You know how you can read a book and it takes forever to "get into it"? Or, worse, it fucking drags on forever to give you something so sub-par that it's like a literary orgasmic letdown (coughcough*Jodi Picoult*coughcough)? If not, consider yourself lucky.
I'm a finicky person. A finicky eater, dresser, and ESPECIALLY a finicky reader. Odds are, anything you hand me, I won't like. I don't read past the first chapter if the book sucks. I'm extremely brutal when critiquing others' works, too.
All this said... "Betty Dodson: A Sexual Revolution" gave me what I needed. I felt... I felt... Fucked by that book. That's the best way I can describe it. The book gave me one of those rare, leg-weakening orgasms that leave me spent and speechless. It teased me, slid it in gently, gave it to me hard, and held me after it was all over. Loved it.
Some parts of the book were already familiar to me, because she and Carlin had discussed them in podcasts. I have my favorites saved in my iTunes library and I listen to them in the car when they come up on shuffle.
What stuck out to me was her loving recollections of experimenting with her brothers. "We’d put my little brother’s penis inside our outer vaginal lips, making a miniature human hot-dog." My initial reactions surprised me, because I try to keep an open mind about things and gauge how I actually feel about something, instead of how I should feel. How should I have felt? Disturbed and uncomfortable, I suppose. How did I feel? Intrigued. Not at the experiences she had, but her unapologetic honesty. I think that's what I love about Betty Dodson as a whole. She isn't afraid to "go there." It makes me wonder what ever happened to just being truthful and unashamed.
I also loved her accounts of her abortions. "Going back over that first abortion, I silently awarded myself a purple heart." She didn't seek anyone's approval, on the contrary, she said she was "made to feel like a criminal." That strength is astounding to me, because no matter how much I love the progressiveness of women's rights and how I feel that no shame should be felt, I know that I wouldn't be that brave. I know that, if I were to ever have an abortion, I would hold that secret to myself forever. There's still a lot of internal work I have to do.
She had the most amazing relationship with her mom. Something I wish all girls (including yours truly) could experience. Absolutely beautiful and honest. *I* love her mom and I never even met her. When Betty talked about her death, I cried. It took me back to last May when my grandma passed away. She was surrounded by her three sons and went peacefully; Daddy said she was fighting to stay alive for Sunday morning, because she loved to go to church. She made it. A little bit after 12am, on Sunday morning, she took her last breath. As I read, I cried out of sadness, but mostly of astonishment. I was emitting small and gasping sobs, because I really couldn't believe death was being treated as something so... Normal? Something that didn't have be so completely riddled with grief, anger, and sadness. It could be beautiful, spiritual, and peaceful. I'd never heard anything like it.
No stone was left unturned. Sexuality and spirituality have always gone hand-in-hand with me, but not necessarily in a positive way. Through Betty's massive amount of textual self-discovery, I delved inside of myself and relived several experiences. Some great, some not, but all beneficial.
I guess I loved this book because it took me on a personal journey. Not just with Betty's experiences, but also with myself. My journey was retrospective; it took me back to being seven or eight and having my first full-on-tongue-in-mouth-kiss with a girl my mom was babysitting. It made me dig out memories I hadn't reviewed in a while. From being around eight or nine and being in bed with a little boy and us taking our pants off and exploring, to the first time I saw a full bush of pubic hair on MW when we were in fifth grade, and even to the first blowjob I gave a while ago, while feeling uninhibited and strangely liberated.
I love books that make you think. I love that this one didn't require researched scenarios or made up love scenes. Just honest memories and honest feelings. There's a reason why I found Dodson and Ross right smack in the middle of my first "life transition." Yay for sexual fate taking hold and guiding me.