Masturbation

My first post-marital relationship was a sexual turning point. Blake was an exciting man. At the age of forty-two, with enough money to retire, he'd wrenched himself away from his workaholic ways as a professor and publisher to seek pleasure and peace of mind. Soon after his divorce, he quit therapy, came off the addictive pills prescribed by his doctor, and stopped drinking his ritual martinis before dinner. At the time we met, I'd been off alcohol for three years, so we were both completely drug free. We started mainlining sex.

I intended to explore sex passionately and in depth without the interference of church or state.

We were both delighted with our intense, experimental love affair. Good sex quickly changed my image of ecstasy. In the past I'd been grateful for one orgasm during lovemaking. What you don't know, you don't miss. Now I was having several orgasms, and their intensity actually alarmed me. After every big one, I needed reassurance from Blake. Did he think the neighbors could hear me? Was he sure that I wasn't damaging my body? Was it really okay with him when I carried on like that? It was my introduction to pleasure anxiety, the fear of having too much of a good thing. He told me I was the sexually responsive woman of his dreams.

Open Sexual Communication

It was a thrill to be able to talk honestly and openly about sex. Our exploratory conversations quickly got onto the subject of marriage, monogamy, and sexual repression. I told him about my guilt-ridden marital masturbation, and he told me about his. He talked about the "toning down" of sex that had evolved during his 17 year marriage. Lovemaking had become totally predictable, and the sexual constraints and lack of communication had also been depressing. He was sneaking extra orgasms by masturbating in the bathroom. Though he longed for sexual variety, he had agreed to be monogamous, and he was too idealistic to seek extramarital sex. His only alternative was masturbation, which would have been okay if he could have done it joyfully. But, like me, he'd felt sick with frustration and guilt. As his self-esteem was eroded by this process, he began to regard himself as a dirty old man.

Through our discussions, I began to understand how our whole anti-sexual social system had repressed us. We couldn't even touch our own bodies for sexual gratification without feeling sick or guilty. That realization made me so angry that I resolved to banish sexual guilt from my mind once and for all. It would no longer be part of my life.

I intended to explore sex passionately and in depth without the interference of church or state. The best way to learn about sex and pleasure was to have a lover with an open mind. Blake and I quickly moved beyond traditional sex roles. With our healthy inquisitiveness, we both experimented with being receptive and assertive by being on the top or bottom, and we took turns doing each other with oral sex and erotic "hand jobs."

Sexual Joys

It was a special meeting of minds as well as bodies when we got together. What a joy it was to find a man who agreed with me about sex! We started gathering bits of sex information that supported our ideas about the importance of masturbation. Masters and Johnson had just published their findings on female sexuality, which demolished Freud's idea of "mature vaginal orgasms." They found all orgasms centered in the clitoris, and that categorizing orgasms as clitoral or vaginal was incorrect.

With all that wonderful sex, I was surprised to discover I was masturbating more, not less, whenever we weren't together.

We both knew that masturbation had saved our sexual sanity, and we vowed that we'd never again consider it a "second rate" sexual activity. Although we'd decided that masturbation would be a natural part of our sexual exchange, actually sharing it for the first time was difficult for both of us. After all, masturbation had been a private activity our entire lives. Naturally this new kind of exposure made me feel very vulnerable. Once I made it clear that I wasn't dependent on him for my orgasm, I was confronting the possibility of upsetting his romantic image. I felt tentative about taking such a big risk with sexual honesty. At that point, any criticism from him would have sent me scurrying right back into the old missionary position.


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First I decided I had to get up enough nerve to watch myself masturbate in front of a mirror alone. When I saw I didn't look funny or strange, but simply sexual and intense, I was amazed. Until that moment, I had no visual image of myself as a sexual being. With this new erotic information, I was able to make the breakthrough with Blake. We celebrated our Sexual Independence Day by showing each other that we could have first-rate orgasms by ourselves. We both loved it! Masturbating together de-mystified the romantic image of orgasm, and I stepped down from my pedestal to become a sexual equal.

Society has been slow to provide any positive images for divorced people, single parents, surviving partners, or older gay people who end up living alone. The idealized image of the young romantic couple whose love for each other mysteriously conquers all will get us through our twenties, but like Romeo and Juliet, it helps to die young. Getting married and staying together forever may work for some people; for millions of others it doesn't. There needs to be more support for the positive aspects of two people "getting apart." We should be congratulated. Divorce doesn't mean failure, and living alone doesn't necessarily mean loneliness. Two of the happiest days of my life were the day I got married and the day I got divorced.

Neither Blake nor I wanted to get married again, nor did we want to live together. We'd spent the first half of our lives immersed in "togetherness." Now we wanted to practice the art of "separateness." We wanted to find out who we were as individuals. It was a radical concept in 1966, and friends thought we were crazy. Why would lovers want to spend time apart? After a year of erotic loving, we set out to sow our erotic oats separately, convinced that sexual love was inclusive, not exclusive.

Doing For Yourself

Learning how to live without owning another person went in stages. First Blake and I stopped going steady. We started dating other people and exchanged information about our successes and failures. We discovered the joy of sharing erotic love with each other and several other people at the same time. We no longer expected our sexual exchange to last "forever." Now we could simply enjoy it for as long as it was good.

Being a whole person took me back to that period in my childhood that I loved the best. It was just before everyone started going steady. We hung out in small groups, and the world seemed larger with more possibilities. But by high school, hanging out with friends on Saturday night became a memory because suddenly everyone traveled in twos, like Noah's ark.

Within five years Blake and I reached a critical point. The old sexual charge had diminished, and we wanted to have our primary sexual exchanges with other people. In a traditional relationship, we would have had to sacrifice sex for the security of staying together. In another five years, we would have been cheating on each other with clandestine affairs. However, our radical idea of separateness paid off. There was no love-hate drama, and I had no urge to destroy myself with despair or rage. We even double-dated with our new lovers and continued to be good friends.

All of my lovers had the potential for becoming friends, and all of my friends had the potential for becoming lovers. I went on to experiment with having roommates, living communally, and sharing vacations with my erotic friends all over the world. My security for old age was living more fully in the now. Better than blue-chip stocks was having self-love, good health, creative work, and a big erotic family of friends.

Blake and I have continued to be an important part of each other's lives, sharing a dynamic dialogue based on a mutual interest in sex. Our meaningful friendship goes on to this day. It's a different kind of love story.

Article Source:

Sex For One: The Joy Of Self Loving
by Betty Dodson.

©1987, published by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th St, New York 10022.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book

About The Author

BETTY DODSON, artist, author, and sex educator, has been a public advocate for women's sexual liberation for two decades. She is an international author of sexual self-help and will soon receive a Ph.D. from the Institute for Human Sexuality. Betty can be reached at: 121 Madison Ave., New York 10016.

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