On the last day of October this year, the world lost Betty Dodson, a leading champion of female self-pleasure, whose contribution to feminist conversations on sexual liberation will forever remain unparalleled. Aged 91, she passed away at a nursing home in New York, USA, due to liver cirrhosis. Reports suggest she had not been keeping well since July, when she was admitted to hospital. Universally regarded as one of the strongest forces of feminism in this era, her death was mourned widely by women who had achieved the gift of perfect orgasm under her mentorship.

“The most consistent sex will be the love affair you have with yourself. Masturbation will get you through childhood, puberty, romance, marriage and divorce, and it will see you through old age,” Dodson famously wrote in her seminal 1987 book Sex for One. Self-admittedly a fourth-wave feminist, she was renowned as a sex positivity artist who advocated the need for women to pleasure themselves to great orgasms. “A real orgasm is something that no matter where it comes from, a woman takes for herself,” was what she believed.

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Dodson’s Bodysex Workshops: Radical And Revolutionary

In the 1960s, a failed marriage later, Betty Anne Dodson began her discovery of the optimum sexual pleasure. During the early days of her career, she hosted erotic art shows and exhibitions in the US. Gradually, she became best, and perhaps most notoriously, known for her ‘Bodysex’ workshops that gained widespread prominence during the 1960s and 70s in America. In what was appealing to many, radical to most – and in retrospect, wholly revolutionary – Dodson in her workshops encouraged the concept of ‘group masturbation’ – a safe zone where women could come together for a session of self-pleasure in each others’ company.

A Bodysex participant, recounting her experience, writes, “The meeting is a group of women, all nude, in a circle, who are willing to share their thoughts about their bodies and their orgasms… The main goals of the workshop are to overcome body shame and pleasure anxiety. Betty’s home is a positive, safe, comfortable, beautiful, clean environment where we were allowed to be relaxed in our own nakedness.”

Such was the innovation Dodson brought to the pro-sex feminist movement, that she has a masturbation method named after her: known simply as the Betty Dodson Method. In it, she instructed women to put towels over their vulvas and then use the Magic Wand (a powerful vibrator) to pleasure themselves slowly. Those who regard Dodson as the ultimate pleasure guru swear by this method for achieving the perfect O.

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Women And Vulvas: The Pathway To Pleasure

Along the same vein, sex parties too were commonplace in Dodson’s utopia. “We’d push the furniture against the wall. I had two double beds side by side and a little couch. The sex was taking place in the back room. I’d have coffee, cookies, cheese, crackers. They’d be socialising. And then somebody might be f*cking over by the fireplace. It was just a natural way to socialize. It wasn’t a big f*ckin’ deal, like it is now,” she was quoted saying.

Even as she neared 90, Dodson was reportedly still hosting her infamous workshops at her residence in the US. Surrounded by her trademark erotic art, she was preaching the message of a positive body image to women who, in their search for a pathway to pleasure, came to her. She explained it saying, “When you look around the circle of women, you let go of the bullshit image they pump into the marketplace with the fashion magazines and the Hollywood movies… The biggest problem for women is our body image and it starts with our vulvas. We think— all of us—that there’s something wrong with them.”

As for men, Dodson believed they were inspired by what she called “f*ckless porn”, because of which they “don’t want to see real orgasms, they want the porn orgasm. It’s an ego thing. They want to see the kind of effect they’re having on a woman.” Which is why she implored women to “Get ’em to do what you want. Get the position you want.”

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Raising A Toast To The Godmother Of Orgasms

The enchanting influence Dodson had on the female masses consolidated through the Zoom ‘Bodysex’ classes that continued without her supervision this year, even as she was admitted to a medical facility on account of her deteriorating health. And going by the response to her demise, her influence will comfortably endure in feminist discourse for years to come.

“One of the first feminists,” was what celebrated feminist speaker Gloria Steinem once called Dodson. Upon her death, she was quoted saying, “Betty Dodson was a brave and daring advocate for women’s right to sexual knowledge and pleasure. Her workshops turned women on to the beauty of our own bodies, and her outrageous honesty allowed more women to speak our truths.”

Tributes are flooding in for the woman who prided herself on possessing initials that cosmically aligned with the nature of her life: B.A.D. Those Dodson had personally, or impersonally, coached are remembering her unapologetic insistence on embracing the human body and sexuality. In honour of her legacy, women everywhere are pledging an oath to pleasure themselves more, touch themselves more, and aim towards bigger, more explosive climaxes. And inarguably, there’s no better way than this to raise a toast to the godmother of orgasms.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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