9 Things I Learned About Orgasms From an 87-Year-Old Feminist Icon

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

I thought I was well versed in (and around!) my vulva. After all, I’ve been playing with my pussy since I was 6. But a bodysex workshop with octogenarian Betty Dodson, the "Mother of Masturbation" showed me I still have lots to learn. Trust me, no one is more invested in female pleasure than Dodson.

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), illustrated hundreds of erotic scenes, hosted a TV show, and maintains a private practice for her sex-positive work. She’s a pioneer of human sexuality and a true feminist liberator. Her mantra is "liberating women one orgasm at a time."

Oh -- and her initials are B.A.D.

Last month, I flew from Seattle to New York City to attend Dodson's two-day workshop. As a sexually aware women who likes to feel good, I didn’t hesitate to throw down a $1,000 cash donation for the weekend.

I descended upon Dodson’s Manhattan apartment with nine other women, as well as Carlin Ross, Betty’s sassy business partner and stunt cunt. Some women came to the workshop in order to heal body shame, image, or sexual guilt. Others came to share sisterhood. One came on her therapist’s advice. Women traveled from all corners of the United States, and from as far as Denmark and Switzerland.

Dodson knows sex "by doing it, not studying it," she says. And at 87 years old, she can still "come like a motherfucker." When I grow up, I want to be this woman.

Ultimately, bodysex workshops are all about connecting women’s minds and bodies to their orgasms. This is done by helping women find the power of their pussies through a series of activities like Group Share, Genital Show and Tell, Erotic Recess, and Guided Masturbation.  

Here are nine things I learned from Dodson about orgasms.

Women need to run the you-know-what

"Running the fuck" is, hands down, my favorite Bettyism (and trust me, there’s no shortage of them). The expression dates back to the 1970s, when Betty hosted group-sex parties in the same space as the workshop, where I spent the weekend masturbating (a detail I consider pretty fucking exciting). The gist is for women to take charge during intercourse, to do what needs to be done to get off. This means using lube (especially if he's circumcised), maybe introducing a vibrator (for clitoral stimulation), and getting on top (to establish how fast and deep she’s being penetrated). It's like dancing, only the woman takes the lead. Betty says that you can also "run a fuck" from the bottom, but it takes more finesse. My advice is to get on top and screw like Michael Jackson intended: "don't stop 'til you get enough."

The combo orgasm is key

I hate to break it to you fellas, but very few women come by penetration alone. A small percentage of women may climax solely from vaginal penetration when they’re on top, or with a guy of a certain fit and size (more likely when he's uncircumcised), or in the throes of a sparkly new relationship. Otherwise, the key to intense orgasms lies in the combination, or blended, orgasm, which involves vaginal penetration AND clitoral stimulation. If your gal says she comes every time and there’s no clit stim, I’m going to call BS. Most likely, she’s faking it. Sorry.

It takes (most) women a while to come -- and (most) men don't last as long as they claim

After penetration, most men climax within four minutes or less. "In four minutes, I’m not even interested yet," said Dodson. The female orgasm requires more work, taking 20-30 minutes of clitoral stimulation, and we're not talking a few licks or a quick hand job.

My advice is to get on top and screw like Michael Jackson intended: "don’t stop ‘til you get enough."

Women tend to rush things

In everyday life, we're multi-taskers and overachievers. But when it comes to having an orgasm, it’s important to slow down and be present. "Enjoy the good feelings," Dodson said. When she needs to slow it down, she turns to a mental Rolodex of fantasies; and said it's OK to imagine other people and scenarios when having sex. Even if the thoughts are super perverted. Whatever gets you where you need to go: it's your mind, after all.

The Magic Wand is the gold standard for vibrators

I've been in a steady relationship with my beloved Magic Wand since I was 18. Once a corded-only option, I recently upgraded to the rechargeable version for orgasms more than 18in from a power outlet (I never found extension cords to be a sexy addition to the bedroom). We used the Magic Wand in the bodysex workshop, and it tickled me that it's a go-to tool for Betty, too. She advised that when using a vibrator, always keep something moving. "The body wants motion," she said. Too much pressure in one place can temporarily numb the clit. Combined with Betty's Vaginal Barbell, the Magic Wand is the surest and fastest route to your very own solo combo orgasm.

Too many women fake orgasms to please men

Maybe you’re the only woman in the world who hasn’t faked an orgasm. Lucky you. Still, I’m not sure why so many women protect the male ego when it comes to sex. There are way too many fake orgasms being had. Sure, I faked orgasms back in the day when I was young, dumb, and didn’t know any better. But now I do, and there’s no way I’m going to settle for mediocre sex to save my partner’s feelings. The bottom line: there needs to be better communication in bed. If you’re not getting what you want -- male or female -- you need to speak up. No one is a sexual psychic, and as much as you want your partner to know exactly how to please you, there’s always room for exploration and improvement. Faking it doesn’t make orgasms better; frank conversation does.

Women get boners, too

"Look at the length of your clitoral shaft!" Dodson told one of the workshop participants. "You are hung!” I knew that my clit swells, protrudes, and gets more sensitive to the touch when aroused -- but I hadn’t really likened it to a male erection before. Apparently, women have the same number of nerve endings in their clitorises as men have in their penises. And we have erectile tissue and can get hard too. Go figure.

I’m not sure why so many women protect the male ego when it comes to sex.

It's never too late to have your first orgasm

For decades, Betty’s been helping women have their first orgasm. I saw the healing powers of the bodysex circle firsthand when a 40-something woman experienced her first orgasm. It's one thing to be in the company of a group of women moaning their way to ecstasy, but a completely over-the-top powerful moment to witness another woman's first. It's never too late in life to have firsts, especially when it involves the Big "O." If you haven’t made it there yet, don't give up.

The "pillow fuck" is an insanely hot way to get off

Until the bodysex workshop, I thought I'd screwed (and been screwed) in every imaginable position... except double penetration, my Holy Grail of carnal conquests. Nope. Dodson had a few new-to-me tricks, including the almighty "pillow fuck." This position is all about the woman being on top, in control of her orgasm. See a trend here?

Here's how it works: place a pillow on the floor (it doesn’t work as well on a non-flat surface, like a bed). Spread your legs and straddle it, with the Magic Wand positioned below your clit. Now, start to rock your pelvis until you find your happy place. If you masturbate, I know you know exactly what I mean. During the workshop, we did this in a circle, with all 12 women facing the center. As the group got worked up, Dodson unleashed her "fuck bar fantasy" on us. You’ll have to check out Ross’ blog post for the nitty-gritty details, but it was one of the dirtiest, hottest fantasies I’ve partaken in -- ever. After we all came, Dodson flagged my attention across the circle: "Your tits looked outrageous during the pillow fuck." Not as outrageous as I felt after learning this new-and-improved way to get off.

To learn more about Betty Dodson, check out her website here.

Charyn Pfeuffer thinks the world would be better place if everyone had an orgasm on a regular basis. Follow her pursuit to feel good on Twitter: @charynpfeuffer.