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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

All About Eve’s Garden

posted by Donna Henes

 

It is summer, hot and horny, and I am on a roll. So I am going to continue this theme of beauty, attraction, seduction, sex, love and self-love until I run out of content — or steam, whichever comes first.

 

This is the story of Dell Williams, a Queen who dared to take her sexual pleasure into her own hands, as it were, and in the process succeeded in making the world a more sexually accessible place for women.

“Women didn’t have orgasms. Not officially. Not in 1922, the year I was born,” tells Dell who can remember a time when women’s sexual pleasure was officially nonexistent. An odd and sadly depressing thought for those of us who came of age during the sexual revolution. We have Dell, one of the first women sexual revolutionaries, to thank for our freedom to feel and express our sexual Selves.

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During the 1930s and 40s, she spent her late teens and early twenties as a free-spirited singer, actress, artists’ model and writer. She then shifted gears and went into advertising, where she had a meteoric career, rising within the ranks to become one of the first successful female advertising executives in New York City.

When she was in her late forties, which was then considered to be middle-aged and well past a woman’s prime, Dell surprised everyone (including herself) by experiencing a life-changing sexual awakening. Her epiphany came, so to speak, when a boyfriend introduced her to her clitoris. “I didn’t even know I had one,” Williams said.

For me, the two greatest discoveries of the twentieth century were the Cuisinart and the clitoris. – Gael Greene

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The realization of her full sexual potential was extraordinarily liberating for Dell. When she was 50 she took herself to Macy’s to buy a vibrator. This turned out to be an extremely awkward and humiliating experience that left her scarred and shamed.

But righteous indignation soon overcame her embarrassment and she vowed that no woman should have to feel embarrassed about her sexuality again. So she left her high-paying executive position and became a visionary activist, diving into the liberation trenches of the sexual and feminist revolutions.

Queen Dell was influenced by the writing of Wilhelm Reich, by the work of sexuality educator Betty Dodson and by her experience organizing a Women’s Sexuality Conference for the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1973.

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In 1974 she established the now legendary Eve’s Garden, which she envisioned as a safe, private and supportive way for women to purchase vibrators, educational materials and sexual aids without feelings of shame or self-consciousness. These instruments of pleasure were more than simply sexual aids, they were tools for subversive political and social movements, as well.

This oasis of friendly, discreet, supportive sex-positivity was the first store of its kind. Her inaugural advertisement read, “Eve’s Garden is a feminist sexuality boutique and mail order catalog created by women for women and their partners.” Eve’s Garden thrives today as a shop in Manhattan and an international web-based email marketplace of all things sexy.

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Written 35 years ago, her mission statement is still resonant and relevant:

Eve’s Garden was created to empower women to celebrate their sexuality as a positive, nourishing and creative force in their lives. An outgrowth of the Women’s Rights Movement, Eve’s Garden seeks to erase the sense of shame and guilt experienced by countless women as a result of a society that historically condemns the sexual nature of women as sinful. Our version of “Eve” is a transformation from a fallen, shamed woman to a strong, powerful woman proud of her strength, sensitivity, and sexuality.

Queen Dell, you are my shero! I shimmy at your feet in sincere appreciation.

*****

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

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Queen of Camp – Part 2

posted by Donna Henes

 

It is summer, hot and horny, and I am on a roll. So I am going to continue this theme of beauty, attraction, seduction, sex, love and self-love until I run out of content — or steam, whichever comes first.

 

Queen West continued to make mostly successful films until 1940 when she turned her creative attention to other projects. She would not return to films until 1970. She appeared several times on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s radio show, appearing as herself. She flirted with Charlie McCarthy, Bergen’s dummy, using her usual brand of wit and risqué sexual references. West referred to Charlie as “all wood and a yard long” and remarked that his kisses gave her splinters.

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Even more outrageous was a sketch she did with Don Ameche as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. She told Ameche in the show to “get me a big one… I feel like doin’ a big apple!” NBC was bombarded with letters calling the show “immoral” and “obscene.” Women’s clubs and Catholic groups admonished the show’s sponsor, Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company, for “prostituting” their services for allowing “impurity [to] invade the air.” The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) later deemed the broadcast “vulgar and indecent” and “far below even the minimum standard which should control in the selection and production of broadcast programs.” NBC personally blamed West for the incident and banned her (and the mention of her name) from their stations.  West would not perform in radio for another twelve years until 1950, on a program hosted by Perry Como.

