Betty Dodson was an American feminist and sex educator.
Unlike Shere Hite, who passed away last September and became known worldwide after her 1976 “Hite Report”, few outside the United States knew the witty Betty Dodson.
Hite became known for assuring women worldwide that penetrative sex is not the way to orgasm for women. Before Hite, many women faked their orgasms. After Hite there was a little less faking. However, it was Dodson who taught American women how to masturbate.
Dodson started out as an artist, she debuted in the late 1960s with drawings of couples making love. That went well. For a second exhibition she decided to invite friends to her studio to masturbate and draw them. That exhibition was a flop and also marked the end of her career as an artist.
Dodson went on to become an orgasm evangelizer, working with the likes of Annie Sprinkle, and writing a number of top-selling books. She looked very young in old age. Perhaps because of all the masturbation she so passionately promoted? She loved the Hitachi Magic Wand, an vibrator called the Rolls-Royce of sex toys. She organized group sessions for ladies to masturbate together. Each with such a Hitachi (I read somewhere that these sessions were sometimes broadcast live on TV). Her dream was to orchestrate a simultaneous group orgasm, but it was precisely in that orchestration role that she saw objections.
Anyone in Europe who was a little curious – and you know what Zappa said about being curious: “the mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground” – saw Betty Dodson in the 1971 film WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) about the influence of Willem ‘orgasmatron’ Reich (1897-1957) on the hippie world. There she talked about her erotic drawings.
Betty Dodson belongs to a movement within feminism called sex-positive feminism. It is a movement that I became familiar with via the work of Camille Paglia, an American academic who made the world a smarter place in 1990 with her book Sexual Personae.
Sex-positive thinkers have a positive attitude towards, for example, porn, sex work and sexting.
In that sense I am also sex positive.
If you fully agree that sex is a good thing, you can only decide, as some feminists do, that rape is not about sex, for example.
They reason for this is, and I quote, The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979) by Donald Symons, a fantastic book:
“The notion that rape is not sexually motivated” [may be due to the fact that] “part of the modernization of sex is the belief that sex is a good thing; yet almost everyone agrees that rape is a bad thing, and one way of eliminating the threat of cognitive dissonance is to deny that rape is sex.”
Sex can be a very beautiful thing indeed. But sex can also be very ugly.
Most of all, sex is often a bit disruptive. And having come to this point in a discourse like this, I like to say it with Schopenhauer who famously said that “sex is a malevolent demon.”