All About The Masturbation Technique In The Goop Lab

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
From energy healing to intermittent fasting, the wellness trends featured in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new Netflix series The Goop Lab are, well, pretty Goop-y. But amid the diet soups and vampire facials, one episode stands out: episode 3, “The Pleasure Is Ours.” This episode is all about cis women’s sexuality — from the diversity of vulvas to how to orgasm. Even otherwise scathing reviews are praising this episode. Vox called it, “a genuinely educational look at women’s anatomy” that’s “framed in a surprisingly sensitive manner.” 
The episode features Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, two feminist sex educators. Dodson’s work in sex education goes back to the ‘60s, when she developed a unique masturbation method and began holding her trademarked Bodysex classes teaching other women how to orgasm. Now 90, she’s still teaching what's now called the Betty Dodson Method. In 2006, Ross joined Dodson’s business after the two connected over an interview for Ross’s sex education website. “About halfway through the episode, she looked at me, put her hand across the table, and said, We’re going into business, shake on it. And I did,” Ross tells Refinery29.
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Dodson’s and Ross’s work focuses on teaching cis women to fight sexual shame, embrace masturbation, and become orgasmic. Studies estimate that 5-10% of women have never orgasmed, and even more have difficulty reaching orgasm. Ross says that she and Dodson prefer the term pre-orgasmic to anorgasmic; they believe that by following this method, any woman can learn to orgasm.
While not everyone agrees with this, clinical trials on the Betty Dodson Method show that, for many, this masturbation technique works. In one 2008 study, 500 women with chronic anorgasmia were taught the Betty Dodson method; a full 93% had an orgasm. A 2015 dissertation following 13 women who took a Betty Dodson BodySex workshop found that, after the workshop, the participants experienced “positive shifts in their experience of orgasm especially with masturbation, active pursuit of pleasure, and openness to talk about sex and sexuality with others, including specific sexual likes and needs with sex partners.” 
The Goop Lab episode begins with a discussion about vulvas — not just vaginas, as Dodson teaches Paltrow. (“The vagina is the birth canal only. You want to talk about the vulva, which is the clitoris and the inner lips and all that good shit around it.”) Vulvas are so much more varied than what we see in porn — which Dodson and Ross say promotes an ideal of small, pink labia. “That’s why women come in and they’re like, ‘There’s something wrong, I’ve got dark inner lips, or they’re not symmetrical,’” Ross explains in the episode. The answer to this shame: Look at your vulva in a mirror, and look at other people's vulvas.
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“You have to look at a vulva, and several of them, to know that there’s a range,” Ross tells Refinery29. “There’s no way to just explain it, you’ve got to see.” And so The Goop Lab shows several different vulvas onscreen — a scene Ross tells Refinery29 she was worried would get cut. “I thought, It might make it through Goop, but it will never make it through Netflix,” she says. If you see only one vulva, “then that becomes the ideal,” Ross explains. And Paltrow was on board with this plan: “She was like, ‘We need more vulvas!’ I was Team Gwyneth from then on,” Ross says.
After discussing sexual shame and the variety of vulvas, Dodson and Ross get into the nitty-gritty of the Betty Dodson Method. It involves oil-based lubricant, a weighted dildo for vaginal penetration, a Magic Wand vibrator for clitoral stimulation, deep breathing techniques, and a rocking movement Dodson calls the “Rock’n’Roll.” The episode shows Ross demonstrating the method on herself, being coached by Dodson — and it ends with her orgasm.
For her part, Ross is thrilled that the Goop Lab will help Dodson’s work will reach a new audience. “Betty is 90 years old, and she’s been carrying this flag for 50 years,” Ross tells Refinery29. “When she did this stuff in the ‘70s, the words 'masturbation' and 'clitoris' trended with the release of her feminist classic, Liberating Masturbation. Before that, we didn't have words for this stuff. It’s been so gratifying to sit next to Betty and see her work finally get social acceptance and go mainstream.”
Netflix has a global audience, she adds, and “in my mind, I’m imagining young women all over the world watching this. Would I have made different choices in my 20s, if I’d realized my body was normal and known how to give myself an orgasm, and known that everything was okay and I was supported?” she asks. “Probably!”

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