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Among her stage performances was the title role in “Catherine Was Great” on Broadway, in which she spoofed the story of Catherine the Great of Russia, surrounding herself with an “imperial guard” of tall, muscular young actors. In the 1950s, she also starred in her own Las Vegas stage show, singing while surrounded by bodybuilders, one of whom was a former Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay who later married Jayne Mansfield.

In 1958, West appeared at the Academy Awards and performed the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Rock Hudson. In 1959, she released her autobiography Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, which went on to become a best seller.

In 1970 after a 26-year absence from motion pictures, West appeared in Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge with Raquel Welch, Rex Reed, Farrah Fawcett, and Tom Selleck. The movie was a deliberately campy sex change comedy that was both a box office and critical flop, but it did make her a favorite on the cult film circuit where she was dubbed “the queen of camp.” For her contribution to the film industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street in Hollywood.

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You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.- MW

West had many boyfriends throughout her life. One was boxing champion William Jones, nicknamed Gorilla Jones. When the management at her apartment building discriminated against the African-American boxer and barred his entry, West solved the problem by buying the building.

In 1955 when she was 61, Mae West became romantically involved with one of the musclemen in her Las Vegas stage show, a wrestler, former Mr. California and former merchant marine Chester Rybonski, who was thirty years her junior. He moved in with her and their romance continued until West died at the age of 87. He once commented, “I believe I was put on this Earth to take care of Mae West.”

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Queen Mae died at home in Hollywood on November 22, 1980.

Ever true to herself, she never stopped creating and never stopped creating controversy by her outrageously bold sexual double entendres and innuendos. And most importantly, she never stopped creating her own persona. She was a role model we sexy Queens can be proud of.

I never loved another person the way I loved myself. – MW

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

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Queen of Camp – Part 1

posted by Donna Henes

 

It is summer, hot and horny, and I am on a roll. So I am going to continue this theme of beauty, attraction, seduction, sex, love and self-love until I run out of content — or steam, whichever comes first.

 

Mae West, actress, playwright, screenwriter and sex symbol supreme was born Mary Jane West in Brooklyn, New York in 1893. Her father was a prizefighter known as “Battlin’ Jack West” and her mother was a former corset and fashion model.

After performing in several high-profile revues, West got her big break at the age of 25 in the in the 1918 Shubert Brothers revue “Sometime,” opposite Ed Wynn. Her character Mayme danced a very provocative shimmy.

West was encouraged unconditionally by her mother, who always thought that whatever her daughter did was fantastic. Other family members, however, were less than supportive and actively disapproved of her career choices.

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Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often. – MW

Eventually, she began writing her own risqué plays using the pen name Jane Mast. Her play, “Sex,” which she also produced and directed, was her first starring role on Broadway. The critics hated the show, but the audiences loved it and ticket sales were great. Outraged, city officials raided the notorious production and West along with the rest of the cast was arrested.

Unrepentant, West continued to challenge the moral codes, and on April 19, 1927, she was prosecuted and sentenced to ten days for “corrupting the morals of youth.” While incarcerated, she was the dinner guest of the warden and his wife and told reporters that she wore her silk underpants while serving time. She served eight days with two days off for good behavior and the media attention about the case greatly enhanced her career.

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Her next play, “The Drag,” dealt with homosexuality and was what West called one of her “comedy-dramas of life.” After runs in Connecticut and New Jersey, West, an avid supporter of gay rights, planned to bring the production to New York. However, The Society for the Prevention of Vice prevented her from doing so.

Undeterred, she continued to write plays, including “The Wicked Age,” “Pleasure Man” and “The Constant Sinner.” These productions were plagued by controversy, but the bruhaha ensured that that she stayed in the news, which resulted in packed performances. Her 1928 play, “Diamond Lil,” about a racy, easygoing lady of the 1890s, became a Broadway hit, which enjoyed an enduring popularity and West successfully revived it many times throughout the course of her career.

