After Bodysex, I Realized I Needed to Build My Orgasm From the Ground Up

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 08:18
Submitted by Stephanie Theobald

Little did I know when I attended Betty Dodson’s masturbation weekend in April 2014 that I would end up:

a)Talking about the “vulva ballet” at Brasenose College, Oxford in a 16th century wood paneled room filled with eminent gentlemen frowning powerlessly from behind varnished picture frames. (I got a standing ovation at the end, although one of the three men present, an executive from a private Swiss bank, walked out in protest. Good. Mission accomplished).

b) Handing a bronze clitoris necklace to the most glamorous woman in fashion, Carine Roitfeld at a press conference for a happening sponsored by Veuve Clicquot champagne. The former editor of French Vogue grinned and said, “But yes, of course, it is the symbol of female strength, n’est-ce pas?” (She later confided, “I am a Virgo.” I said, “You should meet a friend of mine, she’s a triple Virgo and she REALLY digs the clitoris”).

c)Throwing a “Solo Sex Bingo” night in London where I impersonated Betty Dodson (“The vagina’s the goddam birth canal!” said in that famous Mafiosi wise-cracker voice) as I read from my new memoir and then read out the guests’ solo sex childhood memories. They were supposed to be anonymous confessions but all 21 women were keen to reclaim their experiences. The winner was Heidi, the gardener, who revealed what she’d got up to with her grandmother’s pink pencil birthday present at the age of 4. The highlight of the night came when someone said, “I used to feel a bit ashamed to talk about masturbation but now I don’t.”

It’s not that I was exactly a shrinking violet before Betty’s Bodysex weekend. I’ve been a journalist for over 25 years during which time I’ve written about black masses in Paris, Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Pyrenees and goddess weekends in Wales. My last office job was as an editor for UK Harper’s Bazaar. The high point was smoking a joint at an art dealer’s lavish London mansion while gazing at an incredible picture painted by Picasso when he was only 17 years-old. The skinny girls in the fashionable dresses all wanted to know how much it was worth but I was just thinking, Wow, a real Picasso in someone’s house! And of course I was having an affair with the art dealer. Some people gain confidence from work, some from sport, some from trophy husbands. But for me it had always been sex.

Ironically, I found myself at the Bodysex weekend because my sex life had become a disaster. All that high living hadn’t been so great for me after all and I needed to heal my broken body. The weekend was an incredible experience. I laughed, I wept, I was bourne aloft by the spirit of sisterhood. After Bodysex, I realized that I needed to build my orgasm from the ground up.

But I hadn’t renounced my desire for fun by any means. I just needed fun that was going to nourish me. So I decided to meet more of these amazing 1970s American feminists who seemed so much more exciting and real and passionate than many contemporary feminists who I find a little bloodless and not particularly into sex. So I drove across America meeting the likes of Joycelyn Elders, Barbara Carrellas, Susie Bright, Annie Sprinkle and a variety of dominatrixes, alien worshippers, Palm Springs divorcées and a California clit-worshipping community high on orgasm.

Sex Drive is a memoir about desire and pleasure, merging sexuality and spirituality, 18th-century porn and Enlightenment philosophy. Women have put up with so many anti-climaxes from books and films that promise to explore female sexuality in an honest way. But actually all they get are sniggers, coy giggles or men’s desire reflected back at them. By the end of Sex Drive, I realized that if you spend enough time getting intimate with your own body, self-pleasure becomes a form of meditation, a way of going back to the basics of who you really are.

Sex Drive was one of the easiest books I’ve ever written. The inspiration and energy coming from all the women I spoke to was incredible. And yet selling it was another matter. As the author of 4 novels published by a major UK publishing house, I have never found a book so hard to sell. I got an offer from a famous American feminist publishing house earlier this year which I as thrilled about, until I found out it had been sold to a man who seemed to think he was dealing in potatoes rather than serious female sexuality. (I’m not dissing potatoes. My father ran a fish and chip shop in Cornwall in England in the 1970s and 1980s but he had much more respect for potatoes).

Anyway, I decided to “do a Betty Dodson” and publish Sex Drive myself, as she did with Liberating Masturbation, the early 1970s incarnation of her later best seller, Sex For One. She sent copies of the book in brown paper parcels to the housewives of America and I’m doing a 21st century version of that called Crowdfunding.

It would be amazing if you could help support my very exciting yet humbling ride. Sex Drive proves that what 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau termed “the dangerous supplement” can take you to some amazing places and has the power to work as the ultimate self-care medicine.

Click here to find out more about Sex Drive:

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