In Celebration of Our Bodies...and Our Unique Wiring
You have probably heard of the mind-body connection, perhaps even the brain-gut connection. But more obscure and far less discussed is the brain-vagina connection; Naomi Wolf embarks on an entertaining and provocative journey to explore just that, drawing on science, on anecdote, and her own personal exploration and discovery.
Critics argue her research is not grounded deeply enough in “science.” I dismiss that argument, rather focusing on her message and delivery, for the book is spirited, inspiring, and empowering. Vagina makes sense to me; it makes sense that each woman is “wired” differently with her own unique branching of nerve fibers originating from erogenous zones—thus determining how and in what ways a woman can reach that “ ‘oceanic’ sense of limitlessness.” In a revelatory moment at the doctors office, Naomi Wolf realized “Not culture, not upbringing, not patriarchy, not feminism, not Freud…not one’s ‘guilt’ or ‘liberation’ but neural wiring” determines a women’s sexual response.
This breakthrough alone is worth the cost of the book, but Naomi goes further: she asserts that creativity, self worth, and a sense of universal interconnectedness correspond to comfort with and access to our deep seated sexuality. This is something that I have intuitively known for years; however, it’s wonderful for an engaging writer such as Naomi Wolf to explore the many facets of this connection.
I wonder if the critical storm that has besieged Naomi has less to do with a lack of “hard science” and more to do with an unconscious resistance to a book and a thesis that encourages women to take the reins in manifesting their own pleasure. Pleasure is powerful, and I’d argue that accessing one’s pleasure arsenal is a way of rising up, a form of insubordination, and deeply disturbing to some. Perhaps the critical attacks on Vagina are, on some level, just one more strategy of stripping women of their power, one more method of keeping us down.
This past Sunday I had the privilege of attending a panel discussion, which included Naomi Wolf, perhaps best know for her 1991 book, The Beauty Myth, and Judy Norsigian, Executive Director and Founder of Our Bodies, Ourselves. A 40th anniversary edition was published in 2011 to integrate the changing landscape of women’s issues and women’s health. JWA’s Director of Public History Judith Rosenbaum moderated the event. I garnered such delight in seeing these three—each a titan in her own right—on the stage of the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton, MA. The conversation included discussions of body image, rape and trauma, environmental health risks, contraceptives, women’s issues in relation to the recent election, education, and activism. A particular concern for Judy was how grossly misinformed young women are these days and why Our Bodies, Ourselves is a go-to source for practically everything and includes extensive, trustworthy references for further research.
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A particularly striking moment for me was when Judith Rosenbaum asked both women to address how they grappled with the challenge of balancing both the universal and the personal in their research and writing.
And that’s what I think this all comes down to: there’s more than one way in, there’s more than one way to capture truth and give it over to the people. And whether you’re attracted to the thorough yet accessible encyclopedic volume of Our Bodies, Ourselves or the spirited accounts and personal appeals made in Vagina: A New Biography, there is, I believe, something for everyone— perhaps it all comes down to your wiring.