But it’s probably best if I’d start my story a bit further back.
My First Forays into Sex Education
I was brought up in Israel. My family wasn’t particularly liberal or conservative when it came to sex or sex education – they simply didn’t talk about it. I guess the best way to describe me as a teenager was to say I was a sex nerd. I didn’t have access to any sexy books, so I ended up reading Masters and Johnson. And I fantasized about how cool it would be to be a sex researcher myself. Back then, it never even occurred to me that I might be able to make my own mark in the sexuality field.
During my early adulthood in Israeli, I studied psychology and social work. I worked mostly with addiction recovery. When I moved to California, I was in transition. I knew I didn’t want to continue a social work career. I also knew however I would have to basically start over anyway. So I embarked on teaching childbirth education and loved it – but I also sensed something was missing. I felt I wanted to do something new and inspiring. Yet at the same time I also wanted to continue to support and empower women.
One day, I was having a conversation with a friend and we were talking openly about sex, relationships, and childbirth. She was studying to be an MFT at the time and, in the middle of the conversation, she stopped and said: “I was thinking about you recently. We watched this movie in class about Betty Dodson, and I thought you will be so great at doing what she is doing”.
Intro to Betty Dodson
I had no idea who Betty Dodson was – so I really wasn’t prepared for what was coming. We scheduled a screening with a group of women friends, and got a hold of a copy of her DVD showing a Bodysex Workshop. After we all had a glass of wine, I popped in the DVD. A few seconds later, we were watching a circle of 8 or so naked women masturbating with big, white Hitachi magic wand vibrators.
Immediately my face flushed with discomfort. I was fine with what I saw on the screen, but felt quite embarrassed to be watching it in the presence of friends. Little did I know that less than 2 years later, I would be teaching hands-on adult sex education myself.
Unraveling the Mystery of Betty Dodson
After my friends had left, I jumped on my computer to do research into Betty Dodson.
Betty Dodson began her work as a sex-positive feminist in the late 60’s and early 70’s, when a huge wave of feminism was moving through the US. She started out as an erotic artist, but quickly became one of the early pioneers of the women’s pleasure movement.
Shaking her fist at Freud’s assertion that the vaginal orgasm was more mature, she taught women to reclaim their clitoris as the center of pleasure. She held masturbation circles in her living room so women could discover their pleasure in real-time. She wrote a book on masturbation, released multiple educational videos, and taught many thousands of women how to orgasm for the first time – and many times after.
And today – at age 90 – she is still passionately teaching and advocating for women’s pleasure, albeit via more modern channels like Netflix’s Goop Lab Series.
Following in Betty’s Footsteps
Shortly thereafter, I signed up to get my PhD at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. I learned about the Institute when I was researching Betty Dodson. It turned out she got her PhD there, and that the school was full of students who were sex enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the field of sexuality.
Also, thanks to Betty Dodson, I became a sex coach and later created the Somatica Method of sex and relationship coaching. I followed in her footsteps as an experiential sex educator. I believe that experiential practices are how people learn best when it comes to sex and intimacy.
So much appreciation to you, Betty, for birthing me into this incredible career. Now I’ve not only watched your videos in a group of people without blushing – I may even have led and participated in few masturbation circles of my own…