Holy Hormones Honey! Naomi Wolf – love the brain – vagina connection. Take us into the 21st century. Time to leave the work of Master and Johnson behind. There is plenty of science about brain optimization. Neuroscience has ushered in a new way of looking at so many issues including: bipolar disorder, PMS, addictive/compulsive behaviors. Female sexual desire, arousal and orgasm can all be optimized by nourishing the brain with specific amino acid and other vitamins and minerals. Lack of libido is hormone imbalance… and hormone production starts in the brain. Am solidly in your camp Naomi. How about a radio interview?
My feminist perspective? Knowledge is power
Those who criticise ‘Vagina: A New Biography’ have forgotten that pro-sex data is a vital part of our movement’s history
Many critics and readers, including many feminists, have welcomed my book Vagina: A New Biography. Some critics, though – feminists too, of another kind – are accusing me of a form of contemporary heresy.
Vagina is an account of the latest neuroscientific and other findings that markedly update our understanding of female sexual desire, arousal and orgasm, at a time when conventional wisdom about female sexual response is arrested in research from Masters and Johnson, decades-old; at a time when, even in a hypersexualised society, 30% of American women self-report not reliably having orgasms when they wish to; in a year when 2,000 British women with normal labia requested labiaplasties. Surely reporting on fresh information about female sexual response is an obviously feminist thing to do?
But these critics’ contention is that this reporting is “essentialism” – that I am re-grounding gender “back” in the body, which is a contemporary feminist-theory sin. To mainstream readers, this argument may seem arcane. So a primer: some contemporary feminist theory’s primary orthodoxy asserts that gender is always, everywhere, entirely “socially constructed” – that is, only real in the mind or in social attitudes.
But critics who attack me from this position don’t seem to know how recently their position was created in feminist intellectual history. The “essentialism” versus “gender theory” wars emerged only belatedly, in the 1980s, as legal activists sought to downplay any potential biological differences between women and men in pursuit of equal treatment in the workplace and, elsewhere, academic feminists were inspired by post-structuralism to create a discipline that cast gender as existing only as a social norm.
But the radical new findings on which I report have to do with the female body and with female sexual response. The new findings are updating our understanding of female pleasure and the mind-body connection in women on many levels. Some new findings are important for understanding the harm of sex crime more fully, and others have to do with the numbing effects of porn on desire. In a time when porn co-opts young men’s and women’s responses, is it “feminist” to withhold new data about its potentially addictive nature and depressive effect on a habituated libido?
Should we not know about this data? I come from the feminist school that believes knowledge is power. Knowing about the science of the brain-vagina connection – a concept that is not my construction but rather an everyday fact for the scientists at the forefront of this research – simply means we are willing to engage with the modern world; the brain-body connection is being thoroughly documented in hundreds of ways, from cardiovascular health research to the role of stress in illness.