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When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. – MW

In 1932, Paramount Pictures offered West a motion picture contract even though at 38 she was considered to be too old to be just starting out in the movies, especially as a sex symbol. West made her film debut in “Night After Night” starring George Raft. At first, she was disappointed to have a small role, so she lobbied to rewrite her scenes. In her first scene, a hatcheck girl exclaims, “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.” West replies, “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.” Reflecting on the success of her rewritten scenes, Raft commented, “She stole everything but the cameras.”

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The following year she brought her Diamond Lil character, now renamed Lady Lou, to the screen in “She Done Him Wrong.” She insisted on co-starring with Cary Grant, which was another career boost. The film was a box office hit and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Her next release, “I’m No Angel,” in which she was also paired with Grant, was a financial success, as well. By 1935 she was the second highest paid person in the United States, after William Randolph Hearst.

In 1934 the censorship of the Production Code began to be seriously and meticulously enforced, and her screenplays were heavily edited. Her film, “Klondike Annie” dealt with religion and hypocrisy and was very controversial. Today it is considered to be her screen masterpiece.

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I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it. – MW

 Tomorrow: Queen of Camp – Part 2

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™ http://www.thequeenofmyself.com

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sexy Brain

posted by Donna Henes

 

It is summer, hot and horny, and I am on a roll. So I am going to continue this theme of beauty, attraction, seduction, sex, love and self-love until I run out of content — or steam, whichever comes first.

 

The brain, the mind, is said to be our most sensitive sexual organ and I have come to absolutely believe it. Time after time again in my life, it has been proven to me that being in possession of a lively, energized spirit is much more erotic than having an outwardly pretty face or perfectly honed physique. It seems to me that the popular misperception that midlife marks the end of a woman’s sexuality and appeal has less to do with her losing her looks than her losing her spirit. Allure is visceral and begins inside. 

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When I went to Paris in my fifties, it seemed like every man between the onset of puberty and the edge of the grave seemed to be coming on to me. “But this is Paris,” I would remind myself, “not real life.” I had always heard that in Europe mature women were appreciated. And indeed, women there do seem to age particularly well. They have an incredible talent for remaining luscious and alluring well past their mere middle years and into their seventies, eighties and beyond. Think of Jeanne Moreau, Simone Signoret, Sophia Loren, Liv Ullman, Celia Cruz.

In Europe you can be Sophia, you can be these older women who are considered very sexy.

– Sally Kirkland

The mother of a good friend was born in Germany 98 years ago. Her face is as deeply grooved as Lillian Hellman’s. She smokes like a chimney. She has a younger lover, but does not live with him. She looks, sounds and acts like an age-progressed Marlene Dietrich. She is one hot great-grandma.

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I once saw Alberta Hunter belt out the blues when she was in her eighties and she was by far the sexiest woman in that room. Lena Horne once boasted, “It’s ill becoming for an old broad to sing about how bad she wants it. But occasionally we do.” What fabulous role models.

Unfortunately, in our youth-obsessed culture, the specter of an overtly flirtatious and vibrant older woman is treated as a joke. Mae West, femme fatale forever, was presented in the media as a complete laughing stock. It is always said that as she aged she became a parody of herself. But she was her Self — and more and always more so, right to the end. Authentic and self-invented, she lived and loved totally on her own terms.

The emotional maturity and depth of character of women of a certain age, is extraordinarily and vitally attractive. We are substantial and robust, heady with the flavor of all that we have seen and done so far. Pungent with profound experience, with pain and loss. Lessons learned from lives lived intensely are reflected in our palate — sophisticated, subtle, firm and complex. Like fine wine and good cheese, women ripen and improve with age. Our essence becomes stronger, more challenging and infinitely more rewarding.

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I keep thinking about Ruth Gordon in “Harold and Maude,” a woman on the cusp of her 80th birthday. Not only was she eccentric and electric, charming and disarming, she was shamelessly flirtatious and downright sexy.

Let us savor our sexual pleasures now and forever more.

*****

Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

***

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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