News & Politics

38 Years of Self-Love: How "Sex for One" Changed Our Ideas About Masturbation

A talk with Betty Dodson, the author of 1974's groundbreaking "Sex for One" about our changing attitudes towards self-pleasure

This piece was originally published atSalon

Without Betty Dodson, America would be a lot less good at masturbating. Almost four decades ago, the sex educator, artist and feminist activist self-published her book “Sex for One” under the name “Liberating Masturbation” and began selling it at small feminist bookstores around the country. The book, a guide to pleasuring oneself, caught on like wildfire, teaching a generation of women and men about an act that was still considered shameful to a large cross section of Americans  – and utterly mysterious to a huge number of others. It has remained a touchstone.

83-year-old Dodson still dispenses sex advice on her website,, and now Three Rivers Press is issuing “Sex for One” as an e-book for the first time ever. To mark the occasion we called Dodson to talk about how our attitudes toward masturbation have changed since 1974, when her book first appeared.

Your book has been out for 38 years, and people are still using it as a resource. That’s kind of incredible.