How we run our love lives is up to each of us – or at least it should be. We can have sex when, how and with whom we want. We can explore our fantasies and spice up our sex lives with exciting toys. However, this sexual freedom was not always a guarantee and instead it’s taken time to get to the current situation. Today we introduce you to five women who were pioneers for empowered sexuality.
The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is considered an icon of the 20th century, who, despite various twists of fate, not only changed the world of art, but also the lives of many women. Her revealing, provocative self-portraits made her the model of a free, strong, self-determined woman – as well as sexually empowered. In the 1970s, she became increasingly politically active for women’s rights, a role that today makes her a role model for many feminists. Her bisexuality, which her husband, the painter Diego Riviera, made public to justify his infidelity, made her an icon of disruption during her lifetime. In her paintings Kahlo repeatedly took up taboo subjects, she depicts birth and female sexuality, her pictures are full of sensual symbols. Through her art and her unconventional lifestyle, Frida Kahlo has contributed much to the sexual self-determination of women.
I was born a whore. I was born as a painter.
The American author, journalist and lecturer Susie Bright (61) is not called “Susie Sexpert” for nothing – she has dedicated herself to the advocacy of empowered sexuality and is considered one of the first women to be called a sex-positive feminist. From 1982 to 1986 she worked in a sex shop and wrote short stories and poems. At a reading Bright met Myrna Elana, who recruited her for the lesbian sex magazine “On Our Backs.”
Her columns were the basis for the “Susie Sexpert’s Lesbian Sex World” series. As a freelance journalist she writes columns on erotic films and founded the first erotic book series for women (“Herotica”). In addition, Bright teaches “The Politics of Sexual Representation” at the California Institute of the Arts, the first course on pornography at a university. Together with Joanie Blank, Susie Bright founded “Good Vibrations”, the first sex shop in the USA. All this makes Susie Bright (aka Susie Sexpert) a pioneer for sex-positive change – and the 61-year-old is still true to this role.
Beate Uhse (1919-2001) can confidently be called the “mother of all sex shops”, because she founded the first one in the world. After the Second World War, the pilot lost her job and devoted herself with all her passion to the rights and needs of women. In the 1950s, she founded her mail-order company and began distribution of educational material, which she expanded into a listed company for erotic articles until her death. Her open approach to sexuality and eroticism met with great resistance and was socially controversial for a long time. In the end, she contributed to the liberalization of our Germany and opened the door to self-determined sexuality.
Having fun with sex is a legitimate right. The Germans now finally dare to express their secret sexual desires.
Her legacy? She made talking about sex socially acceptable and promoted women’s self-determination. However, with the legalization of pornography, the company then focused more and more on the needs of men. But her open approach to sexuality at a time when this was anything but accepted, makes Uhse one of the most important pioneers of female sexuality.
Since the 1970s Betty Dodson has dedicated herself to sexual education – again with a sex-positive approach. The American author is regarded as a pioneer in the sexual liberation of women. Her preferred subject: masturbation. Her first book “Sex for One: The Joy of Self-loving” sold over a million copies. Dodson is regarded as a co-founder of sex-positive feminism. The 90-year-old always found traditional feminism too banal and anti-sexual. In 1992 she graduated in sexual science from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and still runs a private practice in New York City. She is best known for using “The Magic Wand” in her therapy as a masturbation aid for women, a massager that was originally designed to treat back pain and is now one of the most popular vibrator models.
It is thanks to all these women, and of course a few more – such as the Swedish erotic director Erika Lust, who makes women-oriented pornography perfect for anybody regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Sex is no longer a taboo subject and we have every opportunity, for example with innovative sex toys, to get to know our bodies and our needs better. And to have fun doing so…