I Went to a Female Masturbation Class

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Photo: Bek Andersen

The day before Hurricane Sandy hit New York City I had one main concern: I hope my vagina looks awesome. I was on my way to a female group masturbation workshop where I was going to be “playing the clitar” in front of strangers for approximately five hours. If the world was ending, at least I was leaving with a bang. Multiple bangs if I was lucky.

The leader of the workshop is the legendary 83-year-old sex educator, Betty Dodson. Talking to Betty, it’s impossible to believe she’s an octogenarian. Cursing like a sailor, laughing at her own jokes and telling raunchy stories, she’s like Bette Davis meets Honey Boo Boo. When I asked if she still jerks it she said, “Last month, I had a knockout. I went, ‘Whoa girl, you still got it.’”

Originally a fine artist, Betty changed careers in the '70s when she discovered feminism and the sexual revolution. She started going to group sex parties and while watching couples get down she noticed a pattern: All the men were climaxing and all the women were faking it. Not a single woman was having a real orgasm. She was so upset she decided to take matters into her own hands, and when I say “matters” I mean clits.

She explained, “Orgasms have been very important to my life. I’ve always really depended on them. In a bad mood? Jerk off. Confused? Masturbate. Working on a painting and I’m stuck? Go lay down on the couch and have an orgasm.”

On my way to Betty’s apartment, I tried to imagine what we could possibly do for five whole hours.

When I arrived at the apartment, Carlin Ross, Betty’s smokin’ hot protégé, opened the door completely nude. “Take off your clothes in the foyer and then meet us in the main room,” she said. Things were becoming very Eyes Wide Shut, very fast. I was in mid-strip, when the front door opened and in walked one of my classmates. I pretended not to be naked from the waist down and introduced myself.

When I entered the main room there were seven nude women lying on towels and cushions casually chatting. The décor was an interesting mix of shabby chic and dildo museum. There was cozy wall-to-wall carpeting and tons of huge pillows, but also fake penises everywhere you looked. The message was clear: Relax, make yourself at home... and then penetrate yourself.

As I found my place on an empty cushion, Betty, also in the buff, joined us. The first exercise of the day was to go around the room and talk about how we felt about our bodies and our orgasms. Every woman had a unique body and set of issues, but there were definitely some common themes. No matter how beautiful each girl was there was some type of trauma around puberty or adolescence. By the end of the chat I felt like I was hanging out with a bunch of old  friends who were all naked for some reason.

The next thing we did was called “Genital Show and Tell” which was like kindergarten, but with way more vulva. Each woman took turns sitting next to Betty, legs spread with a mirror and light pointed at their ya-ya. It was our vagina’s big moment in the spotlight. Betty gave each person a detailed explanation of their particular anatomy and then everyone would give your punani a compliment. We all agreed that this would have been an amazing experience to have as a teenager.

The next day was the “hands on” part of the workshop. Betty explained the two main types of orgasms, “Tension-Release” and the “Rock 'N’ Roll.” Tension-Release is when you squeeze  your whole body and PC muscles ("pubococcygeus muscles," the thing you squeeze when  you're doing Kegels) and kind of force an orgasm. Rock N’ Roll is where you squeeze and  release, squeeze and release, and then slowly over a long period of time build to climax.

To demonstrate the technique, Carlin Ross laid down in the middle of the circle while Betty explained step-by-step how to rock out. “My mantra is vaginal penetration with clitoral stimulation,” Betty said. She believes that it’s crucial not to focus solely on clitoral stimulation when you jill off because then when you have partner sex, you’ll be totally lost.

Finally, it was our turn. Betty set the mood by lighting candles and turning on classic rock radio,  because nothing says "arousal" like Aerosmith. With a set of tools next to each of us including Almond Oil, a metal barbell, and a wand vibrator, seven eager ladies put the metal to the petal.  Every so often a woman would start breathing really  loudly and let out little squeals and squeaks and Betty would yell, “Another one down!”

The Rock 'N’ Roll technique takes a lot longer than what I’m used to, so my mind started to wander. With a barbell in my vag and a vibrator on my clit, all I could think about was Ethiopian food. I was so hungry that I actually came to the idea of a mixed meat plate.

Then for the very last activity of the day we did the most decadent thing I have ever done: group massage. Each person takes a turn lying down while three women massage you at once.

Obviously it sounds the beginning of a lesbian gang-bang, but it was way more Lilith Fair, hippie vibes.

When I left the workshop, I checked my cell phone and had 15 missed calls from my worried, Jewish mama. I immediately called her.

“Are you are gonna be okay during the storm? Do you have enough batteries? Do you have a flashlight? You’re gonna be trapped in your house for days! Poor thing, you’re gonna be so bored!”

“Don’t worry mom, I know how to entertain myself. Actually, I can’t wait.”