you next time.


As third culture kids I think we often find comfort in being the outlier, but I feel like we can make something out of it. We can find other outliers too. We can form a whole community of them, we can turn that into a strength. How does ancestral trauma from generations past transfer to a third culture kid today? In Episode Two, I'm speaking with Holly about the implications of living out generational trauma as a global Nomad. My family has a lot of mental health problems too. My dad coming from a background where his father was a heroin addict. And growing up with a lot of trauma, I think from that, and my mother too. I think it was just a perfect breeding ground for a lot of toxicity to come up when the conflicts that I had did come up. I also recognized for myself that the anger I was harboring inside of me that came from a place of abandonment that I was projecting to everything around me, wasn't healthy for me. It held me back as a person.