Betty Dodson: Patron Saint of the Clit!

I was young and just starting my sexology training when Maggi Rubenstein, one of my professors at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, gave me Betty Dodson‘s phone number and told me I ought to call her the next time I was in New York.  Though not yet a member of the Masturbation Hall of Fame (and the Masturbate-a-Thon, too, was still a decade away), I was already a fan and facilitator of the Jack-and-Jill-Off parties,  a safer sex group endeavor that was my most important introduction to San Francisco sexual culture, 1980s style. Maggi thought I ought to meet the Mother of Masturbation, as Betty was even then sometimes called, and I must say that phone call may be the most important one I ever made.

Betty welcomed me to her New York City apartment, made me tea, and listened with interest to my description of the JJOs. There wasn’t anything like that going on in New York at that moment, and she subsequently came to one in SF as our honored guest, already silver-haired, fierce, and fabulous. But first I attended one of her BodySex workshops, an extraordinary safe space she created to teach women comfort with their erotic bodies and their ability to bring themselves pleasure.

I met many amazing women there, but two relationships proved to be especially important: she introduced me to her favorite vibrator, the Magic Wand (and thank goodness she was willing to share¦!), and to Joani Blank… who got in touch with me not long afterwards and offered me a job at her store, Good Vibrations! See? Life-changing. (And it was at Betty’s apartment that Robert and I conceived of the idea of the Center for Sex & Culture, too. I believe her exact quote was, “You kids need to open a little place¦”)

Betty subsequently got a doctorate at the Institute, becoming Dr. BAD, and she added to the information she was putting out into the world via her important book Sex for One by making a series of informational videos — including one called Selfloving: Portrait of a Women’s Sexuality Seminar, documenting her BodySex workshop! Watching it always makes me so nostalgic.

She also got a website together with the help of her old friend Grant–so her wisdom was accessible to net-savvy folks who searched for or stumbled upon her. But the online Dodson universe, it turns out, was not entirely complete until she met her colleague and complement, Carlin Ross, who has brought Betty and her lifetime of wisdom all the way in to the 21st century with their website Betty Dodson with Carlin Ross (Dodson and Ross, for short).

Carlin, trained as an attorney and savvy in the ways of the tech and communications worlds, made Betty’s Internet presence the next best thing to sitting in that New York City living room. The site has videos featuring their lively intergenerational, sex-positive feminist discussions about all sorts of topics; blog posts (their own, of course, plus they’re joined by Betty’s protégé and sometimes partner, Eric Amaranth, and a host of others), and forums.

You can scope out Betty’s amazing fine art (she is one of the most important erotic artists of the 20th century, not to mention the 21st), download podcasts, watch videos, and ask her your own sex questions. And now I’m so excited that at Good Vibrations we’re pitching in to help her put her own special selection of toys into the hands of anyone who has a clit, likes clits, and/or likes masturbation!

If you haven’t tuned into Dodson and Ross, you must — not only is my old friend and mentor totally jazzed and energized by her collaboration with her web-savvy friend Carlin, the two of them have genuinely awesome chemistry and visiting their site will pull you into conversations you didn’t even know it was possible to have. Betty Dodson changed my life a long time ago, and I bet if she hasn’t already changed yours, she won’t take long to engage you and open the door to new ways at looking at all kinds of things–especially anything and everything having to do with sex, women, power and pleasure.

Betty and Carlin have created their own Good Vibrations Shopping Guide with their top sex toy picks.

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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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