I was colliding with my “good girl” façade. I was wrestling with what I was told I was supposed to be, and the lived experience of failure that demanded I crack the façade and dance with carnal desires.
I sat on the bathroom floor crying ugly tears.
My marriage was a shadow of what it should have been. My religious upbringing had lead me to believe that marriage and motherhood was going to be a pinnacle experience. In this, I was promised, I would find happiness and fulfillment. After a decade together we were more like roommates with a child, and my mind and heart were breaking at the realization that I might never find happily ever after as a full-time wife and mother. The fear of failure at the one job I had been raised to believe was my life’s calling was enormous to reconcile. I had no idea what to do next. I desperately wanted to be given a way back into the fairytale.
I did the only thing I knew how to do.
Pray about it. Bring it before God and allow him to find the solution.
What do I do? How do I fix this? This cannot be what my life is about? I’ll do anything.
There, red faced and scared, on the bathroom floor, I got the last answer I ever imagined possible.
The still, small voice in my heart, spoke so matter-of-factly.
“You need to get a vibrator.”
This was so jarring that I stopped crying instantly.
There was no repeat. It was as if the heavens looked at me as if to say, “you heard me.”
I sat up, with puffy eyes and blew my nose. My mind was now racing in a completely different direction.
A vibrator? What the hell kind of advice is that?
Indignant is the best description for my mood in the following days.
I went back and forth with myself as to whether or not I was imagining things or if I really thought I had gotten an answer to my prayers. I go to church. I have a toddler. What am I supposed to do, put my kid in a shopping cart at the adult store and walk the isles like I am at Target. No. Absolutely not.
On the other hand, I did say I was willing to try anything.
I decided that the possibility of spicing up the bedroom was the most likely direction of that advice. I might need to be more receptive to intimacy. I turned to Google.
The divine magic of the internet brought me Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross. I found a video titled, Our Favorite Sex Toys. I fell in love with Betty. She exuded a confidence that I instantly connected with and I watched as many videos I could that day.
I ordered a vibrator online and I got my how-to instructions from Betty.
I got some oil from the health food store and it was time to actually try things out.
The reality of what I needed to do next, sent me into a tailspin.
I got mad. Really mad. Angry at life, and God, and Betty for making me do this ridiculous activity.
There was so much shame bubbling up inside my mind. I was colliding with my “good girl” façade. I was wrestling with what I was told I was supposed to be, and the lived experience of failure that demanded I crack the façade and dance with carnal desires.
I had never put my hands on my body, skin to skin. This was overt and deliberate. I was going to masturbate, alone, in the middle of afternoon.
I had orgasms alone for years, but always as fast as possible, through my clothes so I could hide and pretend I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I just needed to focus, to get to sleep, to change my thoughts. Handstands and twirls of mental gymnastics.
The day had arrived. I had promised myself I was going to try. I didn’t have to like it.
I dropped my kid off at daycare and had a solid tantrum over it.
Betty said to set a timer for 20 minutes and just “massage” without expectation. Do it every day for 1 week.
I flopped myself on the bed and set my timer.
This is stupid. Betty is stupid. Who says Betty knows anything. She’s probably fucking nuts, and I’m nuts for even thinking this is going to help anything. Sitting at home in the afternoon, playing with myself. I should be doing a million other things. What a waste of time.
I screamed internally, then put the oil on my hands. I had never put my hands directly on my genitals. This was pointless.
My final indignant, declaration to the universe: “you have 20 minutes Dodson!”
I had an orgasm in 5.
I threw the bottle of oil to the other side of the bed. The whole thing was wonderful and awful all at the same time.
Now I had to continue for the rest of the week.
I got up, angry, and went off to clean something in the house. I spent the rest of the afternoon pretending I wasn’t stunned and bewildered at what had happened. That wasn’t supposed to work. Why did that work?
By day 2, I had calmed down and gotten curious. I was certain it couldn’t happen again.
By the end of the week I had so much energy I didn’t know what to do with it all. My whole body tingled and I was on fire with sexual energy. I actually started to wonder if something was wrong with me. I eventually came to the shocking conclusion that being turned on was not an emergency state, and I could go about my day, while also being turned on and being full of energy.
For a repressed, religious lady, this was a massive awakening.
I had never actually been in my body. I was terrified of sex and sexuality and what would happen if I let myself indulge in these “base emotions”. I had lived the majority of my life semi outside my body or at least, only in my head. My body was a tool to move me around, nothing more.
This was the first time I had attempted to cultivate a relationship with my body in any way that was greater than transactional.
Here is food, water, medicine, now take me somewhere and do a thing.
This was pleasure for its own sake. Just for me.
I never did things, just for me. My upbringing told me, this was selfish, an undesirable trait that was not to be indulged or encouraged.
There was something here that was so real and true, that I understood on a deep, soul level that I needed to make time for me. Not in a bubble bath, glass of wine and a hallmark movie kind of way, but in a carve out time to get down to the nitty gritty of who you are, and what you truly need to do to trade out the caricature woman created out of religious fear and indoctrination, for the true, authentic version of yourself, buried deep inside.
This was the first of many incremental steps of getting to know myself through my body. A first step at loving my body instead of fearing it. A beginning of trusting my body instead of dictating to it what it did or did not need and want.
I had spent so many years yearning for the people in my life to actually see me, to appreciate me, and to love me.
What I have come to understand, is that I had to go first. I had to be willing to see myself. I had to had to appreciate my own flaws and foibles and undeveloped parts as much as my talents and contributions. I had to dare to love all of myself.
It started with touch, and giving myself the gift of pleasure for its own sake. I didn’t need to earn it. I could just have it. It was my birthright and I had to dare to claim it.
Then I called a truce with myself. I didn’t know if I could love myself, but maybe I could stop being a bully in my own mind. Fueled by self-pleasure, I began to tiptoe into the sensation of acknowledging my own value.
I felt my body, as a participant and partner instead of a passive observer, and watched it come to life.
I tolerated myself.
I accepted myself.
I appreciated myself.
I liked myself.
I enjoyed myself.
Eventually, I loved myself.
It has been a bit more than a decade walking in the footsteps of Betty Dodson. Without a doubt, the person I am today, is completely unrecognizable as the same woman who sat, sobbing on that bathroom floor.
It started with putting my hand on my own skin. Loving myself as a barely tolerable experiment, that turned into a self-love practice that continues to take me deeper into myself and into what it means to love, accept and thrive as the fullest version of myself in the world.
Thank you, Betty. It was an honor and a privilege to meet you, learn from you, and be transformed by your work, and now, to carry it forward to transform the future, one orgasm at a time.
Photo credit: Closeup Photography of Psysaliss Fruit. Photo by Valeria Boltneva
More info coming soon