Betty loved this fan email:
I have been a regular visitor to your website (and now you and Carlin’s website!) since I was 12 years old, for a current total of 12 years! I have always wanted to write you but felt like I didn’t have anything extraordinarily significant to tell you. After seeing the work you’ve done, reading your memoir, and seeing the work you are now doing with Carlin, I am compelled to tell you what a positive impact you’ve had in my life!
I feel like I have grown up with you. My parents were not comfortable with talking about sex with me or my older brother. My mother once asked me if I had any questions about menstruation when I was around 10, but that was it. While sex was not demonized (my family is not religious), it just was something we didn’t talk about, unless it was to point out the double standard that my brother (who was also a shy kid) should be “sowing his oats” and then explicitly being told that none of that applied to me. I suppose it wasn’t too damaging because I wasn’t a particularly sexually curious child – I have maybe one or two memories where I remember wondering about sex or what a boy’s genitals looked like. I was more upset by the innate unfairness of what I was being told, though I had no desire to do any of the things they banned.
My sexual curiosity didn’t really “stick” until I had the standard sex-ed day in 6th grade. You know, the one where they separate the girls and the boys, hand out a pamphlet, and show you a video about the reproductive system. That was the day I learned about the clitoris! I remember being confused about its definition – something about having lots of nerve endings and no function. Why is it there if it has no function! I soon began to voraciously look up anything related to sex, thanks to the internet. From sex-ed sites like scarleteen to porn sites, I read and looked at everything I could find, purely out of curiosity. That’s when I found your website.
I read and reread every single post on that website countless number of times! I especially liked the “first orgasms” section. I had never thought of masturbating until I read about it, and mainly because I wanted to figure out for myself what it meant to “stimulate one’s genitals for pleasure.” It was such a confusing concept for me at the same time, and upon reflection, it was such an innocent curiosity. It’s a shame that so many people consider human sexuality dirty and inappropriate when it is so natural and innate.
My older sister was a somewhat promiscuous teenager (in addition to associating with the “wrong crowd”, which my parents hated. I wonder if I subconsciously suppressed my sexuality because of my parents’ strong disapproval of my sister’s behavior. Yet, I don’t think I ever really felt embarrassed by the fact that I enjoyed masturbated as a child, though I knew that my parents would probably be upset if they found out. I credit that to the fact that I had exposed myself to so many sources of information about sex, that the logical conclusion that there was nothing inherently wrong with sex. Your website, with its personal stories (I loved the first orgasms section!) and the genital art gallery, was such a wonderful source of information and truth.
Once I discovered masturbation, it became a regular habit. I didn’t have my first orgasm until I used my parents’ back massager, cushioned with a towel. I would sneak into their room and use it whenever they left the house. I eventually learned how to orgasm with only my hands – it was an exciting and proud day when I first did! I eventually began to explore penetrating myself with my fingers, and later with cucumbers (as per your recommendations) taken from my mother’s garden, shaved down to the right size.
Having partner sex for the first time at 18 was not this traumatic experience that I was warned about – it was the next logical step in my sexual exploration and was enjoyable, not painful! When a partner of mine told me that he did not like my larger inner lips, I was knowledgeable and confident enough to not even bat an eye, and to tell him that it was his problem, not mine. It’s upsetting that women would ever go through surgery to change their natural selves in order to please others, rather than doing what pleases themselves.
There is the ignorant perception that sex-positivity is considered the same as being an immoral, sex-obsessed person. I believe that mindless promiscuity is just as ignorant as being a virgin and afraid of their sexuality. I don’t mean that to be insulting, but rather a call for people to be more informed and to really THINK! about their beliefs and actions!
I look forward to the day where all people understand that human sexuality is a spectrum, from homosexuality to heterosexuality, from asexuality to being extremely sexual, and that falling anywhere on that spectrum is normal and healthy, assuming that you know yourself well enough to know who you are, what you want, and what truly makes you happy. I think it is a complete lack of awareness about our own bodies and sexual selves that contribute to this.
You are an absolute hero in my eyes, in the work that you’ve done and the work you are continuing to do with Carlin. I admire your fearlessness and tenacity. I love that you have embraced technology to spread your message and your knowledge. As a fellow artist, I absolutely love how your artwork is so intimately intertwined with your message of sex-positivity. You’ve helped me develop into a sex-positive woman, though I feel like I struggle to find ways to spread sex-positivity and feminism, when there is so much to be discussed! The world would be a better place if there were more people like you.