As an old time sexologist who’s traveled the world speaking to groups on controversial subjects, primarily masturbation, I’ve seen it all.
Oslo is the one place I think of as being open-minded and liberal. I ran a workshop here for women back in 1996 and they were all very receptive to my message and techniques.
What a shock it was for me yesterday to present “Putting the Vulva on the Map” to a group of young gay men and women. There was a minimum of energy in the room. They were very quiet and respectful. That’s when I decided to get the energy going with one of my favorite gay pride chants, “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, get used to it!” – I repeated this several times calling out for them to join me.
By the third request, they slowly joined in but I still couldn’t hear them. I demanded, “louder I can’t hear you” with the microphone firmly in my hand close to my mouth. Then I started to march back and forth in front of the room thrusting my hand in the air repeating the chant with Carlin joining in behind me, “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, get used to it!” Finally, I got a little energy going and I saw some smiling faces.
Our presentation began with my marriage establishing my attempt at normalcy. Then I spoke about what I believed was my genital deformity with my post-marital lover, Grant. My personal sexual growth is what I’ve been teaching women for the last 40 years. I believed that I’d stretched my inner lips for too much childhood masturbation. I told my personal story…how I looked at my vulva for the first time when I was 10 years old and was horrified by what I saw. My inner lips “looked like those things that hung down from a chicken’s neck that I later learned were called wattles”.
That line always gets a laugh….not this time. Silence. Moving ahead like a trooper, I talked about looking at Grant’s split beaver magazines. No one knew what that was. I explained that they were photographs of women with their legs spread holding their outer labia open. Back in the 1960’s pornographic images gave you a range of women (not like today with labiaplasty and the cookie cutter clamshell aesthetic). These images were my sexual healing. Two years of therapy didn’t make a dent in my genital shame. Ten minutes of looking at porn healed me.
Carlin displayed one vulva after the next – slides from my 1973 NOW presentation – and there was no reaction. By then, I’d found three or four faces that were responding…especially a man in the front row who had every part of his face pierced. That’s all I needed to keep going.
We finished our presentation with an image of the world map showing the market penetration of our website. Dodsonandross.com is viewed in every country in the world excluding Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Early on in our partnership, Carlin and I had a fantasy of the world map and every time someone clicked on D&R a light would go on and eventually every single country would be lit up. After 3 short years, we’re almost there.
I opened the floor to questions. And, again, there was utter silence. Then I said, “if someone doesn’t ask a question I’m going to dismiss the class”. A hand went up and a young woman asked, “how do I stop worrying about what I look and sound like when I have an orgasm?” I replied, “I had the same problem. I was afraid that my face would be contorted (I contorted my face and got a few laughs). So I watched myself in a mirror and just before I came I closed my eyes as a reflex”. The whole room laughed.
There were a few more questions then I ended my talk. Suddenly, I was surrounded by women. They loved my talk and wanted to ask personal questions. It was like every other lecture…every other country...every other part of the world: women want this information desperately and they’re grateful when they get it. But why couldn’t they express themselves during our presentation?
Carlin and I discussed why we received such a cold reception. Was it sexual repression…was it cultural? We were speaking at a Gay Pride event. We assumed that this would be like the gays in New York City. When they’re together they can be themselves and they’re very expressive. They celebrate their sexuality.
I changed my opinion about the progressiveness of Scandinavian countries. I’m glad I was a cowgirl raised in Kansas with a mother who always said, “Betty Anne never hesitate to speak your mind”.
To all our Norwegian friends, “NEVER HESITATE TO SPEAK YOUR MIND”.