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Christine from the Book of Blue. Photo by Eric Francis.

Fucking Like a Feminist

By Betty Dodson | Planet Waves

Once self-sexuality enters the lexicon of human sexuality, we will move into a new phase of social harmony within ourselves, our relationships, our families and the global community.

THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT that feminism lost ground with the last two generations of young women. I believe one reason for this has been mainstream feminists' focus on rape, incest, and violence against women and girls. It's time to rescue sex from violence. We need to acknowledge sexuality as the life force that allows us to procreate and fuels our creative impulses through repeated experiences with pleasure.

This is one of the many reasons we're so excited about launching Betty Dodson Online with Carlin Ross. Our new website intends to establish a feminist theory of sexual pleasure that will revitalize the Women's Movement. Since Carlin is in her mid-thirties and I'm in my late seventies, we have the advantage of pursuing an intergenerational dialogue on sexuality and feminism. Together with our online community, we will explore what it means to be a sexually empowered woman by asking: "What does fucking like a feminist mean to you?"

In 1972, I stated the following in my first feminist manifesto that later became Liberating Masturbation: a Meditation on Selflove in 1974: "Among the many issues involved in the liberation of women, the two major fronts in my own personal liberation have been economics and sexuality. Ultimately they are not separable, not as long as the female genitals have economic value instead of sexual value for women." 

Today I'd say it differently -- money and sex are not separable as long as women look to men and marriage to secure our futures. We become wives and mothers who are sexually owned and financially dependent. Eventually, most wives will find part time or low paying work outside the home. A few might marry well or inherit money. Some choose to be professional women who remain single and enjoy an alternative sex life. A clever woman can turn multiple divorces into a lucrative business. Then there are a few women who embrace the inherent power of the female sex organ and achieve financial success with or without a partner. Only a handful of women will manage to "have it all" yet two generations were raised to believe they could have a perfect marriage, a successful career, and a happy family all at the same time. A better message would be learning to choose your priorities and spread them out over a lifetime. Most will agree that our current menu for sexual lifestyles is far too narrow in its scope.

My education was grounded in the fine arts until I segued to sex education for women. Carlin left a lucrative law practice to run a woman's website on sex and relationships. We will explore the available options with an eye on equal pay for equal work and an end to the sexual double standard -- the notion that men have the right to enjoy multiple sex partners while women should be monogamous. We will explore women's relationships to sex, money and power to expand on the current choices to advance the ways we love, create, govern, and raise the next generation.

The Economic Front: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written by suffragist Alice Paul in 1921. Since 1923, it has been introduced in Congress during every session. In 1972, it finally passed Congress, but was not ratified by the necessary thirty-eight states by the 1982 deadline. Women's equal pay for equal work failed yet again in 2008. This time it was called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Lilly worked 19 years at Goodyear before she learned the men at her level were earning far more for the same work. She took her case all the way to a conservatively stacked Supreme Court -- where five male justices ruled her claim invalid because she filed it more than 180 days after the discrimination started. These wealthy privileged men refused to take into account that she had just learned of this inequity. We must resurrect and pass the ERA.

The Sexual Front: feminists didn't move sexual pleasure further than giving women the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy with Roe vs. Wade. However, the right to choose is again under attack by many Republicans and the Christian right. A recent Supreme Court ruling doesn't even allow for an abortion to save a woman's life which means a fetus is more valuable than the mother. Keeping women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen calms the insecurity of those authoritarian men who need to dominate women in order to feel powerful.

While a handful of us were pushing for sex positive feminism in the 70s, the first blow came with Kate Millet's book, Sexual Politics. Analyzing Henry Miller's steamy writing, she coined the term "sexism" and named the patriarchy as the cause of all women's woes. This encouraged many feminists to turn into petulant daughters, wives and sweethearts who now blamed daddy, husbands, and lovers for their second class status and sexual problems. Men, rather than an authoritarian system that includes the necessary support of a matriarchy, kept women from full participation in society. The role of "Mother," as a matriarchal sex cop is always aimed at keeping daughters in their proper place. There would have been more clarity with the term "misogyny," the hatred of women, rather than using the term "sexism." As it turned out, many people believed a "feminist" was a woman who hated sex. 

By the 80s, women began to see themselves as victims, an idea that led to a well-funded organized group called Women Against Pornography (WAP). Instead of determining what they wanted to get out of sex, these misguided feminists criticized what men were looking at while they masturbated. Censoring porn was a destructive move for feminism. It put us in the same bed with religious bigots who have always fought against equal rights for women. Shockingly, the editors at Ms. Magazine supported WAP in spite of the fact that during the LBJ administration, a commission was appointed to determine if there was a link between pornography and sex crimes. After spending two million dollars on 80 independent scientific studies over the course of two years, no such relationship was found to exist.

