by Naomi Wolf
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Did we like it?
Naomi Wolf’s Vagina is an important text for a feminist book club to read because it offers so many good discussion points about female sexuality. Wolf begins with the brain/vagina connection and hormones released during orgasm that connect the woman to her creative energies and vitality. She discusses the pelvic nerves and the autonomic nervous system and gives a thorough examination of how we have lost our understanding of our vaginas’ relationship with our brains. Wolf discusses the traumatized and subjugated vagina, the historically repressed vagina, the denigrated vagina that was once sacred, and the misconceptions of the liberated vagina. She also talks about the porn industry with a section entitled, “Porn and Vaginal Literacy” where she writes, “…porn addiction abundantly serves the status quo. Porn puts people to sleep, conceptually and politically as well as erotically” (233). Wolf’s book ends on a positive note, looking to the teachings of Tantra spiritual practices to reconnect men and women with their deeper sexual natures. She discusses the Goddess Array that includes sensitive touch, relaxation of the central nervous system, breathing, meditation, eye gazing, and words of affirmation that honor the Goddess. Wolf offers ways women can heal sexual trauma and develop deeper connections with their selves and partners.
Some of the women in the group fell in love with this book because Wolf validates so many of our experiences with disconnect, and with men or partners habitually using porn or denigrating women or using women for their own pleasure. Some of the younger women in the group did not want to vilify porn, perhaps because it has become so ubiquitous, and they were unwilling to accept other possibilities for their methods of sexual pleasure (readily available and fast). Some criticized Wolf for not considering other spectrums of sexuality and instead, focusing on what seem to them to be issues only felt by cisgender women. Wolf’s target reader might be a valid point for discussion as a considerable rift seemed to be felt between women over thirty and women under thirty.
Why these ratings?
Yes, because Wolf validates many women’s experiences, offers historical insight into how we lost our connection with our vaginas in the first place, how our sexuality has been used to subjugate and control us, and how we can reconnect and heal personal traumas and generational trauma. Her book speaks to women’s experiences somewhat globally by recognizing female sexuality as a weapon of war and instrument of male violence and domination.