Julie Munn/Photo Editor

In the ever-dizzying world of Downtown Binghamton, there are a couple of constants we all expect to experience. There will always be at least one bar that lets you in through the back, you will always consider peeing outside and you’ll run into a fixture that we all have heard of, but know little about. Her name is Rasa Von Werder.

She may seem a little out there, but there’s more to Von Werder than just getting motorboated outside of Boca Joe’s.


The 1968 Playboy Miss Nude Universe met with Release on a warm Sunday night after spending another night on the town. Von Werder’s life has been a life dedicated to the pursuit of women’s empowerment.

“When I review [my life] I can see the steps,” Von Werder said. “I was not aware of what I was doing, but I had this inner compulsion to do certain things.”

One of these steps, after appearing in Playboy for the Miss Nude Universe competition, was to become the progenitor of female body building.

“I knew I wanted freedom for women, freedom for myself,” Von Werder said. “Male body building at that time was male supremacy.”

Von Werder said it was incredibly difficult for her to break into body building. Men didn’t take her seriously. With her good looks and generous frame, she looked more suited to pose on the men as opposed to compete with them.

“Female body building, ‘Oh you’re a dyke?!’” Von Werder said of her naysayers. “OK, well I’m not a dyke, but I got this feeling that I want to lift weights and build muscles and I want to have a beautiful body, and so the only way I know of is this way.”

When she was six months pregnant, she bought her first set of weights and began to bulk up.

Though she had many naysayers, the head of the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) Joe Wieder for one, Arnold Schwarzenegger for another, she finally got a lucky break with Dan Laurie, who published the first article about a woman lifting weights in Muscle Training magazine.

From there, she was in a six-page spread in Esquire magazine shot by John Paul Gould. Although the tone was mocking, she was putting her ideas out there. For years, she went on various television shows spreading the idea that women could be just as strong as, or even stronger than men.

“The idea is partially taking off, but it’s not hitting where we want it to hit,” Von Werder said. “We got to get this into Playboy!”

Originally they weren’t interested, but then in 1977, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie “Pumping Iron” was released, and bodybuilding was thrown into the mainstream media. Playboy used Von Werder’s article, renaming it “Humping Iron.”

“What, was it going to be serious?” Von Werder said. “Of course not.”

Playboy was a turning point for Von Werder.

“That was all we needed. Once Playboy did it, that is when suddenly it’s acceptable. Because beautiful women in Playboy were lifting weights.”

Her next step after bodybuilding was Stripping for God.


Originally, Stripping for God started as Von Werder’s desire to help the church she belonged to. Being a dancer, the only way she knew how to make money was by dancing. However, after six years of working for her guru, Von Werder started to give sermons on her own on the road.

“I was working by the inner power,” Von Werder said. “I did not conceptualize what I was doing. I love God and I happen to be in the adult trade — why don’t I just give sermons?”

For 14 years, she traveled across the country, stripping for God and calling every news source she could as she went. She knew with the press, the word of God would be spread even further.

“In retrospect, now that I’ve studied matriarchy and patriarchy … what I was doing was dispelling the notion that you [women] are either a Madonna or a whore,” Von Werder said.

Von Werder believes that we as a people are currently in transition from patriarchy to matriarchy.

“We’re putting the Goddess back together,” Von Werder said. “When you [women] show your spiritual power and sensual power, men must bow.”

After Stripping for God ended, she preached on the streets of Binghamton. She also had a storefront church next to Binghamton High School on Main Street. But she was lost as far as her mission was concerned.

“For a while … I didn’t know what to do with myself as far as my mission or anything,” Von Werder said. “Plus, I was celibate.”

In fact, for 30 years and three months, Von Werder was celibate, despite the fact she was married.

“I made a promise of celibacy to the Holy Virgin,” Von Werder said. “So then, my new mission came upon me last year, almost like it just appeared,” Von Werder said.

After falling in love with a professor, the idea of sex reappeared and she began to rethink her vow.

After years of just working, Von Werder had forgotten how to have fun. Then, a friend brought her to State Street where she began to dance it up and cut loose.


Her first foray back into a life of sex, she found a younger man who was lacking in the sexual prowess department.

“I met this guy, biracial, gorgeous, 6 feet, brought him back to my house,” Von Werder said. “We start kissing and he gets hard and whatever, and I always use condoms for everything. He gets on top of me and he starts pushing and pushing and pushing and it won’t go in. He lost his hard-on.”

From this failed attempt at intercourse, she found her new mission.

“I didn’t even realize I was on a mission, again, it was an inner power,” Von Werder said. “I just heard God say, ‘Have fun!’”

Her new mission is to empower women by showing people that older women can date younger guys.

State Street is filled with younger guys ripe for the picking. Von Werder said she is ready to be your cougar.

“My foray into State Street … there’s a method to my madness. I was willing to go out with older guys. It’s just those [younger guys] are the ones that wanted me the most.”

Von Werder said she believes the older woman can help the younger man by giving him confidence, security and above all, the knowledge of how to please a woman. As a younger woman, she said she was too timid to explain what she wanted.

“You know,” she said, “they jump on your belly. They fill you with jelly. They cum and they go.”

An older woman Downtown is pretty much an oddity. Von Werder handles the criticism with dignity.

“My motto now is ‘No pain, no shame,’” Von Werder said. “This wasn’t totally easy for me. I do get insults. I get adulation and insults. I’ve had people verbally attack me. ‘Suck our cock!’”

She said she responds with, “I would if I could find it!”

Up next for Von Werder is a documentary about her life by Iron Bound Films, which will be coming to State Street in May. She hopes to have cameras follow her around the country as she continues to date younger men.