In 1987, her book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving, took masturbation out of the shadows; more than one million readers
Dodson and Ross
At the age of 80, Dodson crossed paths with Carlin Ross, a then thirty-something attorney, who’d become her dear friend, business partner, and protégé. And in Dodson’s final days, the fiercest, most loving, and patient caretaker one could ever want.
For the next decade, Dodson and Ross worked tirelessly hosting hundreds of Bodysex workshops and speaking at conferences around the world to help women embrace pleasure and heal sexual shame – one orgasm at a time. (I first met the pair at a Bodysex workshop I took in 2015.)
In January of 2020, Dodson and Ross took masturbation mainstream, with an appearance on Netflix’s The Goop Lab. Dodson schooled Gwyneth Paltrow on what a vagina is: “The vagina is the birth canal only. You want to talk about the vulva, which is the clitoris and the inner lips and all that good shit around it.” Ross was filmed masturbating to orgasm in real time. The episode was a game-changer in showing what real female pleasure looks like.
Read: 8 Masturbation Techniques for People with Vulvas
As soon as the episode aired, there was a waitlist of more than 2,000 women who wanted to attend a Bodysex workshop with the feminist icon. (Yes, Dodson, at 90-years-old, was still hosting circles for women – five decades later.) The silver lining is that Ross was able to quickly adapt the workshops for a virtual audience, making Bodysex available to women all around the world.
Dodson may no longer be here to lead circles, but her legacy lives on in the army of women she taught, who now lead Bodysex workshops around the world. She leaves behind a powerful sisterhood of women who’ve bonded over Bodysex and become close friends. We meet weekly for virtual Erotic Recess, the portion of the Bodysex workshop when women masturbate together. In recent months, our orgasms have been dedicated to Betty and her transition into the other-verse.
Read: Solo Sex and Self-Isolation: Bodysex Goes Virtual
Dodson wasn’t shy to tell people who she was and what she stood for. Even on her deathbed, at 91-years-old, she informed staff at her care facility that she was a “World Famous Masturbator.”
In her final weeks, a deal was inked to show an exhibition of Dodson’s work at the Museum of Sex in New York City. The exhibit will open to the public on December 18, 2020, and will stay up for a year or two, depending upon how COVID-19 plays out.
Betty Dodson's Legacy
It’s fitting that Dodson left the planet on her favorite holiday, Halloween, during a rare full blue moon on Samhain, when it is believed that the veil between the physical world and the spiritual (or “other”) world is at its thinnest.
Dodson was a hell-raiser of a human who fought fearlessly against a system that’s afraid of female desire, while enjoying her own and encouraging others to do the same. She learned about sex “by doing it, not studying it.”
I can’t think of another human more invested in women getting off than The Dodson. She didn’t exactly embark on an easy path. But she believed that when something isn’t fair, you change it – a lesson she learned from her mother, Bess. She also thought every woman in this world is worthy of having orgasms. Masturbation is a healthy form of sexual expression; self-love saw Dodson through old age.
Read: Are You Over 50 and Having Sex? You Should Be!
So, please, raise a glass of Champagne (Dodson would want you to) and read this toast that Ross made during a retreat a group of us took to celebrate Dodson’s 88th birthday:
“To Betty: For never giving up, for never selling out, and you have taught us all to love ourselves and to embrace pleasure and to become the women we were destined to be in this world.”
Betty knew how to live, and how to die. She did it on her own terms, with a whole lot of grit and orgasms – and not a single ounce of regret. We should all be so lucky.