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W*** The Pain Away

In London Life by Stephanie Theobald1 Comment

If you’re feeling confused and angry and worried, like me, about Britain’s ridiculous exit from Europe, then here’s a suggestion. I’m not saying that sex for one is going to get us out of this mess, but going inside ourselves, finding some place where we can feel control and pleasure, something that switches us off from the political dramas going on right now, can’t be all bad. Remember where your core of strength is, stir it up and use that energy to start working your way, with all the rest of us, towards revolution.

I haven’t listened to tonight’s final cut of the BBC Radio 4 Late Night Woman’s Hour on masturbation with Lauren Laverne, but I’m hoping there’s some inspiration in there.

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Here I am with Lauren Laverne, Irma Kurtz, (Cosmopolitan magazine’s agony aunt) Ky Hoyle (the founder of sex toy store, Sh!) and Emily Yates who talks and writes about sex and disability.

green room

Here’s the Woman’s Hour Executive Producer, Eleanor Garland and Irma in the green room before the recording. Waitrose champagne, a 6-pack of Peroni and an hour-long talk on solo sex. Who’d have thought it from:


There’s also an hour-long podcast available of the talk.

I was going to say that it’s uncut, but there’s probably a lot of cut stuff in there. They didn’t make clear if we were allowed to use words like, “pussy,” “dick,” etc so I’ll be intrigued to see what the edit is like.

Still, I’m delighted that masturbation is finally getting a proper outing by the BBC. I would like to ad some last minute clitoris news though. At one point Ky Hoyle refers to the research done by Dr Helen O’Connell of the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia in 1998. O’Connell dissected cadavers to reveal that the clitoris was much larger than the visible tip.

Well done Dr O’Connell for doing this research, but actually this massively-late-in-the-day discovery was made much earlier, in the late 1970s in California. The pioneer was an art school drop out called Suzann Gage who went to LA to work at the Feminist Women’s Health Center. Here, she was asked to be the artist on the book that was to become 1981’s A New View of Women’s Bodies. In all the medical books she consulted to research female genitalia, the focus was on the vagina. The clitoris was drawn as a pea-shaped bump located somewhere on the outside of the vulva. It wasn’t until Gage consulted old medical text books of the 1800s when anatomical drawings were done from actual cadavers that she realised the erectile tissue (the corpora cavernosa) that fills up the clitoris is the same tissue that fills the penis. The only difference is that most of the female corpora cavernosa is inside the body and also that it’s longer than the male corpora cavernosa at around 8 inches.

Here’s one of my favourite clit pics from the book. The round bit on the left is the only external bit but look what’s going on inside. It looks like a bird about to take off:

clit bird

There you go. Just wanted to set that straight. Obviously, it’s ridiculous that it wasn’t until the late 1970s that we knew how long and large a clitoris really was, but still.

I also wanted to mention Bread and Sex. This is the title of the new web site of one of the women who attended my Betty Dodson masturbation master class back in 2014, Almudena Ferrer.

bread sex almudena

Almudena has just run the first Dodson-certified masturbation master class in Europe. In Madrid earlier this month. Her second one will be in Ibiza in September. So bear that in mind if you secretly want to bunk off from Pasha. The idea behind is that sex alone is not enough. We have the cultivate the wholesome “bread” around the sexual act as well. Ie getting into our bodies without necessarily thinking about “sex things” such as penetration or fellatio or things like that. Almudena explained that, “When I was little, the first thing I wanted to be in life was a baker. In Europe, bread was essential in the development of life just as much as sex was.”

There are many metaphors you can make out of the bread thing. In the UK, we still suffer from terrible bread and indeed, there is a lot of “Kingsmill” sex going on out there if the straight female friends I know are anything to go by. They’re always going on about how porn is such a terrible thing for their daughters who are being told by boys, who’ve seen too much of the bad stuff, that anal penetration, etc is par for the course in sex.

It saddens me that so much British writing about sex starts from a despairing discourse about how terrible porn is. There’s a new book out now called Pimp State by Kat Banyard which again, like the scourge of the Andrea Dworkin/ Catharine MacKinnon years, seeks to tell us that porn is disgraceful and should be outlawed. Remember, readers, you are allowed to think about whatever you want to in your head. Just because you might dream of being buggered by priests and nuns over an altar doesn’t mean you want to do it in real life.

But back to bread. I do agree with Almudena that sex isn’t everything. As she says, “We’ve been through the sexual revolution and now we have another opportunity to talk about this topic, but what? You’re not telling me that the only thing we have left to talk about is the kind of new vibrator on the market? “

She concludes that, “As human beings, we’re living longer and we want a better quality of life. Bread and Sex seeks to redefine sex in the 21st century.”

So let’s think about this:

bread artesan safari

And less about this:

bread kings safarivibrator pic


  1. Ky

    Steph, just to be clear I talk about clitoris ‘discovery’ is terms of *impact* not actual chronological dates!
    – yes the internal clitoris was revealed by others before but it had no *impact* – it’s sad but true that it was only when Helen O’Connells work was published that the true extent of the clitoral structure could no longer be ignored – however much the medical establishment & patriarchy wished it so ( this could simply be down to the world-wide-web rather than small print!) i

    What’s sadder and truer though is that many,*many* women (and less men!) still don’t know about the full extent of the clitoris – that’s the point surely?

    Ps we’ll have to agree to disagree about the benefit of vibes – I’ve just had so much empirical evidence of how they ( coupled with permission to enjoy Fantasy/erotica/porn) have helped pre-orgasmic women learn to orgasm – which is an essential step in ‘bread-making ‘ surely?

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