Meanwhile, a misogynistic press loved to put feminists like Andrea Dworkin front and center. She presented a scary image; an unhealthy, obese, very angry woman dressed in overalls with wild unruly hair. Her message centered on the systematic destruction of women due to porn, rape and violence. A group of academic women started writing papers to counter the porn hysteria called Feminists Against Censorship Taskforce (FACT). While I joined their ranks, I kept longing for a group of feminists that was for something instead of always against something. Soon, an entire industry grew up around sexual abuse that chronically kept victims wallowing in their past and never free of it. Let's all agree that both women and men have suffered some form of sexual abuse. Research has shown that it's the lack of a dialogue about sex within a culture that creates deviant sexual behavior. 

During Regan's presidency with its Moral Majority, the only thing that trickled down was a worthless war on drugs and the Meese commission. After a series of public hearings with no scientific studies, misinformation was released claiming there was a link between porn and sex crimes which sent sexual imagery underground. The war on recreational drugs waged on while pharmaceutical companies began perfecting anti-depressants that would supply America's dependency on drugs that were known to interfere with the ability to enjoy orgasms. How perfect is that? Many of my women clients seeking help to discover their orgasms are taking one of these designer drugs to cope with depression often due to an unfulfilled sexlife.

The Clintons gave us a period of prosperity. We had a highly intelligent president with enormous charisma who liked sex. It appeared that happy days were here again until the religious right organized a plot to expose Clinton's sexual dalliances in the oval office. Never mind that most presidents, kings (and a few queens) have always taken advantage of their positions of power to enjoy extra-marital sex. Most Americans pretend that a faithful spouse is an integral part of all marriages, but in truth, monogamy is primarily practiced by women.

Although the women's movement practically disappeared, the 90s play "The Vagina Monologues" gave feminism a much needed shot in the arm. But again, this recent message left out women's sexual pleasure and centered on ending violence against women and girls. The Vagina Workshop monologue that was inspired by my work got watered down to women looking for their g-spot. The word "clitoris" was added after I told Eve that I would never have women looking for a spot inside their vaginas. The clitoris is our primary sex organ and the vagina is our birth canal. Think about it. How often do you see the word "clitoris" in print or hear someone say it on television or in the movies? Rarely, right? While I take my hat off to Ensler for all the money she's raised to help women and girls who are victims of violence, the female sex organs are currently misnamed a "vagina" on stage, screen and print. Meanwhile, the clitoris has been replaced by the g-spot, which is indirect clitoral stimulation. As I enter my fourth decade teaching women to explore their bodies and orgasms, I say it's time to end the clitoral vs. vaginal orgasm controversy. Like we said back in the 60s, "Different strokes for different folks."

Today we have George W. Bush, the most unpopular president with a disapproval rating of 71% among Americans. Mr. Bush sent sex back to the dark ages with the abstinence only message. This is teen abuse with the number of unwanted pregnancies rapidly increasing along with the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Our young girls are giving boys blowjobs just to be popular. The boys do not reciprocate with manual or oral sex for girls. Many young people do not think oral or anal sex counts because it isn't penis/vagina sex. Without a comprehensive sex education, our kids are getting disinformation that harms girls even more than boys. While we want to help women and girls in other parts of the world, our own women and girls, men and boys, desperately need our help here at home. 

Our mission is to acknowledge and honor masturbation as the foundation for all of human sexuality. Masturbation is our first natural sexual activity. It's the way we learn to like our genitals and how we discover how to give ourselves pleasure. Once self-sexuality enters the lexicon of human sexuality, we will move into a new phase of social harmony within ourselves, our relationships, our families and the global community.

Sexual empowerment is about choice by an educated consumer. We will offer detailed verbal and visual sex information that will include basic pleasure skills. Every young person will be able to appreciate the form and function of their genitals, like their bodies and have a healthy amount of self-esteem. We will provide clear instructions on how girls can prepare their sex organs for a future of orgasmic pleasures, beginning with how to explore the pelvic floor muscles. Our straight forward approach will encourage self-exploration, clitoral stimulation and vaginal self-penetration to avoid the pain and embarrassment of first-time intercourse. Girls and boys will be able to masturbate to orgasm without apology, shame or guilt. Until girls stop using sex to be "popular" and women stop using sex to "get and keep a man," neither women nor men will be able to fully experience the joy of sex.  

Betty Dodson Online with Carlin Ross will offer an intergenerational feminist dialogue on women and men's sexual pleasure and health -- one important antidote to violence. With input from you, our friends and our community, we will establish a feminist Declaration of Sexual Independence that will be inclusive and diverse. So tell us how you would answer our burning question, "What does fucking like a feminist mean to you?"


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