Betty Dodson's memoir is the story of one woman's struggle to liberate female sexuality while enjoying her own. In the 70s, as the feminist movement evolved, focusing on various platform issues including equal pay and voter registration, Betty latched on to sexual liberation as a symbol for self empowerment. Realizing that so many women weren't enjoying sex, she asked, "How could women ever be truly equal if they were reliant on men for their sexual satisfaction?" She quickly became the leader of the sex-positive feminist movement. And the rest is history.
©2010 Betty Dodson (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
"After five years of formal art training, and years of being a professional artist, I knew the creative process was about defying convention and seeking my own vision," she writes. Dodson applies this to her sexual life and what follows is literally, feminist history.
Romantic Love Wars is a book to get absorbed in. Dodson’s writing is so nonchalant, so scream-out-loud funny in parts, and so wise on every subject she touches.
My biggest surprise was her homage to her tough-as-nails mother back in Kansas. Her familial loyalty gave her the strength and backbone to be nothing less than a sexual revolutionary.
But it’s missing pictures available in the Kindle version. And I wanted more about STDs.
I BOUGHT THIS BECAUSE OF THE NARRATOR:
Authors: one way to get people to read your books is to have a great narrator. The best ones have fans. I wanted to buy more books narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, and this was on her list. I might never have seen it or bought it otherwise. The narrator was great. I was believing that she was Betty.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Betty describes her sexual experiences - in graphic detail with explicit language. At about halfway through I stopped. It was getting to be too much for me. So I listened to another audiobook. But after that I returned and finished it.
It changed my way of thinking about people and sex. I’m not sure what that means. Amazon reviewer Anne said “this is one of the few books this year that made me rethink who I am and where I am going.” I will say the same.
Betty was married and then divorced around 1965 at age 35. For the rest of the 60's and 70's Betty had an extremely active sex life which included sex-orgy parties. I was surprised at how much all these supposedly heterosexual people were enjoying same sex partners during these parties. Betty liked sex with almost anyone - male or female, but later her preference was for females, but she still enjoyed sex with men. In the 70's she conducted workshops for women teaching them how to masturbate. She did one workshop for men which drained her so much that she didn’t do any more for men. She published some books, the first one was on masturbation.
Betty did many odd/shocking things. One of them: she went to a bath house in San Francisco. She was the only female. She had a sex session with four men at once and then another session with someone else. This is anonymous sex. No one is supposed to talk. But after her first group she and the four guys went outside and talked. She learned that one guy preferred women but it was too hard for him to find a willing woman, so he went to bath houses for sex with men. Another guy was married but liked the thrill of anonymous sex.
Another scene that shocked me was when Betty was visiting her mother in Kansas. She saw a guy watching her through the window. She had never seen this guy before. She goes outside and talks to him. He’s big. When she senses he might be thinking of forced sex, she says “not here.” She walks him to the back yard and then she initiates sex with him. Afterwards she tells him not to come around again. He said ok and did not come back.
Another odd scene was a guy directing Betty while she fisted him. It was his idea that she try this.
Betty was not into BDSM, but she talked to people about it and tried a little of it.
Betty talks about her experiences with MS magazine, National Organization for Women, and Women Against Pornography. She talks about society and religion limiting and influencing sex. She talks about women seeking a husband to provide financial security so they could raise children. She said “Women rape themselves with the romantic dream of a perfect love.” She says it does not exist.
I wish she would have talked more about STDs. She didn’t say much but here is what she said. On two different occasions, someone in Betty’s group reported having gonorrhea. Betty never caught it. The worst thing she ever got was herpes in the late 70s, which she said was a small price to pay for all the great sex she was having. If she had a cold sore on her mouth she wouldn’t kiss anyone until it was gone. Around 1983 HIV (AIDS) became the scare. So the group sex parties changed into guests masturbating and giving each other hand jobs. AIDS also forced more monogamous relationships. Betty does not mention the HPV virus which can cause cervical and throat cancer. I understand tests to detect HPV were not very good until recently. I wanted to know how many sexually active people she knew or heard about who developed HPV cancers and HIV.
PICTURES ARE MISSING FROM THE AUDIOBOOK.
The Kindle version has photographs of Betty and some of her drawings. I wish she included a pdf file of those pictures to download, for audiobook buyers.
Genre: memoirs, nonfiction sex
It gave me the opportunity to listen to Dodson's life without any sugar-coating. I have always respected the work she continues to do - breaking old myths about women and men's sexuality. I just had no idea about the hell she went through in the search just to be herself and question the old principles of sexual morality. To me, she comes across very much like a sex-ed astronaut from the future, plopped smack dab onto Earth with the sole mission of changing our attitudes about the double standards that women are confined to - even to this day! I think that the title was misleading because Dodson learned very early that she preferred not to become entangled in exclusive dating. She made a choice to remain steadfastly single, yet build a network of friends that understood and respected her life choice. It fueled her life, research, writing and art powerful because she experienced it all...with no regrets. Please note however that there are three incidents in the book that were triggering, so be forewarned.
What I liked best about this memoir was learning about her life-long struggle to teach herself (and others) not to be afraid of their own bodies, nor should there be any fear in speaking frankly with your partner to work together for greater intimacy. Also, there is nothing wrong with choosing not to marry/have kids, etc. for a life of free personal exploration and solitude.
Yes, I have. I'll be honest - at first, when I heard her voice, I distinctly thought that it was being narrated by one of Marge Simpson's sisters with a gravelly deep voice. Actually, I wound up appreciating it because Rosenblat's voice really does sound like Betty Dodson's voice! It was a very bold choice to have this narrated by an older woman with a powerful, booming voice instead of an annoying breathless ingenue. She captured the cadence and style of Dodson's voice spot-on. Lastly (but most importantly) the audiobook is narrated as if Dodson is right in front of you, sharing her life story with joy, humor and determination.
I had an extreme reaction toward the end that I never, ever expected to do- the relationship that Dodson had with her mother when she became an adult. It was precious and moving (I'm getting chills just remembering that section.) That relationship was such a source of support, laughter and mutual respect that I will never be able to listen to that passage without crying. It was incredibly moving. You'll be moved, too. Please read the emotional trigger alert below for more. This book is very polarizing and not for the faint of heart.
EMOTIONAL TRIGGER ALERT: Please be aware that the book delves briefly into childhood molestation, sibling incest and bestilality. Although Betty has a completely different opinion on how she chose to deal with her childhood, there's no doubt that it will certainly open up a contentious debate. The bestiality incident she witnessed - no matter how many protestations to the contrary that the animal was never hurt/raped, just "spoiled" and "loving" left me infuriated and disgusted. No matter how brief the aforementioned incidents were, it doesn't take away the anger I had about these incidents.
I just got done with this book and all I can say is WOW! Betty Dodson is truly a feminist, hedonist, sex-positive, artist, bisexual tour-de-force! This is truly one of those books that is making me reexamine how I am going to live the rest of my life. I would make this required reading for every woman in America! And the narrator was FANTASTIC! Her lusty narration and ability to say out loud many of the sexual scenarios without flinching was truly professional and refreshing. Bravo to both women!!!
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