An astonishing work of cutting-edge science and cultural history that radically reframes how we understand the vagina--and consequently, how we understand women--from one of our most respected cultural critics and thinkers, Naomi Wolf, author of the modern classic The Beauty Myth.Read more...
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An astonishing work of cutting-edge science and cultural history that radically reframes how we understand the vagina--and consequently, how we understand women--from one of our most respected cultural critics and thinkers, Naomi Wolf, author of the modern classic The Beauty Myth.
When an unexpected medical crisis sends Naomi Wolf on a deeply personal journey to tease out the intersections between sexuality and creativity, she discovers, much to her own astonishment, an increasing body of scientific evidence that suggests that the vagina is not merely flesh, but an intrinsic component of the female brain--and thus has a fundamental connection to female consciousness itself.
Utterly enthralling and totally fascinating, Vagina: A New Biography draws on this set of insights about "the mind-vagina connection" to reveal new information about what women really need, and considers what a sexual relationship--and a relationship to the self--transformed by these insights could look like.
Exhilarating and groundbreaking, Vagina: A New Biography combines rigorous science, explained for lay readers, with cultural history and deeply personal considerations of the role of female desire in female identity, creativity, and confidence, from interviewees of all walks of life. Heralded by Publishers Weekly as one of the best science books of the year, it is a provocative and deeply engaging book that elucidates the ties between a woman's experience of her vagina and her sense of self; her impulses, dreams, and courage; and her role in love and in society in completely new and revelatory ways sure to provoke impassioned conversation.
A brilliant and nuanced synthesis of physiology, history, and cultural criticism, Vagina: A New Biography explores the physical, political, and spiritual implications of this startling series of new scientific breakthroughs for women and for society as a whole, from a writer whose conviction and keen intelligence have propelled her works to the tops of bestseller lists, and firmly into the realms of modern classics.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-02
- Reviewer: Staff
The latest from bestselling feminist author Wolf (The Beauty Myth) begins with her “traumatic loss” of the “experience of sex as being incredibly emotionally meaningful.” Although still orgasmic, the depressed Wolf reaches out to her gynecologist, who diagnoses her with a damaged pelvic nerve. Corrective surgery, which includes having a 17-inch metal plate implanted in her back, happily restores her ecstatic orgasms and creative powers, and inspires this investigation. Defining the vagina as “the entire female sex organ, from labia to clitoris to cervix,” Wolf investigates the science of female sexuality, including new findings showing a powerful connection between the vagina and brain. Citing history, science, Tantra, and her own online questionnaires, Wolf concludes that the vagina is “the delivery system for the states of mind that we call confidence, liberation, self-realization, and even mysticism in women.” Neither scientist, sociologist, sex-educator, physiologist, nor psychologist herself, reporter Wolf draws liberally and uncritically from work in those fields. Her study of Western science is amplified by her own startling “Tantric explorations.” She offers “points of exploration” for pleasuring a woman, which she calls the “Goddess Array,” a series of surprisingly mundane suggestions: bring her flowers; dim the lights; relax her; hug her; cuddle her; take her slow dancing. Her last words call up the chant of teenage girls, at a high school assembly in Manhattan: “ ‘Vagina vagina vagina.’ ” Indeed. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman, Inc. (Sept.)
Fearlessly tackling a taboo
Don’t censure the messenger; I can’t review Naomi Wolf’s latest book without mentioning the title, Vagina: A New Biography. It’s a poetic, scientific and completely fresh take on female sexuality and selfhood, and an absolute must-read.
Wolf’s interest in the topic was spurred by a personal medical crisis that raised a provocative question: Could there be a connection between the vagina and the brain, a link between sexual health and overall happiness, as well as creativity? To find answers, Wolf taps into neurobiology and explores the role of the vagina in literature and history. In many cases, notions that were only understood anecdotally, like the link between female orgasm and self-confidence, turn out to be supported by science. After making a strong case linking mental health to sexual security, Wolf offers a particularly frightening look at the use of rape in wartime.
While there’s much to grieve in any culture that denigrates women’s bodies, Vagina finds hope behind each instance of despair. Wolf, author of the groundbreaking bestseller The Beauty Myth, talks to healers whose dedication to reversing the effects of sexual trauma make a lasting difference in the lives of women. And she notes the evidence linking frequent female orgasms to increased libido and power with glee: “So the fear that patriarchy always had—that if you let women have sex and know how to like it, it will make them both increasingly libidinous and increasingly ungovernable—is actually biologically true!”
This book confines its focus to heterosexual women, meaning there’s more work to be done to assess the full spectrum of female sexuality, but what an opening salvo. Wolf is to be commended for following her curiosity where it led her and finding a cohesive tale to weave from the disparate details.