Driving through London with a four-foot clitoris

Stephanie Theobald

Stephanie Theobald on the rise of sex-positive feminism – and what she’s doing to encourage it

22 October 2018 07:32

Hunter S. Thompson had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine, as well as bottles of rum and tequila in his car, but we had something even better: a four-foot-high clitoris doused in eco glitter, a hot go-go dancer with a vulva attachment on her hat, and an even hotter message we couldn’t wait to get out there: the Pleasure Revolution is go!

We didn’t have the Whale, which Thompson drove in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; we had the Beast, a bright yellow Mustang Convertible 5.0 V8 10 Speed Auto. And this wasn’t so much a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, it was more a DIY gonzo drive around London to promote Sex Drive: On The Road To A Pleasure Revolution, a book about the rise of sex-positive feminism. I observed this on a US road trip I made in search of my lost libido, and I feel that these times are ripe for a ‘pleasure revolution’ because female sexuality is increasingly seen as a bad, dangerous or potentially litigious thing.

One plan was to stop off in provocative places such as Parliament Square, Buckingham Palace and Saint Martin’s School of Art. Another was to make some noise, play some banging tunes, get some attention, hand out some merch, not get arrested (although, actually…).

That was when it struck me that we have Lamborghinis and men have bicycles.

The car stunt idea had come to me in the middle of a masturbation masterclass I’d attended in 2015, by New York’s most rock and roll feminist legend, 87-year-old Betty Dodson. As 12 of us sat naked in the lounge of the rent-controlled apartment on Madison avenue where she’s lived since 1959, the maverick contemporary of Gloria Steinem made us see over the course of an incredible two days that the vulva is a massively complex area. ‘Men just have a couple of balls and a tube!’ she quipped; explaining that while the penis has 4,000 nerve endings, the clitoris has 8,000. That was when it struck me that we have Lamborghinis and men have bicycles.

Except the PR woman at Lamborghini sent me back a prim email when I asked if I could borrow some wheels for the day, saying my mission was ‘unsuitable’. Then a friend said she knew the PR at Ford Mustang and I wrote them an email. I pointed out that the smart brands were getting on board this female pleasure bandwagon. I see it as an optimistic alternative to getting too political or academic or just plain angry about all the worms currently coming out of the #MeToo can. Moët Hennessy were giving me champagne for the Sex Drive launch party (Veuve Clicquot awarded the New Generation Business Woman of the Year Prize to the maker of a ‘smart’ vibrator last year), so I didn’t see why Mustang shouldn’t follow suit. It seemed good timing too because Ford were re-lunching the classic Mustang that Steve McQueen used in the 1968 movie Bullitt.

Cherrelle, the Mustang PR, got the message immediately. Her only slight worry was that Ford was a ‘family-friendly’ company. So I sent a final email explaining that, while nobody was a bigger fan of Steve McQueen than I was, my idea was that we need independent, pleasure-conscious women driving them these days. I didn’t hype the masturbation angle too much, but I did say that the message of Sex Drive was totally family-friendly because if a mother learns to embrace guilt-free pleasure, then she will pass that message on to her daughter and there is no greater gift that she could bestow.

And – bang! – Cherrelle sent an email back saying yes! So I organised a tag team of four Clit Crew members (because, entre nous, I don’t actually like driving very much) plus a sex-positive artist called Camilla Mason I’d met at this year’s UK summer festival Shambala. She and her ‘Lady Garden’ team from Bristol had conceived of a huge cuddly vulva that people could sit inside, and also a very large clitoris. The summer of 2018 was when I realised that sex-positivity was really taking off: taking back the female body and taking out the shame too often experienced in female sexuality. There was also a ‘Cunt Tent’ at Shambala, and a ‘Womb with a View’ disco.

The Clit Crew

And yet, as we drove back from Hertford where we’d gone to pick up the Beast (a company called Finger Prints Digital had done an amazing promo vinyl wrap of the Beast there for free) it seemed that the car was attracting the attention mostly of grinning schoolboys out of school.

But that was good enough for starters because the magic was already starting to happen. Starting up the engine of a Mustang is the most exciting, deep, rumbly, oily gurgling noise you ever heard. It is kind of like a theoretical vibrator for a woman. All the Clit Crew had this look that passed over their face as they started up the engine. A melting, excited, ignited, Steven McQueen look. Add to the sexy engine rumble some Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim and Miss Eaves tunes licked up very high and you’re approaching an altered state. I used to have a metaphor for what a male orgasm feels like. It occurred to me when I first played football with a bunch of female friends in my 20s. When you have never played football and you score a goal – straight in the back of the net – it is an amazing feeling. A massive thrill. And then nothing. Hmm, I thought afterwards, maybe that is what a male orgasm feels like. But the thing was, I could never think of the metaphor for what a female orgasm was like. Well, now I know.

