The Initiation and the Work

Witches by Hans Baldung. Woodcut, 1508

At Betty’s apartment, she told us all we are priestesses. “Yes, that. That’s what I want to be,” said a voice inside me. A priestess. Not a saint or a martyr. A powerful woman, not a victim of circumstance. That’s what the tattoo on my belly means. I’ve had it since I was 18 — the triple moon symbolizing the goddess, the divine feminine principle, shakti. We are priestesses not for any religion or god but for truth as we see it and know it with our hearts. With that first tattoo, I was claiming my body as my own, no matter what — mine to mark, and mine to wear. It was the first permanent decoration for my temple, and the first step toward the priestess taking up residence. I awakened the wise woman within me, with her roots that reach back to all the wise women who went before. And even though I was young and lost, she was with me.

It was that same wise woman I sensed that afternoon last year surrounded by the faces of so many radiant, orgasmic women including our teachers and initiators, Betty and Carlin. She was older, her voice had grown stronger, and she was smiling directly at me through the women in the circle. We entered as seekers, and we left as priestesses, and now I want to know how to spread the word.

I believe the world needs more shakti right now. We need more women who are powerful and confident.We need women who own their sexuality, who refuse to be victims, who speak their truth and honor their bodies. We need to give our daughters every opportunity we give our sons. We need lovers who do not fear us, who are not mystified when we bleed, who want nothing more than to praise our bodies with kisses. We need to be loved, and it starts with loving ourselves.

I used to think Betty’s message was all about the orgasm, and I’ll tell ya that is a truly wonderful thing, but at the end of the day, whether you’re practicing self-love or playing with a friend, it’s not about how many times you came, it’s about how much fun you had. Did you love, or were you afraid? Was it a celebration or a sacrifice? Did you revel in every amazing moment or did you beat yourself up with thoughts self-loathing and undeservingness? It’s easy to apply these questions not just to sex but to an entire approach to life.

It’s been nearly a year since my first workshop at Betty’s apartment. The message of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-pleasure has found its way into my whole mindset. Now I’m looking for how I can bring that message back out into the world — how do I embody those principles in my life and my work? And is teaching Bodysex Workshops the right next step for me? I don’t like to think of myself as the “radical self love” type with all the cutesy trappings of the blogosphere, but I do believe that teaching women to love and accept themselves will change the world.

Unsurprisingly, being able to speak the lessons I’ve learned requires me to integrate them on a whole new level, so I find myself facing a lot of work. Doesn’t that just always seem to be the case? I wonder if there will ever come a time when I don’t feel like I have a whole damn lot to learn.

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I Love Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross

Betty_carlin

“The characters in Sex and the City were all scrambling for a man-I don’t call that a good message for women. Couldn’t just one of them say Look, I prefer to masturbate than go out with another one of these jerks?”
Betty Dodson

 

“Many women feel that porn is degrading. Some feminists would argue that porn is a direct threat to the status of women in the culture. If we want to understand why some women hate porn, we need to understand that the majority of porn depicts the male model of sexual response. Taken as a whole, the sex acts depicted are the sex acts that bring men to orgasm, not women. Only about 20 percent of women achieve orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. The majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.”
Carlin Ross

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The Angry Sexy Feminist Post

El_Paral·lel_1894-1939-_exhibit_at_CCCB_in_Barcelona_(97)Eusebi_Planes-_Noble_Juego_del_TresilloOver the weekend, I went to a Bodysex workshop with Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross. I didn’t talk about it much in advance because I was nervous and not sure what everyone else would think about my doing this. I’m back home now, and I can’t stop talking about it and thinking about it. I knew I wanted to write about it, but I couldn’t figure out what to say.

Then I had this dream:

I owe a lot of money to several men, and every time I accept help from another man, it leads to me being more deeply compromised. I feel harassed, threatened, and deeply ashamed. I don’t know why I owe anyone anything, yet I feel so very wrong. I go home to my parents but can’t bring myself to ask for their help because doing so would mean admitting that I am somehow wrong, even though I don’t think I’ve done anything to deserve this. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel: I keep picturing the face of one of the women from the Bodysex workshop. Every time I picture her face, I feel comforted. My instincts tell me I can go to her for help. She will not shame me, and she will help me find my way.

My alarm went off before I could go visit the woman in my dream, but as I wrote it down, I realized just how powerful the workshop was. Having known these women for only a couple days, they have already worked their way into my dreams. One woman’s smiling face is now a symbol of hope, love, and acceptance. I have never in my life felt safer and more beautiful than I did in Betty Dodson’s living room surrounded by these beautiful, strong women.

I’ve been trying to write about this workshop since Sunday evening when I took the train home and wrote copious notes about everything I’d seen, heard and experienced. I’ve been talking about the workshop to anyone who will listen while also feeling self-conscious about explaining it to people. Try telling your friends you just spent two days naked in a room full of strangers and it wasn’t weird. See what kind of response you get. My experience has been that everyone wants to be happy for you, but they’re also sortof perplexed and afraid you will disrobe at any moment without warning now that you’re a great big hippy feminist. And honestly? If I could get away with it, I would. One young woman in the workshop said it best: “Clothes never fit exactly right. But this?” she said, motioning to her own skin, “This is a perfect fit.” 

But here’s the thing: It was the most miraculous, warm, supportive, joyful, sensual and healing experience I’ve had … maybe ever. Over thousands of years of twisted social programming, we have been taught to hate and fear women’s bodies and women’s desires. To be in a room full of women and embrace and celebrate our bodies feels like an absolute goddamn revolution. It was literally one big room full of bad bitches.

Furthermore, Betty Dodson is my personal hero and has been since I was like eight years old (no kidding) when I saw one of her workshops on a documentary and thought, “I want to do that.” So, in some ways I feel like I was born to do this work.

“And what is this work?” you might ask. For me, it’s the work of teaching women to love their bodies, teaching people that women are to be respected and revered, making people realize that when you judge, hate, and abuse women, you’re doing a disservice to humanity. For me, the work is dispelling the idea that Eve was made of Adam’s rib. Fuck that noise. You got born out of a vulva, ok? So stop acting like women are dirty. Hating women is hating the truth about where you came from.

At the end of the workshop, Betty had us all circle up again, look each other in the eyes, and commit to carrying on the work. Loving, accepting, and celebrating women can change the world, but there’s a lot of work to do, and it starts with us.

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