The veteran sex educator Betty Dodson is well known for her pioneering sex-positive workshops and many television appearances, but is less acknowledged and appreciated as a talented and pioneering artist and illustrator. Originally from Kansas, she trained as an artist in New York, which has been her home since the early 1960s; her first exhibition of erotic art was shown at the Wickersham Gallery in 1968. Though art became relatively less significant as her personal and group exploration of sexuality grew increasingly important, her creative skills have always been central to her work.
Betty’s main claim to fame is her advocacy of masturbation as a crucial element of sexual pleasure, her three best-known books being Liberating Masturbation (1974), Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving (1987) and Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex (2002). Betty’s publishers were well aware of her skill as an illustrator as well as being an engaging writer, and the clear, sensitive, no-nonsense illustrations for all three books were drawn by her. They remain some of the best sex education illustrations ever created.
In recent years Betty Dodson’s creative skills have been focused on material for experiential workshops, including cartoons and posters, many of which can be seen on the website she runs with her business partner, ex-corporate lawyer Carlin Ross.
In her long life she has experienced almost every kind of intimate relationship possible. In 1959 she married Frederick Stern, an advertising director; they divorced in 1965. Her sensual and relationship life since the 1960s, often passionate and stormy but always courageously exploratory and painfully honest, is recounted in detail in her 2010 memoir Sex by Design.
Betty Dodson has always questioned conventional ideas about gender and sexual intimacy, believing that far too much is made of labels. She usually calls herself a heterosexual, bisexual lesbian, and looks forward to the day we can all be just sexual.