We drove from the offices of the London Evening Standard via Buckingham Palace and the statue of Queen Victoria, who famously doubted the existence of lesbians – so we shouted out ‘Here’s to clitorises, Queen Victoria!’ in a naughtiest-girl-in-the-school kind of way because that’s very Pleasure Revolution. Then we drove around Parliament Square before heading to Vogue House in midtown.

We got a heady taste of the flavour of male entitlement that you never feel in a crappy car. ‘It’s amazing,’ said Clit Crew 1. ‘People just stop for you – the doors just open!’ Pretty soon, we were driving like male chauvinist pigs, although there was a difference. We couldn’t help but notice the looks on women’s faces. A kind of knowing. As we drove past with the gigantic pink glitoris shimmering in the sun, some women actually clapped or at least made affirmative nods. Lots of men were interested, but many had an expression of slight bewilderment while others were more interested in the GoPro cameras attached to the hood of the car.

This level of subliminal understanding on the part of women is interesting, as it was only two years ago when the true dimensions of the primary female sexual organ started to enter the mainstream consciousness. I did a piece for the Guardian in 2016 about the first open-source, 3D-printable clitoris, made by Odile Fillod in France. The word started getting out that we have more than a ‘pea’ or ‘a rosebud’ – or, rather, that the rosebud is just the tip of the iceberg.

We were living the dream. Everything seemed to go right. Even when we got busted by the police. Crew 2 was getting into the groove along Shaftesbury Avenue, and Crew 1 and Camilla in the back were getting slightly lax on the seatbelt front. The next thing I knew, Camilla was straightening up her vulva hat and saying, ‘Oh, I think there might be police behind us.’

Busted (sort of)

When I’d originally considered the prudence of driving a five-litre, Sex Drive-branded Mustang through central London with a four-foot clitoris in the back, I did have fleeting feelings that this stunt might be a bit mad. But that is where sisterhood comes in. One of my strongest supporters was LA-based Amelia Dalgaard, aka ‘Motorhead Mama’, the president of the American Motor Press Guild. She said not to even get her started on the lack of vision for the female driver in the car industry. ‘Women make 80 per cent of the car-buying decisions in the US,’ she told me. ‘Yet we are treated like crap at dealerships. It’s a very powerful space and the auto-makers are incredibly aware of this disconnect. They just don’t know how to remedy it. That’s my mission…’ She told me to go for it. ‘I’m a 46-year-old fallen East Coast debutante/mother of two that writes a snarky car blog! I feel your pain, mama. At this point, I hold on to pioneering with bloody fingernails because that’s where the fun is.’

Luckily, the blood wasn’t gushing because the yellow Beast seemed to be working her magic on the two officers, who were clearly impressed by our yellow clitoris extension.

‘I’ve seen BMWs, but this is an individual car – it’s a car with personality,’ said one officer, eyeing the Beast admiringly before getting out the iPad that the police now use for busting people. I just started rabbiting on about my book and the Pleasure Revolution. He seemed to understand what I was talking about. I tried to turn the scene in to a book signing event and gave him a signed copy of Sex Drive.

I think the power of the 8,000 nerve endings must have been with us because he kindly offered to drive Clit Crew 2 back to her bike. En route, she reported that his techno ‘you’re nicked’ booking pad had mysteriously stopped working and so he couldn’t process the paperwork. Mainly, his question was: ‘Is she a sex therapist, then, your friend?’

The Beast works its magic

This is what I know. That nothing tastes better than revving the pedal of a bright yellow Mustang with a four-foot clitoris in the back and a crew of women who know that it’s time for change. It was the most fun day ever, ever, ever. And while I woke up the next morning thinking, ‘Damn, where’s my Mustang?’ it was all OK. The weed and the cocaine and the tequila will give you a hangover, but the next day I woke up still high on fun. It’s my intention to spread that joy and pass it on, and then the next woman will light up the next.

And now I’m preparing for the America leg of the Sex Drive Roadshow that touches down in LA in December. Just remember, don’t mess with us: we’ve got a clitoris and we’re going to use it.

Stephanie Theobald’s Sex Drive is out now, published by Unbound. Buy a copy (Amazon, Waterstones).