Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

I have been keeping up with the reading for Banging Book Club (honest!), just not the blog posts. But I have so many feelings about this one, I really had no choice but to make time.

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Firstly, I believe this book, compared with March’s read Bonk by Mary Roach, was much easier to read for someone like me who struggles with the sciencey mumbo-jumbo. I much preferred Wolf’s writing style, which I knew before I began reading, but unfortunately this may also be the book’s biggest downfall. In making the narrative and the language more poetic than the likes of Roach’s, Wolf risks skewing the actual scientific facts in a way that sensationalises them and leads to sweeping conclusions that may not be entirely accurate.

Having said this, so many things in  Vagina rang true and seemed to join up some of the dots for me, that I can’t believe these things aren’t common knowledge or discussed by all members of society, in public and private and everywhere in between.

Within the first ten pages or so my jaw was practically on the floor. I had no idea, like most people, I can only assume, how closely the vulva/vagina was connected neurologically to the brain? Please excuse my lack of technical knowledge, you should read it yourself for what I actually mean, but my brain was just in a constant state of ?!?! for weeks afterwards.

The chapter on ‘The Traumatized Vagina’ was equally horrific and fascinating. Of course the main subject of this chapter was women who have suffered sexual abuse, and the link between the physical trauma, their mental well-being, and their general change in personality as a result of the violation.

On a personal level, it was the second section of this chapter ‘Vulvodynia and Existential Despair’, that gave me a lot of food for thought. I never suffered from vulvodynia, the condition that is primarily discussed in this section, but I have experienced pretty awful pain in that region on a fairly regular basis between the ages of 13 and 16. I would also pinpoint the start of my mental health problems being around the age of 15/16, so the following passage by Nancy Fish, ‘a patient and counselor to sufferers of vulvodynia’, struck a particularly powerful chord with me:

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This whole section of the book simultaneously blew my mind and made me nod so furiously my head nearly fell off my shoulders. I’ve never read anything like this before, and to think that I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way was another ?!?! moment; whilst also feeling as if a weight has been lifted off my chest, and I can breathe a little easier.

I could go on and on about what I loved about this book (being a history nerd I thoroughly enjoyed the vagina through the ages section, for example), but all I really want to leave you with is a plea for you to read this book. If you have a vagina, or if you ever want to be close to a vagina, this should be compulsory reading. It should be on the national curriculum.

People will argue that because the science isn’t exactly spot on then we shouldn’t be promoting it this way, but it’s books like this that open up this kind of discussion. I, someone who is a participator in the Banging Book Club so clearly has an interest in this stuff, would have had no introduction to these topics had it not been for Vagina.

So, in a concluding nut shell… PLEASE READ VAGINA!

 

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