Book Review: Sex for One

July 11, 2010

Masturbation is a primary form of sexual expression. It’s not just for kids or for those in-between lovers or for old people who end up alone. Masturbation is the ongoing love affair that each of us has with ourselves throughout our lifetime.

I chose to read Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson specifically for the Women Unbound reading challenge. I hadn’t actually heard of the book before, so when I saw that Susan over at Black-Eyed Susan’s said it should be required reading in Women’s Studies classes, I had to check it out. Since, you know, it was certainly never mentioned in any of the Women’s Studies classes I took throughout college or graduate school.

Betty Dodson is a sexologist (her Ph.D. is in sexology). She also has a very current website (Warning: Not Safe for Work) to answer questions about sex, masturbation, and orgasm.

I think the book is very important. Dodson completely demystifies masturbation and celebrates it as a way to build self-esteem, encourage body knowledge, and improve partner sex. She is pro-masturbation as a way to combat sexual repression, especially for women. What power women would have if they understood their own genitals and their own orgasms. How great for our teenage girls and young women to know they can have sexual release without the fear of pregnancy or STDs–that they are their own greatest lovers. That it’s okay to please themselves sexually and that it’s not just about the boys and their pleasure. (Think about girls who feel pressured to perform oral sex on boys while getting nothing in return–except damaged reputations.)

If girls and women know their own bodies and know how to please themselves, then they are empowered.

That doesn’t mean Dodson ignores men in her book because she doesn’t. Masturbation without shame is just as important for men as women in the battle against repression.

Dodson does all of this while also offering this book up as a memoir of sorts. It operates as a chronicle of her journey to being more sex positive and pro-masturbation. From her childhood to her first awesome lover to the opening up of her relationship with her mother to her development of her art to her bodysex groups, she details how all of these things came about and their impact on her thinking about gender, sex, and sexuality. And masturbation plays a part in all of these events.

While the book does contain erotic art and detailed descriptions, I didn’t find it to be pornographic at all. The point is to educate, not titillate. And I walked away from the book feeling way more knowledgeable than before.

I wish I would’ve read this book sooner.

Thanks to Susan for suggesting it as a must-read for the Women Unbound Challenge. I would encourage others to read it as well.

Women Unbound: 7/8

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