It was indeed Betty Dodson, the author of Sex for One, who gave women permission to possess, love and experience the clitoris. Betty sometimes goes by the name Clitty Ann and does a little puppet routine with her pussy. Imagine this with her friendly Midwestern accent. She has been teaching about sex for quite a while, and she does it every day. You might almost think she was…sent here.
I believe that it will be some time before we collectively understand Betty’s contribution to society. Think of her as a sexual Fred Rogers, helping adults not be so frightened of the subject, and never making it political. Though she is not on public television (apropos of her subject, she is from the self-publishing tradition), many, many people have benefited from her work, and they know it.
Thanks to her, and I am speaking a literal historic truth, the tide of opinion has started to turn toward the legitimacy, beauty and erotic value of female masturbation. By extension, a bit of the fairy dust [i typed ‘dues’] rubs off on the guys, who have learned a lot from Betty about women and who have taken this message as encouragement to get to know themselves. In the spirit of progress, let’s keep that positive vibe going.
Masturbation is the sexual common ground we all share; Betty wrote about this first. It reaches clear across the whole L G B T Q spectrum, and age, and culture, and gender, and how we do relationships. Betty was a pioneer at defying sexual categorization. She may well be the world’s first out masturbator, a gesture of her independence and love of a good time. She was one of the first out bisexuals, too. She feared no person’s judgment and created all her own definitions, breaking every sexual norm at a time when there were strict rules and when feminists didn’t talk about sex.
Her ideas focus on how masturbation is the sexual aspect of a relationship we have with ourselves. I know some deep people who never considered masturbation to be a relational expression; of how we feel, or want to feel. Sex of any kind is a homing device. Used consciously, it can guide us closer to ourselves, and reveal hidden or subtle feelings that we can explore, resolve or enjoy.
Betty had an idea about getting groups of women together to raise consciousness, eat food and masturbate communally. And she did it. I have no clue how this sounds to the innocent reader of today; it could seem a bit scifi. Most of it happened in Manhattan, indeed, on Madison Avenue. Right down the street from MAD magazine. That tells you something about New York City, the place the Wichita baby adopted as home.
She got there because she’s a hot artist; as in, her work would set an art museum on fire. She prefers organic stuff to draw with, such as pencil or charcoal and she works fairly large. Making art is, in reality, what she does, whatever she does. My theory is that art set her free and she kept going. She also had an amazing mother and a decent, talented and loving dad.
She reached many people and one of them was me. I first called her up in 1995 because I wanted to refer a client to her. A long conversation has ensued. In a recent blog post, Betty took credit for influencing me to come out of the closet and take up this message. I’ve thought about it for a few weeks and I think she’s right. Over the years, she has fueled and encouraged my work as a sexual revolutionary and eronaut. I have the incredible privilege — indeed, an honor on a cosmic scale — of picking up the phone and dialing one of the few phone numbers I have memorized.
We have a good laugh, do a bit of bitching, and some topic comes up wherein I dive into her decades of experience and perspective. What she’s learned, she’s gained from taking up such an extraordinary yet how down to Earth role in society.
It’s sad that in Betty’s lifetime she’s seen sex, in total, go from something we proudly claimed to something that makes even a good few educated people really, really nervous. We have long needed a pathway to getting over ourselves and moving toward emotional and sexual healing in our relationships, and Betty has helped us create one. The sexual crisis of our times has become so serious that few people even have a clue where to begin to solve it. This crisis is connected to self-hatred and good old ordinary repression; as well as the current extraordinary hypersexualization of everything from deodorant to Pepsi. The problem is we are being alienated from ourselves and it would seem that the only appropriate answer to that is to get to know ourselves. Who would have thought that this would become such a radical gesture. Or maybe it always was.
Thank you Betty. I get it, and I get you.
Here is an article I wrote last August on the occasion of Betty beginning her 80th year. It gives a detailed analysis of her chart, which is a chart I teach any time I get the chance to put it up on the screen or hand it to astrology students.
Here is a sample. All readers may access this at the link immediately above.
Betty’s natal chart reveals her as the ultimate Virgo, one born under the sign of the Goddess. Her life combines the well-known service and healing properties of this sign with the rarely mentioned guts, boldness and intensity that often come along with it as well. It’s also a chart that demonstrates the beauty of Chiron and the first four asteroids, giving us a real sense of how they work — something most astrology students would really appreciate seeing. Her chart demonstrates Goddess power and what kind of influence it can have in getting us past the oppressive ideas of the past.