Growing up, I was blessed with parents who consistently instilled in me strong feminist beliefs. From a very young age, I knew I could do anything – my parents made it very clear that my life trajectory was not limited by my biological sex. One of my biggest motivators in school was ensuring that I never had to depend on a man for financial stability. I quickly applied this to other areas of my life. I didn’t want to be dependent on a man for anything – and certainly not my orgasms. I was fortunate that my first boyfriend was supportive of my sexual empowerment. He actually gave me my first vibrator, and never hesitated when I masturbated during or after intercourse. We felt strongly that we should both achieve orgasm as part of our regular sexual activity. I naively thought most relationships were similar in their pleasure equity.
A very wise woman said, “masturbation is the foundation for all human sexual activity.” That woman – my mentor, my teacher, my inspiration – is Betty Dodson. I discovered her book, Sex for One, when I was in college. After devouring her book in one night, I knew I was destined to share her work. I searched for “sexual consciousness raising groups” like the ones she led out of her Manhattan apartment in the 1970s. Unfortunately, she was no longer doing those groups at the time.
In college, I was a bit of a masturbation crusader. I’ve always enjoyed talking openly about sexuality so discussions about sex and orgasms were a daily part of my life in college. I was astonished by the number of highly educated, liberal women who had never masturbated. Many of these women were in sexual relationships with men and they had no idea whether or not they had experienced an orgasm. I was appalled that my dearest friends relied solely upon their lovers to give them pleasure. It became my personal mission to encourage all of my friends to try using a vibrator. Some thought I was crazy, but others tried it and were thrilled to embrace their newfound power.
Fast-forward ten years, I was pregnant with my first child. I’d enjoyed a variety of sexual adventures during my twenties and still had the dream of becoming a sex therapist. But at 30 years old, my family was growing and life was about to change dramatically. The birth of my daughter brought with it a roller coaster of emotions – a love beyond what words can describe, and a slow, but steady loss of my own identity. I didn’t realize until I got pregnant with my second child that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the traumatic experience of my first delivery.
Needless to say, for a lot of women, sexuality and motherhood feel like two opposite ends of the spectrum – two states of being that cannot coexist. For me, the loss of my sexual self, combined with my unresolved PTSD led to a deep depression. I knew I had to find a way out. But a large part of me wanted to just stay in my safe (albeit sad and unsatisfying) space. I was enjoying so many other aspects of motherhood and watching my children grow that I felt like my sexual self could wait. But deep down, I knew I would be a better mother if I honored my deepest desires – if I pursued my lifelong dreams – if I found a way to overcome my fears – if I figured out how to balance being a mother with honoring my own sexual needs.
Three and a half years after my daughter was born, I had the opportunity to attend my first Bodysex workshop. As I was sitting in Betty’s Manhattan apartment, surrounded by beautiful, powerful women, I realized my dream from college had come true. That weekend was a game changer in my healing process – the catalyst for seeking support (physically and mentally) for my PTSD. And I knew, as I sat in the circle with Betty and Carlin, and the other seven women, that I was exactly where I was meant to be. And that one day, I would do this cutting-edge, taboo, thrilling, empowering, transformative work.
Read more about Betty Dodson and the history of Bodysex here.
Kristy Lowther, MSW is a sexual empowerment coach and educator who has spent over fifteen years studying the field of sexuality. She has a master’s degree in social work and an undergraduate degree in psychology with an emphasis in sexuality and gender studies. She is mentored by Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, and is certified as a Bodysex Instructor. Kristy is dedicated to empowering women through education and transformational experiences, and particularly enjoys working with women to explore their postpartum sexuality.