A Womb With a Point of View

Feminist Superstar Naomi Wolf Charts Mind-Vagina Link

By Paula Kamen

Published September 07, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Vagina: A New Biography
By Naomi Wolf
Ecco/HarperCollins 400 pages, $27.99

Naomi Wolf
andre lambertson
Naomi Wolf

Vaginas are getting a lot of ink in the news these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion about them, especially folks who do not have one. In August, Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, made his infamous comments about the vagina’s seemingly supernatural powers to prevent pregnancy in the case of sexual assault: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But Akin has not been alone in supporting this widespread myth, one among many about the “ways” of female biology that persists in modern times.

Such lingering popular ignorance is a reason that Naomi Wolf’s new book, “Vagina: A New Biography,” is particularly timely and thought provoking. This despite some of the author’s own extreme leaps into mystical, zany territory — which are sure to leave many feminists fuming, or, more likely, just feeling perplexed.

Part of Wolf’s stated mission is to fill a real gap in reporting the latest scientific findings on female sexuality; after all, it’s been decades since the last large-scale national blockbuster analyses of biology. Masters & Johnson’s famed report was published in 1966, “The Hite Report” in 1976.

Wolf makes a basic but legitimate point about how different a woman’s sexual response may be from a man’s — beyond just the multiple O’s. Recent findings have shown that many seemingly disparate parts of women’s sexual anatomy, such as the cervix, can be involved in orchestrating sexual response. (Wolf uses the word “vagina” to refer to “the entire female sex organ, from labia to clitoris to cervix). She goes out on a limb, though, when she names the “brain-vagina connection” and asserts that “the vagina is part of the female brain, and thus part of female creativity, confidence and even character.”

Defining women according to their privates is a direct challenge to 1970s feminists who fought to separate, and liberate, women from them. That sort of thinking had previously limited women, keeping them out of public life for centuries. Today, women feel more secure considering real biological differences, but they still view some “experts’” interpretations of those differences with caution.

This is the seventh book by Wolf, a provocative social theorist who rose to prominence in 1991 with her best-seller “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women,” written while she was still in her 20s. For women of her generation (and mine), the book was a breath of fresh air that made feminism relevant and media-friendly. I was lecturing widely on college campuses at that time, and I witnessed firsthand how Wolf’s was the first explicitly feminist book many young women read.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.