Betty Dodson, artist, sex educator, and author of the best-selling Sex for One, has died of cirrhosis of the liver at 91 years old.
Even those unfamiliar with Dodson’s name are likely familiar with her workshops, in which she encouraged women to look at their own vulvas and experiment with clitoral stimulation (many for the first time). They have permeated pop culture through films like Fried Green Tomatoes an even a recent episode of The Goop Lab, during which Dodson explained the difference between vaginas and vulvas to host Gwyneth Paltrow.
Dodson was working as an erotic artist in the 1960s and ‘70s when she began hosting the consciousness-raising workshops in her apartment, experimenting with a host of different vibrating devices before settling on the Hitachi Magic Wand, which she declared the “Cadillac of vibrators.” The Hitachi “neck massager” would also come to find a place in pop culture via Dodson’s enthusiasm, popping up as a plot point in Sex and the City and earing a kind of celebrity status among sex toys. Dodson’s 1987 memoir and instruction manual, Sex for One, started as a how-to guide published by Ms. magazine and has now sold over a million copies in 25 languages.
“A well-written, easily-read book that discusses things I wished I had read three or four decades ago,” one Amazon review, written in 2016, nearly 20 years after the book was published. “I can’t think of any adults I ever discussed the idea of sex with (or relationships with) who struck me, then or now, as having any healthy clue what they were talking about.”
Clinical studies of her methods have shown that Dodson’s workshops have a 93 percent success rate at helping anorgasmic women achieve orgasm, not just by experimenting with clitoral stimulation but by confronting “repressed shame, guilt, and other negative feelings associated with body, genitals, and sexuality, and the repressed sexual pleasure and desire.”
Dodson also mentored and encouraged decades’ worth of other sex educators and feminists, empowering others to teach students that there was nothing shameful about reproductive organs or masturbation. As Dodson wrote in Sex for One and spent a lifetime proselytizing, “The most consistent sex will be the love affair you have with yourself.”