WARNING: This post contains sexually explicit language. Please read on at your own discretion.
"Jenny! I was supposed to meet you at the door naked!" the gorgeous woman standing before me said before flinging her arms around me. She was almost naked, wearing a thin, white tank that barely covered her behind. "I'm Carlin," she said.
Carlin Ross is the business partner of famed sex educator Betty Dodson. Betty Dodson, of course, is the author of the insanely bestselling book Sex for One, and the consummate orgasm and masturbation guru since the '70s. You might call her a founding mother of women's sexual liberation. I certainly would.
"Come on, let's get undressed," Carlin said, like it was the most normal thing in the world. And if you're there for one of Betty's famous "BodySex" workshops, it is. I followed her back to the vestibule at the entryway of Betty's Madison Avenue apartment, and I slipped out of my yoga pants and tee as she slipped out of her tank.
As Carlin greeted the other attendees coming in, I went into the main room, where back jacks were set up in a circle, each with a towel on it, a pillow behind it, and a tray next to it with a box of Kleenex, a glass of water, a bottle of almond oil, a Dodson Vaginal Barbell, and a Mystic Wand vibrator.
As I tried to decide where to sit, I heard someone say, "Jenny. You're Jenny Block. We know each other." I panicked for a minute. What if she was a PTA mom from my daughter's school? What if we didn't like one another? What if...
"I was at your book signing. In San Francisco. For Open. At Good Vibrations," she said.
"Oh!" I said, incredibly relieved. She hugged me, and it took me a minute to remember that I didn't have any clothes on. Already it seemed perfectly reasonable to be naked with strangers.
More women filled the room, and we all began to take our seats. It's an interesting quandary, trying to decide how to sit naked in a room full of strangers. Legs straight out? Like a pretzel? One knee up? Before I could really decide, Betty entered the room.
I was in awe. Eighty-five years old and she walked in as naked as the rest of us and settled into her back jack as if this scenario were the most common thing in the world, which, to her, it was. Although she has taken a hiatus recently, Betty began doing these workshops in the '70s.
Betty welcomed us and began sharing some of her philosophy about sex and orgasms and vulvas (not vaginas) and bodies. (Note: What we see externally is the vulva. The vagina is the internal canal. Period.)
We started out by going around the circle, talking about how we felt about our bodies and our orgasms, and then moved on to some breathing exercises.
After a few hours we took a short break, and then it was time. Time for genital show and tell. No need to read that again. It said exactly what you think it said.
It was perhaps one of the most profound moments of my life. Like so many other moments during the workshop, it felt tribal and ancient, as if we were gathered in the red tent to be gifted with the wisdom of our sister elder.
At the same time, I simply could not stop smiling to myself and thinking in my head about how nuts this was, all of us naked and peering between the legs of this famed octogenarian.
Betty went first, and then, one by one, we sat next to her and spread our legs as we looked into the mirror with Betty and admired our pussies. Betty would point out certain features and "style" each of our pussies for a photo.
I have a doughnut pussy, she told me as I sat with my knees falling open and my pussy lips spread wide. A doughnut because I have full outer lips that outline the inner lips.
"Your design is perfect," she said. I'm quite sure I blushed. A perfect pussy, according to Betty Dodson. ("The Dodson," as Carlin affectionately calls her, and as we began to refer to her too.) "A post-modern pussy," she continued. I couldn't help but grin. "And what about a name?" she asked. "Do you have a name for your pussy?"
"I don't," I told her.
"Cream Puff," she said.
And somehow, something that seemed so impossible just a moment before was over and The Dodson was off on her next pussy review. I felt happy and safe and, yes, validated and empowered too. Having other women look at you, really look at you, is a powerful experience.
The next day we stripped down and circled up without pause.
"Play is the most important thing when you're little," Betty explained. "You don't get enough of it when you're an adult."
And then, without any ado, Carlin, whom Betty affectionately refers to as her "stunt cunt," demonstrated Betty's "rock and roll" method of masturbation while Betty directed and commentated. The method includes vulvar massage, pelvic rocking, focused breathing, a vibrator for the clit and -- most importantly, to my mind -- slow penetration with Betty's Vaginal Barbell.
"The body knows a lot more than your head," Betty explained. "Trust your body. Our heads are monsters."
After the demonstration and another short exercise, it was time for the main event.
Even right up to the moment where we stood in a circle in the center of the room, holding our Mystic Wands to our pussies with Betty directing us, "More pelvis; fuck forward," I wasn't sure I could do it.
But suddenly it seemed equal parts impossible and ridiculous to decline. How could I when I was literally going to be sitting at the feet of the master?
So I went to my towel. I followed the steps. And as time passed, I began to hear some of the other women in the room coming.
One of those women was Betty. I came to find out later that it's quite rare for Betty to come during a workshop, and it had been two weeks since she had masturbated. I was thrilled that I could be part of the group that inspired her.
I staved off each orgasm that I felt coming up on me until my brain started to interrupt. Was I having performance anxiety? Was the girl writing a book about female orgasm unable to have one in this super-charged setting? Was I past the point of no return?
I raised my hand when I saw Betty stand up, as I had been told to do if I needed help. I figured she would hand me the high-powered Magic Wand and that would do the trick. But instead Betty Dodson, The Dodson, fucked me to orgasm.
She sat next to me, put her hand on my chest, and began to move the Vaginal Barbell in and out of my pussy. Instantly the sensations switched. She instructed me to keep rocking my pelvis, keep breathing, go with it.
She put her fist against my perineum. She looked right at me. She smiled and encouraged, and the tears began to fall as they sometimes do right before, during, and/or after an incredible orgasm. She stopped me from over-arching my back and blocking the power of the orgasm, as I am prone to do.
And then it happened.
Betty stayed with me the whole time, and I collapsed after I'm not sure how many small orgasms and then one grand finale to end all finales.
"Thank you," I managed.
"Good girl," she said, patting my chest.
I felt powerful and grateful, as if the greatest gift had just been given to me without the smallest breath of apology or shame.
The workshop ended with us splitting into two groups and performing a group massage on each participant.
I felt imbued with an energy that my body recognized as something for which it was desperately hungry. A sexual energy that could change the world if harnessed. I felt so lucky to have had this incredible experience with these truly incredible women
I went to the workshop because I'm researching female orgasm for my new book. I left the workshop feeling like I had been let in on the true secret of female empowerment: owning our orgasms.
And, yes, I had one hell of a chain of orgasms. Betty Dodson may be 85, but she's right. She's got skills. "Give me any woman, any age, and I'll get 'em off," Betty told us when the workshop began. Indeed.
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