Too often, discussions about sex have to do with partnered sex. Despite many physical and psychological benefits, masturbation, particularly female masturbation, is heavily stigmatized. But why? We know that masturbation has real health benefits, it’s fun, and it can also improve partnered sex experiences. Our culture does not prioritize female pleasure, and tends to view women’s sexual satisfaction as secondary to that of men. For this reason, PALS (Peers Assisting Learning about Sex) felt that emphasizing self-pleasure would be a unique and appropriate topic for this year’s Love Your Body Week Event. So, the organization invited Professor Megan Yost (Psychology Department) to present about the most pleasurable ways to masturbate, and why these methods are considered to be the most pleasurable. While Professor Yost spoke about masturbating for people with both penises and vulvas, she focused on female sex organs using whiteboard sketches (drawn by me!) and 3-D models borrowed from the Dickinson Wellness Center. This was an opportunity to address misconceptions that are often held about the female body, and to make sure everyone was clear on the names and placement of body parts before really delving into masturbation techniques.
Teaching people, particularly women, about their bodies and pleasure honors a rich piece of feminist history. Betty Dodson is a leader in sex-positive feminism, and coined the “Betty Dodson Method” for sex education. This method asserts that masturbation is the foundation for all of human sexuality and places an emphasis on women becoming as familiar as possible with their own bodies and pleasure. She believes that women’s understanding of their own bodies is revolutionary in a world that tells women that their bodies are shameful.
Dodson has written best-selling books about sexuality, including Sex for One. In the late 1960s, Dodson began leading workshops instructing women on self-pleasure techniques, called “sexual consciousness raising groups.” These workshops grew out of the original consciousness-raising groups that were popular at this time, where women would gather to share their experiences. Sexual consciousness raising groups were later renamed “Bodysex” workshops. They are still held today, and participants in these workshops can become certified to run their own Bodysex events using the Betty Dodson method.
We hope that people will take the chance to learn about their own bodies at all times of year, but Love Your Body week is a great opportunity to be deliberate in the ways that we think about our bodies and appreciate how they can make us feel. Attendees of this year’s Pleasurable Sex really appreciated the chance to learn from Professor Yost, who is not only a renowned expert in human sexuality, but is a talented and engaging presenter. If you are interested in getting involved with more sex education programming at Dickinson, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Julia Kagan ’21, WGRC Student Worker
February 27, 2020