Editor’s Note: In this piece, the writer is referring specifically to a group of cisgender women exploring their bodies. However, we recognise that women do not always have vulvas, and vulvas are not exclusive to women.
Deep inside a “bodysex workshop”: Day One.
I’m sitting naked and cross-legged on a carpet with a handful of women I’ve never met before. My legs are trembling. My hands are shaking. Why? Because I’ve put one of my most precious assets on the line: my clitoris.
Welcome to Betty Dodson’s Bodysex Workshop. Affectionately known as the ‘Mother of Masturbation,’ Betty — an author, artist, sex educator, and researcher — has devoted most of her 86 years to exploring the depths of female masturbation. Her 1987 book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving took the shame out of jilling-off. (Betty says you’re welcome!)
For several decades, she’s held weekend-long workshops where ladies get, um, hands-on experience, learning about themselves and their bodies in the process.
I was greeted by Betty herself, a spry, sprite-like gal with cropped silver hair. She immediately took me to an undressing area. First step: strip, check your ego at the door, no designer labels (or Spanx!) to hide behind. Soon, all of the Workshop participants were au naturel.
Betty began what she lovingly calls the “c*nt talk” session — one by one, we took turns chatting about our genitalia. The reason? Women never, ever discuss how they feel about their girlparts.
Starting with her Bible Belt origins in Wichita and delving into her florid history as a solo-sex advocate, Betty got the ball rolling. Next up, Susan admitted that she enjoyed sex but felt something was missing. Gina, who’d tried it all — threesomes, orgies and everything else in between — recently found herself avoiding sex altogether. It didn’t seem worth the struggle to have an orgasm, she confessed. Pat wanted to learn how to love her body again and embrace the extra pounds she’d put on after having twins.
Tara O shares her tips for a great orgasm. (Post continues after video.)
Then there was me. I don’t know what happened but all of my insecurities started spilling out, from complaining about my small breasts and big bottom to being convinced that I just wasn’t right “down there.” This perception has haunted me since the first time I dared to take a peek with a hand mirror propped between my legs at age 13.
There were exercises in penetration — like putting our well-greased pinkies up our nostrils. Betty explained that she wanted to liberate all of our orifices. We even explored the male and female aspects of our personalities, the aggressive and the passive. We pranced around the room nude, strutting like studs, grunting deep from the gut, then teetering on imaginary high heels, giggling like schoolgirls. Hey, this was fun!
After a light snack and bathroom break, we were even more relaxed. An odd menagerie of all different ages, races and body types, we were probably closer to each other than to our mothers, sisters, or BFFs. There were no secrets, no false fronts. Our imperfections were in plain sight, and in a weird way, they were all beautiful. Betty congratulated us on having the courage to attend her workshop. “You’re all rebels,” she said, smiling.
Next, Betty taught us how to breathe fully and deeply, a roomful of Elvis Presleys rocking and swaying our hips in unison. She even had us dip a finger inside so we could feel our PC muscles flexing and relaxing. Kind of neat.
Near the end of the first day came the moment I dreaded: Genital Show and Tell. One by one, we sat in front of the group, splayed ourselves open and introduced our va-jay-jays.
Once again, Betty broke the ice. Each of us followed suit. Below-the-waist wattles, pretty pink and brown sculpted seashells… Before she took centre stage, Gina admitted that her ex used to call her “liver lips” because of her thick folds. We assured her that she was lovely. Pat had the most unique setup of the group — just one inner labia (the female equivalent of an undescended testicle, Betty explained). And you know something? That was okay, too.
“And now, for something completely different,” I quipped, shyly revealing myself. “The peach that ate the butterfly,” I said, quoting Hubby #1. Everyone agreed that it was cute. Betty used the opportunity to point out that I sported a two-tone model. Gina noted that my mauve nail polish matched the inside like a Steve Madden purse matched the shoes.
Before Day One ended, Betty suggested we bring in toys tomorrow: vibrators, dildos, fruits, vegetables, whatever we wanted. We were also welcome to borrow from her vast stash of gonadal goodies. I couldn’t imagine what Day Two would be like. In an odd way, I both looked forward to it and dreaded it. (Post continues after gallery.)
When I arrived for the second day of Betty Dodson’s weekend masturbation workshop, she was setting up a vibrator in each of our places on the carpet. But not just any vibrator. The Mercedes-Benz of vibrators: the Hitachi Magic Wand. Two by two, they dangled enticingly from extension cords. We were ready to roll. And roll we did!
