Lust Zine invites various experts to share their knowledge and opinions on various topics across sexuality, sex, fetish, kink, sexual health, female pleasure and more. In this guest piece, to celebrate masturbation month, writer Ryn Pfeuffer shares how she has used pleasure, the sisterhood and countless orgasms on Zoom to survive the past year.
Since the start of COVID-19, I've masturbated virtually every Sunday with a few dozen women from around the world. The common thread? Our Bodysex work with Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross. Dodson was the OG pioneer of human sexuality and a true feminist liberator. Ross, Betty's co-conspirator, is president of the Betty Dodson Foundation and the badass who had an on-camera orgasm on The Goop Lab. During her famous group-sex parties of the '70s, Dodson pushed the boundaries for women seizing power in the sack – and she never stopped. The high priestess of self-pleasure died last Halloween at the age of 91. Still, she left behind an army of women to carry on her mantra: "liberating women one orgasm at a time."
Pre-pandemic, the Bodysex babes gathered at Menla, a Buddhist retreat center in upstate New York, for a week of pleasure-fueled workshops. In between the bacchanal, we stay connected via a private Facebook group. When COVID-19 started to sweep across the U.S., Carlin suggested a Zoom meeting to check in with one other. Twenty-two women participated, representing nine countries and eight US states. What came out of our discussion was the desire to have an abbreviated virtual Bodysex circle for our group. Cue the launch of virtual Erotic Recess.
Ask any kid, "What was your favorite part of your day?" The answer is always "recess." Now, imagine sharing such minimally structured play with a group of women you love and admire. Swap a playground for one's bedroom, car, or bathtub (women have called in from all places), and instead, the happy sounds are moans, laughter, and orgasms. This one hour of the week is better than therapy, and I pinky-swear promise, it's hotter than most porn. Need proof? Listen here .
Here's my deal: I practice solo polyamory and have a few steady partners. But the pandemic kept us apart for a variety of risk and logistical reasons. As I solo isolated (and was woefully underfucked for the first time in a long time), I sought intimacy anywhere I could (safely) find it. Erotic Recess helped fill that void.
Every Sunday around noon, I set up my space and create a mood. I put a blanket on my sofa and curate the sex toys I most want to fuck. Usually, it's a stainless steel barbell and a wand vibrator. I put out lube, tissues and light a candle. I angle my laptop camera depending upon my mood. Sometimes, it’s a close-up cunt shot; other times, a long side view of me lying on the sofa. Participants can show as much – or as little – as they wish. And if they’re more comfortable using audio only, that’s OK too. Sometimes I get sexed up and wear lingerie for the occasion; other times, I show up simply wearing a robe. To quote one of my favorite sex writers, Gabrielle Kassel, I want to make it APAP, or "as pleasurable as possible." This one hour is all about me.
Everyone dials into the call, and we spend some time catching up. There's a volcano erupting in Iceland. Another woman speaks of her lover, 23 years her junior. One woman is busy tying herself in rope bondage. We applaud a milestone in another woman's sobriety. Then, discuss the sexual landscape in our respective countries, how it's celebrated and regulated. We dive into menopause, and some of the older women laud their rich and fulfilling sex lives. They give me hope for a healthy future sex life. Sex toys are another hot topic. The group is eager to deep dive into the pros, cons, and their latest faves. We plan how we are going to conquer the world, one orgasm at a time. And when we're done, we set an intention, a place to send our collective orgasmic energy for the week. It has ranged from front-line workers to the success of Betty's legacy. This tangle of beautifully vulnerable women are the sisters, mothers, and mentors I always wish I had had.
Carlin directs, “Shoulders back, tits out,” and we do some basic breathing exercises . We hold our breath for as long as it feels comfortable and let out a long exhale. Next, we connect with our chakras, from root to crown, with or without a vibrator. Now, calm, and relaxed, we get down to the business of self-pleasure for a good 30-45 minutes. At this point, the call is unstructured, and it is every vulva for itself. We moan, writhe, and come, virtually, in our respective spaces. It’s beautiful to watch and listen to such a wide spectrum of pleasure. We cheer on one another's orgasms; pause and focus on whoever is coming: "Oh wait, there it is," says Carlin. "Her feet are coming off the bed." And when you think it’s over and you couldn’t possibly come again, someone always chimes in, usually Carlin, “I think I’ll go back for one more.” As Justine Tierolff once wrote, "I love women who seduce women to be their wild selves, without shame." The group is the greatest hype squad for female pleasure.
Betty frequently said women are "bottomless pits of pleasure." I haven't tallied the number of orgasms that occur on any given Sunday; I'm too busy having my own, but it's a lot. I feel lucky that I can close my eyes and know exactly who's coming at any given moment based on their sounds and breathing. It's the ultimate privilege to be able to witness community this way.
Turns out, sharing virtual pleasure with this group of women was exactly the balm – the sisterhood – I needed to survive this past year. Our group was tight before the pandemic, and weekly Erotic Recess has deepened the sisterhood more than I could have ever fathomed. This one hour has not only allowed me to connect with myself and my pleasure but also to this group of sex-positive advocates in a super-hot, empowered way. It's intoxicating to watch women experience pleasure in real-time, even more so to hear a crescendo of real orgasms erupt, fall, and rise, over and over again. I cannot imagine a more intimate bond than sharing orgasms with friends.
Erotic Recess has also kept me calm when my usual coping mechanisms have failed. It's been shown that recess can reduce stress levels and allow children to feel more relaxed. "Play is something done for its own sake," Dr. Stuart Brown, head of a nonprofit National Institute for Play, told NPR. "It's voluntary, it's pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome." There's absolutely no reason why play should end with childhood.
Many things about the pandemic have sucked, but I'm so thankful it birthed virtual Erotic Recess. I'd like to think Betty would be pretty damn proud of the sisterhood and connectedness she created. Her legacy lives on in the pleasure that takes place every Sunday. And Carlin has expanded on the work she and Betty did for a decade, by launching one-on-one Virtual Bodysex this past year. When the pandemic is over and normal routines resume, I plan to carve out time for a weekly Erotic Recess of my own. All it takes is one hour, some conscious breathing, and self-pleasure. I deserve play and pleasure, and you do too.
Celebrate Masturbation Month by joining Lust Zine & Allbodies for a free, explicit online Lust Ed Live masturbation session on Tuesday 25 May hosted by sex educator Myisha Battle and three adult performers. Find out more details and sign up to the free event here. Plus, you'll receive some special masturbation treats while you wait!