In a time when a lot of people’s regular routines and practices have been disrupted, masturbation is keeping a group of more than two dozen women calm, self-pleasured, and connected. The common thread? Our Bodysex work with Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross.
Solo Sex and Self-Isolation: Bodysex Goes Virtual
Dodson is the OG pioneer of human sexuality and a true feminist liberator. During her famous group-sex parties of the '70s, Dodson pushed the boundaries for women seizing power in the sack. And she never stopped.
This woman has written books (most famous of these is Sex for One), created hundreds of pieces of erotic fine art, and maintains a private practice for her sex-positive work. Her mantra is "liberating women one orgasm at a time."
Ross is an attorney, entrepreneur, and keeper of all things Betty Dodson. She's the editor-in-chief of dodsonandross.com, President of the Betty Dodson Foundation, and leads Bodysex workshops and its certification program. Oh, and she’s also the badass who shared A REAL FEMALE ORGASM on Netflix’s recent The Goop Lab series (episode #3).
Meet the Group
This group has all worked with Dodson and Ross at some point; a large swath of the women are certified Bodysex facilitators that lead workshops in their hometowns around the world. The past two summers, the group has gathered at Menla, a Buddhist retreat center in upstate New York, for a week of pleasure-fuelled workshops. In between gatherings, these 57 women stay connected via a private Facebook group.
So, when COVID-19 started to sweep across the U.S., Carlin suggested a Zoom meeting to check-in with one other. Twenty-two women participated, representing nine countries and eight US states. We took turns sharing something we’re grateful for, something that’s pissing us off, and something we desire.
After Betty and Carlin’s recent appearance on The Goop Lab, they booked a full spring schedule of Bodysex workshops – more than 2000 women packed the waiting list. When COVID-19 hit, circles in New York, as well as workshops for facilitators around the globe, got put on pause.
What came out of our meeting was the desire for us to have an abbreviated virtual Bodysex circle for our group. Pleasure connects us to our breath and our bodies. Oxytocin, a hormone the brain makes during orgasm, relieves stress and boosts immunity.
The sisterhood of this group helps my mind stay afloat, and the practice of Bodysex grounds my whole being. To put it simply, Bodysex heals – guilt, shame, and so much more.
Read: Practical Ways to Reduce Your Sexual Shame
The Online Session
So, each Sunday, before our 1 pm PST Erotic Recess, I create my sacred space. I put a blanket on my sofa and cover it with a towel. I turn up the heat and light a few candles. Sometimes, I listen to Portishead or Hooverphonic to set the mood. I dress for the occasion; one week I summoned my pussy power with my Solid Gold Clit tank.
I take some time to curate the sex toys I want to use – usually my Magic Wand or Le Wand (though today I tried CalExotics W.I.L.F. – Wand I’d Like to Fuck), a stainless steel barbell, the Womanizer, and lube. Many of the women use Almond oil (Betty’s favorite lube).
Read: How the Magic Wand Helped Shape My Orgasmic Pleasure
The women who wish to undress do. Participants are allowed to share as much or as little as they want, which makes for some pretty creative camera angles. Or sexy, shadowy silhouettes. The only requirement is to share audio.
“We’re all getting naked!” Carlin laughs as women join the call.
There’s a string of beaming smiles and “good to see you” from more than two dozen beautiful faces.
“I feel like this is the hottest ticket in town,” quips Carlin. (She’s 100% correct in her assessment.)
At the start of the call, Carlin sets an intention for the group. In the first week, we sent our orgasmic energy to the frontline workers of the COVID-19 crisis. The second week was for women.
“In this crisis, we’re shouldering it all – keeping everyone, safe, stable and fed,” says Carlin. “Women are on the front lines of this crisis, doing the emotional labor, and they lack the support that they need.”
Next, we do some breathing exercises to warm up, then trace the seven chakras with our wands, starting with our root chakra, moving up to the crown chakra, and back down. We lube up our vulvas and give ourselves a brief massage, before getting down to business.
“Right now, I’m obsessed with perineum stimulation, that area between your vaginal opening and your anus. It’s like my new thing,” says Carlin.
We start with slow penetration, squeezing and releasing the pubococcygeus muscle while inserting the barbell (or whatever insertable toy a woman wants to use).
“Okay ladies, you can start your engines!” says Carlin.
Every woman masturbates so differently. Some women opt for Betty’s Rock and Roll technique, while others incorporate rope bondage. Some have earbuds in and sway to their own beat.
“Oh fuck,” gasped one woman.
The group “ahhhhhh-ed.”
Afterward, one woman asked, “Who was saying fuck? The was hot.”
On Easter Sunday, one woman visiting family escaped to her car for our gathering. With an unbuttoned shirt, gorgeous lingerie, and her dress hiked up, it was one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen. It’s intoxicating to watch women experience pleasure in real-time; even more so to hear the crescendo of real orgasms, erupt, fall, and rise, over and over again.
We take a break and ask about Betty. She recently quit smoking and has had some, um, moments. We brainstorm ways to bring virtual Bodysex to the masses. When we touch on the logistics of doing Genital Show and Tell, several of the women sidle their vulvas up their video cameras. Problem solved.
After some chit chat, we go back for another round. It’s nearly midnight where some of the women live.
“Get some more orgasms before we go on our way,” encourages Carlin.
I come two more times.
One woman gushes, “You all are so beautiful,” and was interrupted by an orgasm.
Read: 8 Masturbation Sex Positions for People With Vulvas
Why I Love These Sunday Sessions of Self-Love
In an uncertain time, this Erotic Recess has kept me tethered – to myself, my pleasure, and a group of fierce sex positive advocates. I am polyamorous and live solo, so physical intimacy went from full tilt to nothing for me.
This weekly ritual allows me to feel connected to a group of humans I love, respect, and admire in a super-hot, empowered way. As Betty says, “Women are bottomless pits of sexual pleasure,” and it’s never been more apparent than during these Sunday sessions of self-love.
Thanks to our Sunday meetings, Bodysex has been able to go online. It was an idea that Betty and Carlin had toyed about for awhile for women who couldn’t travel to NYC for in-person workshops. Virtual Bodysex creates an opportunity to bring an effective healing method to a worldwide audience. It may lack the intimacy of circles in Betty’s NYC apartment, but we don’t have time to wait.
We need connection and to channel our pleasure (aka power) now. As we adapt self-pleasure to a self-isolating, physically-distanced landscape, vulnerable yet pleasurable activities, like Bodysex, will connect us.
Connecting with different sounds, bodies, perspectives, and pleasure has been my light and my fight against shame and struggle in this dark time. We can do this.
Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.
She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says