A few of us — myself included — had never used a vibrator before. At Betty’s urging, we skimmed them across our inner thighs and tickled our fancies. Betty constantly sang out, reminding us to keep the touch light, to keep our pelvises moving and to keep breathing, to always keep breathing. We practiced lefty, righty, and from underneath. It was kind of like getting a tennis lesson. But not.
Just as I started to glide toward the pinnacle, Betty’s all-too-cheerful voice told us to snap off the vibrators. For a brief moment, I wanted to strangle her. Betty assured us that later we’d have “free time” to do whatever we pleased, but for now, we had work to do — testing out various positions: hands and knees, straddling a throw pillow, etc. We were sex jockeys, poised for a long, hard gallop into the home stretch.
Once again, Betty paused, concerned about Jeannie’s pulled hamstring. “Damn it, Betty Ann, she’s fine!” I snapped. “Let’s go!” When everyone stopped laughing, our fearless leader gave the nod. We rode bareback against the Wand’s mercilessly pulsing head.
Just as I was contemplating an explosion, Betty ordered us to stop. This time, we all groaned audibly. “If you masturbate for 20 minutes, you get 20 minutes worth of orgasm,” Betty reminded us. “I’m teaching you gourmet love, not fast-food sex sessions.”
Betty, bless her heart, had us shift positions so we’d be comfy climaxing in a myriad of ways. Leaning back, we grasped the vibes by their wires and gently swung them into us. Almost imperceptible yet impossible to ignore. Just as something volcanic was starting to build, Betty chirped, “Vibrators off!” Yep, I definitely wanted to throttle her.
We were instructed to sit cross-legged with our buzzing buddies held between the soles of our feet. I was a hedonistic princess plucked from an erotic cave drawing. I was a goddess. I was… I was… I was ready to kill Betty for making us turn off the vibrators and change positions again.
By now, we were all ready to kill dear Ms. Dodson. Aware of this distinct possibility, she decreed our carnal quiz time to be over. We were awarded private moments to practice what she’d preached — and climax as many times as we wanted.
At first, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to come in front of strangers — then I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop! Just when you think you think you can’t endure any more pleasure, Betty says to keep going. Because you can. Of course, you can! (Post continues after gallery.)
It was late afternoon and the winter sun was setting. In the soft, dim light, the scene resembled an impressionistic masterpiece. Degas ballerinas stripped bare. Lautrec’s whores lounging on their day off. Sighs enveloped me like a soothing drug. A heap of pillows cradled my head as I dreamily studied the women around me, the room teaming with infectious erotic energy.
How many times did I climax that afternoon? Somewhere between eight and infinity. At one point, my orgasms seemed to tangle together. Sometimes I just observed my neighbours, then was moved by a silent aura to go another round. Eventually, as easily and mysteriously as it had evolved, the energy seemed to dwindle. The mechanical hums reduced to one or two. Betty was caught up in a very vocal, athletic solo bout by the fireplace. We all stopped and watched the maestro play her body like a Stradivarius.
With glowing faces, damp with perspiration, we discussed our orgasms. Everyone was satiated, physically and spiritually. Like me, some had lost count. Pat admitted to an intense, all-consuming few. Jeannie had finally crossed the frustrating threshold from the land of mini-orgasms. Jane was thrilled she was finally able to have one.
The mood turned quiet and pensive. We ended the weekend with a communal massage, split into two groups, coating our hands with almond oil. Pat was first, her flesh supple and pleasantly papery. We painted every inch of it, from toes to forehead, with sweet grease. I was amazed at the different textures, varieties in skin and muscle tone of the other women in our group.
Warm breasts oozing through my fingertips was a completely new sensation for ultra-straight, monogamous me. Strange enough, the feeling wasn’t sexual, but one of bonding, of an intense unity.
When it was my turn to be pampered, my muscles unravelled. I tried not to drool. “Look at this nice, Italian butt,” Gina joked, massaging my ass. I laughed but no sound came out. Someone lubricated and kneaded the joints of my fingers. A set of knuckles grazed my pubes. A pair of deft hands worked on my neck. I tried to decipher whose touch was whose but couldn’t. And did it really matter?
Before the Bodysex Workshop officially disbanded, we formed another circle. Lightly joining hands around a fragrant candle, a powerful surge passed through our fingers. We closed our eyes and chanted strange, beautiful sounds that blended into one voice. Then Betty thanked the Goddess of Love and Abundance (her personal benefactress) for our orgasms. We all dressed and went our separate ways, forever changed.
The next day, my body ached pleasantly as though I’d done a boot camp workout. (Maybe I had — call it “Booty Camp.”) I hurt but felt exhilarated at the same time. There was a wonderful secret alive inside me, yet I told no one — until now. You see, I had finally learned to love myself. Inside and out.
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