So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants. a) Do you have a vagina? and b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said “yes” to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist. ~ Caitlin Moran
Betty Dodson is an artist, author, and PhD sexologist and has been one of the principal voices for women’s sexual pleasure and health for over three decades. Impressive, right.
Betty had the first one-woman show of erotic art in 1968 in New York followed by three others. She produced and presented the first feminist slide show of vulvas at the 1973 NOW Sexuality Conference in New York where she introduced the electric vibrator as a pleasure device. For 25 years, she ran Bodysex groups where women learned about their bodies and orgasms through the practice of self-stimulation. Thanks to her 1973 bestseller, Sex for One, she was soon dubbed the “Godmother of Masturbation”.
Carlin Ross is an entrepreneur and sex educator positioned at the forefront of female sexuality. Carlin has had a impressive career. She worked with the New York State Attorney General’s Office in their Internet and Civil Rights Bureaus before going in-house as General Counsel of an ISP which raised $1B on wall street. As well as interviewing many sexperts she has also written/produced/directed several erotic features, and she has appeared on The Sharon Osbourne Show, CNN, MSNBC, and Dateline, and radio shows. Carlin has been featured in American national publications including Marie Claire and Esquire. Most recently, she released her ebook How to Make a Girl Come.
When Carlin interviewed Betty a few years back less than half way through the interview Betty looked her dead in the eye, reached her hand across the table, and said, “we’re going into business together. Shake on it”. Carlin didn’t hesitate. Today they run a website covering everything from how to orgasm to penis size, and from labia to menopause. They have also relaunched their bodysex workshops. Betty also continues to do her private sessions with women, a bodysex workshop for one. Curious?
When did you both first know sex was your vocation?
Betty: When I entered art school in 1950, I chose to draw the nude as I loved the human body. This was at the beginning of abstract expressionism’s rise to fame. To this day, I have very little respect for this genre except for a few.
Carlin: I reconnected with a friend on FB who remembered me dispensing sex advice during lunch in high school. Sex was always a mystery for me and my friends, something that the adults wouldn’t talk about. I had questions I wanted answers to and when I got those answers I wanted to share the information with my friends. Then I went off to law school with the fantasy of being a shallow wealthy woman but my life path kept bringing me back to sex. I finally surrendered at 30 and dedicated my life to sex education and feminism.
If you go out to dinner with someone, you find out what they prefer in food. We ought to be able to have a conversation to find out what people prefer when it comes to sex. ~ Betty Dodson
How have your own sexual experiences influenced your work?
Betty: My personal struggle with orgasm during sex with a partner combined with my imaginary genital deformity of long inner lips was a serious handicap. Finally in 1965, my post marital lover who had read every book written on human sexuality transformed my attitude and therefor my sex life. Just in time for America’s sexual revolution!
Carlin: Betty and I always discuss how many educators/therapists etc have theoretical knowledge about human sexuality. We are similar in that most of our information/opinions about “sex” are experiential. We learned about sex by having sex – lots of sex with lots of different people in different contexts.
“As post-Sex and the City, post-Girls generation of women”, are we really as liberated as we like to think?
Carlin: There have been strides made such as access to contraception, the morning after pill, and non-surgical abortions. But we still see the same struggle with body image, genital shame, and ignorance about the female orgasm. Yes, we’re having more casual sex but are we communicating our sexual needs and stimulating our own clitoris during vaginal penetration? Woman as a whole need to connect to their bodies through masturbation, know that their sex organ is beautiful and feel entitled to pleasure.
Betty: I think men know, sense they are loosing control or domination over women as we become stronger, more whole. We need to learn we can stand side by side and work together. Women are superior in that we create the next generation. Mankind will always envy and therefore try to control our wombs.
Carlin: For me, it all boils down to equal pay for equal work. If women received equal pay, we’d add $1 trillion dollars to the US economy and pull 50% of those living in poverty into the middle class. And let’s remember that roughly 70% of those living in poverty are women and children. By making women solely responsible for the consequences of sex and relegating them to the pink ghetto, we’re cannibalizing the next generation.
How does your work help others?
Betty: Sharing sex information and education from a personal perspective lets other women know they are not alone in their struggle to become equal partners in sex, their marriages, in the home and making decisions in government.
Carlin: Ultimately, we give women permission to be sexual and share the information on how to have independent orgasms. Without sexual freedom, there is no sense of self. Once you’re whole sexually, you’re ready to move forward with your life as a balanced person.
Bodysex Workshops, what are they all about?
Betty: Women get to understand/experience that they are not alone in their struggle to become orgasmic with the male model of sexual response. We see our varied nude bodies that are all beautiful. We learn through our eyes that every vulva is unique and marvellous, bonding us in an authentic sisterhood.
Carlin: Bodysex is about healing genital share and creating a sense of sisterhood – something most women have never experienced. You enter the circle nude, stripped of your jewellery and clothing – everything that connotes status. And when we look at each other’s genitals it’s the ultimate vulnerability. You now know that there’s nothing wrong with you, that your sex organ is beautiful. And you’ve claimed your body for your own pleasure.
Betty, tell us about your artwork?
Art was my first true love and drawing the nude was my chosen expression. Most important was learning to become a skilled observer. Most of us “look” but we don’t “see.” My dyslexia turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I couldn’t be fooled with fancy rhetoric so PR has had less affect on me.
I wrote How to Make a Girl Come because of all the questions we get from men about how to pleasure women. And I chose that title because it’s the top search phrase people use to find D&R. Most men want to connect with their partners but they get the wrong messages from porn. There’s too much pressure on men to be aggressive and know what to do during partner sex. I wanted to write a book with basic sex information from a woman’s perspective, a woman that loves sex and loves men.
What is your message to cynics, skeptics, and the intrigued?
Carlin: We used to get a ton of hate mail but that all dropped off about a year ago. I think it’s because we’ve been plugging away for 8 years creating content that is balanced and respectful. It’s not about promiscuity or female dominance. It’s about self knowledge and happiness. Who can argue with that?
Finally, what are your top five tips for self-love?
Betty: I don’t deal in “tips’ but rather sex information and education. Women need to explore and discover their own sexual bodies at an early age through a regular practice of masturbation that is guilt free. Masturbation is the foundation for ALL of human sexuality. We must honor this humble activity and stop being obsessed with ideals based upon fairy tales of a mythical prince and princess charming.
Look at your genitals in a mirror with a good light
Use oil on your genitals – coconut oil or almond oil
Enjoy the good feelings with no pressure to orgasm
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh