Dr. Betty Dodson, My First Orgasm, Cindy Sheehan and the Mohammed Cartoons
Confession: My special guest at our sexuality salon this coming Saturday gave me my first orgasm.
Well, not personally. Actually, it was her first book that gave it to me. I was 19 years old, and I’d never had an orgasm. Oh, I’d had sex a few times, mainly with my high school boyfriend, and he’d had plenty of orgasms. I’d masturbated since before I could walk, but not yet to *completion.* I did have involuntary climaxes occasionally when I rode a horse or did kip-ups in gymnastics. But no full-fledged voluntary orgasms until my first semester of my sophomore year at Yale. That was when I read a book that was most definitely not required reading for any of my classes: Betty Dodson‘s Liberating Masturbation.No I didn’t date any Skull & Boners during my sojourn at Yale, but I was seeing a gorgeous young math genius on the crew team named Steven, tall and sensuously lean, with long flowing blonde hair and eyes the color of an unspoiled lake. The only problem was that Steven was very shy, and since I was fairly shy too, our evenings tended to be pretty dull. But I was infatuated with his golden athletic beauty and dazzling numerical brilliance. And one night, when I let him stay over in my tiny little dorm room in my tiny little single bed, we had sex. I don’t remember much about the sex. I think it wasn’t bad, but I know it wasn’t orgasmic.
When Steven left for his early morning math class, I remember lingering in bed. Lazily, I started to touch myself, picking up where Steven had left off. But I didn’t know what to do. Not exactly. So, being a bookish girl, I reached for a book. We were reading Antony and Cleopatra in Shakespeare class. Though I found the play to be quite erotic, I knew old A&C wouldn’t tell me what I needed to know at that critical moment. Nor would my psych or philosophy textbooks or even my French Fleurs du Mal. So I pushed them all aside for a little illustrated pamphlet I’d picked up from one of the women’s consciousness raising groups so popular back then.
This was Liberating Masturbation. I perused a few paragraphs as I continued to touch myself. Within less than a dozen pages, I’d received a lesson in female anatomy like I’d never been given before. In a smart, friendly, no-nonsense style, Betty told me exactly what and where my clitoris was (nobody else ever had!), and how to touch it to make it feel wonderful. She told me to relax and breathe deep, something I’d never thought of doing with sex, despite my years of yoga. So, I relaxed and breathed deeply, as I stroked and played with myself like I’d played since I was a baby, but this time I followed Betty’s instructions, pushing myself farther. I inhaled and exhaled deeper and deeper, and rubbed and tickled and poked and pulled, licking my fingers and feeling the power, checking back with the book for ideas, breathing more and more deeply, rubbing faster and slower and then faster again, until lo and behold, the proverbial dam burst, the bed shook, the dorm room spun, and I bounced off the cliff into orgasm. My first full-fledged, voluntary orgasm.
I remember feeling awed and amazed, like I’d gone through a personal revolution right there in my tiny, overprotected, little dorm room bed. I knew I had passed through a “rite of passage” that none of my anthropology books dared describe. I felt blessed, or maybe just lucky, like I’d been given a gift from God, or the Goddess, or Nature, a pure pleasure that I didn’t have to work for, didn’t cost any money, didn’t have any calories and didn’t require *faith* in myths or suppositions. I marveled that something so easy could be so explosive, yet so gentle. And I remember realizing I was hooked, that at that point, after 19 years of life on earth, I had become orgasmic. I knew, right then and there, that no matter what happened, the rest of my life would include these exquisite explosions of pleasure, that pretty much whenever I wanted, I could enjoy a little piece of heaven on Earth. It was all just as close as my fingertips.
I remember drifting blissfully in that tiny little dorm room bed, as if I were Cleopatra floating down the Nile on her perfumed barge toward Antony, her erotic destiny. Then I remember glancing at the clock and realizing that if I didn’t get out of bed that minute, I’d miss that Shakespeare class! So I threw on my clothes, picked up my books and left–a New Orgasmic Woman–then, now, and forever, a proud citizen of Betty Dodson’s Masturbation Nation, joining her “on the barricades” against sexual ignorance and repression.
