Friday, February 7, 2014

Vagina: A New Biography - by Naomi Wolf

So many puns I could make here - about a penetrating analysis, or a deep look inside - but I really don't want to make light of this serious, fascinating, and well-researched book. Wolf explores the connections between women's sex organs, their brains, and their overall well-being in this comprehensive work. She interviews women about their orgasms, and sexual trauma, talks to sexual healers, and reveals her personal reasons for embarking on this research. She also follows the history of the vagina, and demonstrates how it has been revered, dismissed, and objectified in turn. Many of the things that researchers are "discovering" about the vagina, vulva, clitoris, and uterus today were well known to those practicing the eastern religions of Tantra-ism and Taoism. Both of these religious traditions revere the vagina as life giving, and honor women, as well as their sexual health.

There were only a few times libraries were mentioned in this one, but I think it may have provided the best library laugh thus far as Wolf describes sitting in a university library when she accidentally opens the wrong file on her computer
...scores of students had been silently focused on reviewing their Swinburne or Lawrence. While trying to open a document on my laptop, I had inadvertently pressed "play" on a audio file of an interview I'd conducted with Charles Muir, The American Tantric guru...Suddently, in the silence of the library, a Queens-accented resonant voice had rung out clearly from my computer: "There are trillions of cells in one ejaculate. A typical man ejaculates with so much force that..." Rows of curious faces had swiveled toward me simultaneously. I frantically tried to press "stop," tapping the trackpad over and over, but Muir's confident cadences grew only louder. "And every time he ejaculates..." Finally I seized my computer, and red-faced, carried Charles Muir's voice at a run out of the double doors."
I was surprised at how much I learned reading this. I have always kept a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves on my bookshelf, and have studied goddess traditions. I have seen The Vagina Monologues at least 3 times, in addition to having read it, and own a copy of Joani Blank's Femalia. But as I found out when I read Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation study of the "lady bits" has been neglected for too long. There is still a lot to learn.

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