Betty Dodson
Sex positivity: Betty Dodson (right) with fellow sex educator Carlin Ross (left)

Betty Dodson, an American sex educator who was once dubbed the Godmother of Masturbation, is still helping girls and women discover their sexuality at the age of 85.

The educator, author and artist is relaunching her masturbation masterclasses for a generation of women who still await sexual liberation. Even feminists have been resistant to the idea of "sex-positivity", she says.

Since publishing her bestseller Sex for One in 1973, Dodson has spent 50 years at the frontline of the sexual revolution. She became the face of sex positivity with her women-only masturbation classes called Bodysex, launched in the 1970s.

"They're afraid of sex because they say it's too controversial. But I feel it's because they're personally too conflicted. They don't want to masturbate, they want Prince Charming. It's Walt Disney. Puke," she told the Guardian.

Dodson suggests that both women and men could improve their longevity by having more orgasms. In addition, masturbation has physical benefits, she says, including improving skin condition and lowering blood pressure. The female orgasm floods the brain with nutrients and oxygen, essential to keeping the mind sharp.

Although she was called an "early feminist" by Gloria Steinem, Dodson has previously said she failed to understand all of the political concepts of the time.

She says she felt the previous waves of feminist were banal and anti-sexual. "I always thought sex was a top-priority issue," she says. "Feminists like Gloria Steinem thought it was private."

In her 2010 memoir My Romantic Love Wars, Dodson spoke about meeting Steinem. "When Gloria Steinem walked in immaculately groomed, I silently admired her," she writes.

Dodson says her work has gained a fresh lease of life with a new audience of young, successful women who have never had an orgasm. This includes fourth-wave feminists - those rejecting the anti-pleasure stance they believe third-wave feminists stand for.

Dodson suggests her message of pleasure seems more attractive than issues of childcare and sexual violence. "In the workshop, we share our orgasm with the group while being in control of our own clitoris. No wonder I keep doing it. Are you kidding? The sounds, the sights, the smells. Fat, skinny, one tit gone. Women are so beautiful."

Originally from Kansas, Dodson moved to New York to train as an artist in 1950. After her divorce from Frederick Stern in 1965, she began a quest for sexual self-discovery, showcasing the first one-woman show of erotic art at the city's Wickersham Gallery in 1968.

Dodson is widely regarded as one of the leaders of the early 1980s pro-sex feminist movement. With the likes of Carlin Ross - with whom Dodson works - and Gayle Rubin, the movement advocated the freedom of information about masturbation, consent and other sex-related topics. This period of intense debate between sex-positive and anti-pornography feminists is often referred to as the Feminist Sex Wars.