IMG_3732When we sunbathe topless in the park or take our shirts off in some other public place on a 90-degree day, it has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with comfort and equality. We like wearing less when it’s hot out than when it’s cold; stripping off a sweaty t-shirt to lie in the grass or play frisbee or enjoy the spray from a fountain isn’t a sexual act when we do it any more than when a man does. We work hard to make this distinction clear: nudity does not equal sex, and the two should not be confused or conflated.

That said, most of us do also like sex.

So we were cautiously receptive when we were contacted recently by several alumnae of Betty Dodson’s famous Bodysex workshop, which has been teaching women to explore their own bodies and their sexuality for something like fifty years. (Betty Dodson herself is close to 90 years old, and still going strong.) There was a Bodysex reunion being held near NYC, and some of the participants were followers of our group, and they asked if they might come to one of our events while they were in town. Of course we said yes, and invited them to join us on our favorite private rooftop sundeck.

Now, normally the privacy we enjoy there only means we get to sunbathe fully nude rather than merely topless. But this time it meant something more, since our visitors promised to share some of their practice with us, and their practice includes group masturbation and shared orgasm.

How many of us had ever masturbated in a group before? Not many. But we’re open-minded and very much pro-orgasm and sex-positive, so we decided we’d give it a try.

IMG_3746In all, between the Bodysex alums and us there were a dozen people on the roof. Some were first-timers, some long-time members; eleven were women, one was a man.

IMG_3759IMG_3712IMG_3660We began by sharing our groups’ respective stories, and some fresh fruit, white wine, and mimosas to go with them. (What story doesn’t go better with a mimosa?)

IMG_3681cAfter that, we shifted from the couches and lounge chairs to the floor of the roof and the dozen comfy soft towels Amazon had thoughtfully shipped us the day before.

IMG_3709We had a selection of toys to choose from — ones that vibrated, ones that pulsed, ones that sucked — and enough bottles of lube to stock a medium-sized pharmacy. (What’s the difference between a lubricant that “Arouses and intensifies” and one that “Arouses and releases”? We figured we’d find out.)

IMG_3655Someone in the group had an iPhone with a relevant Spotify playlist (“30 All-Time Greatest Songs to Masturbate To“)…

IMG_3794…and someone else had a bluetooth speaker. Connections were made. The mood was set. The moment of truth arrived. So we took off any clothes we still had on, laid back, spread our legs and dove in.

IMG_3750A word about masturbation: it’s nothing to be shy about, certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes the best orgasm you can have is one you give yourself. Learning how to pleasure yourself can also help you learn how to have more satisfying sex with a partner — but it doesn’t have to be about that. The self-administered orgasm (like the self-portrait, or self-hypnosis) can be an end in itself. Masturbation isn’t anything to apologize for. We all do it, women and men, and when we do it right it’s wonderful.

Yesterday, it was wonderful.

IMG_3779It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect for it, sunny and clear — we gave ourselves orgasms under the bluest of skies and the whitest of fluffy white clouds. The air was deliciously warm against our skin.

IMG_3742Was it strange doing something so intimate and private in a group, a number of whom were meeting each other for the first time? A little. But remember, a lot of people also say that baring your breasts is something intimate and private that shouldn’t be done in a public place or in front of someone you don’t know well. People who say that are wrong — so why should we take as a given that they’re right about masturbation having to be solitary?

IMG_3738It helped that while the act was sexual, it was not sexualized. We weren’t performing, we weren’t ogling each other or being ogled (or watched at all, really; our eyes mostly slid shut as we went to somewhere special in our own headspace). We were just friends enjoying ourselves together, feeling beautiful sensations, and sharing that experience — as one member put it the next day, it was less like a sex party than like a wine tasting, only with orgasms instead of wine. And what fine vintages we uncorked.

IMG_3763And then, soon enough — too soon — it was over. We came, we relaxed, we caught our breath. We marveled at this thing we’d just done. Did everyone have a blissful smile on her face, or did it just feel that way?

IMG_3671We all felt really nice, that’s for sure. And our ordinary event started up again. We ate grapes, chatted, joked. Shared our addresses with each other so we could stay in touch. IMG_3730

Eventually, the Bodysex folk headed off to catch their planes home, like magical sex fairies who’d done their job.

Will we ever do it again? Who knows? Certainly not in the middle of Central Park, where going topless means nothing more than that it’s hot out, and neither women nor men are free to engage in sexual acts. But on some wintry afternoon perhaps, in a private room at our favorite spa? Or if one of us has a big enough apartment and enough cushy throw rugs? Why not?

Our group is not about sex, and what we do as a matter of course is not sexual.

This was sexual.

Maybe now people will have an easier time seeing the difference.

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