Betty’s Liberating Masturbation was eventually revamped and renamed Sex for One. It became a classic. Over the decades, it has helped millions of women like me to have their first orgasms. And it has eased the guilt and opened the minds of many others, male and female. Like another bestseller of its time, The Joy of Sex, it carried the sexology research of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, along with the pioneering efforts of Victoria Woodhull, Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger, into the burgeoning self-help arena. It reached the masses, grabbed them (gently) by the cajones, and stoked the Sexual Revolution.
As the title indicates, Sex for One is the quintessential self-help manual (pun intended). Its message is self-revolutionary: If you can help yourself to the greatest sexual pleasure, you really don’t need to kow-tow to the demands of an unreasonable husband, or wife, or religion, or government. No wonder masturbation is still so taboo.
Betty hit a bullseye with that first manifesto. But, unlike so many “sexperts,” she didn’t cranked out a library of sexual self-help books. After decades of doing her world-famous workshops, videos, lectures, articles and photo collections, she finally wrote a “sequel*: Orgasms for Two, which you can read about here.
I haven’t had Betty on the show since we gave Ken Starr an award for producing the Biggest Pornography Production in History: The Impeachment of a President Over a Botched Blow-Job. But I did spend a delicious couple of hours at her apartment in New York when we were there for Squirt Salon‘s American big-screen premiere at the CineKink NYC Film Festival. We sipped cold sake and communed with Saint Betty, her live-in lover Eric who just happens to be five decades her junior, and her girlfriend from upstate who was going out on a date with a retired general who hates Bush and the Iraq War (there are more and more of them these days), and needed my *professional* help with her dÃ©colletage. I was, of course, only too happy to oblige.
Speaking of Bush’s War, I was thrilled to see Cindy Sheehan create international anti-war agit-prop theater, without hardly even trying, at Doobya’s Perma-War-Stirring State of the Union Address. A guest of California representative Lynn Woolsey, who has called for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, Cindy was just wearing a T-shirt with the number of dead Americans soldiers in Iraq. If they’d just let her sit in her seat in peace, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Sure, cameras would have shown her once or twice, fleetingly. But now, her brutal arrest is Big News. Score another one for the Peace Movement. Cindy was completely innocent, yet she was roughly evicted, bound, frog-marched out of the Capital and arrrested, like Christ Herself. The Yippies couldn’t have done a better job of showing what brutes these Chickenhawks can be, and how seriously our First Amendment (and other) rights are being damaged, not to mention the number of American soldiers who have died so far in Bush’s War: 2,245. Capitol Police have since apologized, and dropped the charges of unlawful conduct. But Cindy’s point has been made: Our president is lying while our children are dying. Plus she didn’t have to sit through Bush’s goddawful speech. Go, Cindy, go! The true State of the Union is disastrous, and America wants a divorce.
On the other side of the madness, a bunch of Islamic clerics, fanatics and governments (including Saudi Arabia and Libya) have gone ballistic over the publication of some cartoons of Mohammed that were originally published in Jyllands-Postenn, a small magazine in Denmark, a land known for its secular openness. In solidarity with the Danish paper, several other European newspapers reprinted the cartoons today. Many of these newspapers, like Germany’s Die Welt, are quite conservative, and I wouldn’t agree with most of their political positions. But I fully support their right to publish any kind of cartoon they damn please, ridiculing Jesus, Mohammed, Eros, Buddha, Krishna or God Herself. I wish they would support my right to publish explicit depictions of sex, but I doubt they would. But the Imams wouldn’t either. Almost everybody in any position of power these days is afraid of publishing the Facts of Life.
Which is another reason I’m so glad to be hosting a salon with Dr. Betty Dodson this Saturday. Make your reservations now!