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Vagina: A Cultural History

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,876 Ratings  ·  330 Reviews
One of our bestselling and most respected cultural critics, Naomi Wolf, acclaimed author of The Beauty Myth and The End of America, brings us an astonishing work of cutting-edge science and cultural history that radically reframes how we understand the vagina—and, consequently, how we understand women.

A “New Biography,” Vagina is at once serious, provocative, and immensely
ebook, 416 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2012)
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Apollo Grace I think it would be excellent material for high school or older teens, both girls and boys, whether sexually active or a long way before becoming…moreI think it would be excellent material for high school or older teens, both girls and boys, whether sexually active or a long way before becoming sexually active. It's a strong counterpoint to dominant cultural narratives about female sexuality, and as such can only be beneficial.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 10, 2012 Dorianna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Naomi Wolf was very distraught when she noticed that her sex life lost its poetic dimension. One night, out of desperation, she prayed next to the stove. In case you were wondering, the stove was cold, ironwood, and completely irrelevant to the content of this book. Bargaining with the universe and any deity willing to listen to her plight, she promised that if she could be healed, she would share the experience and what she learned from it with everyone else, and she would make money off of it. ...more
Nov 22, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rereading

Why is this book not a must read for everyone who owns a vagina and everyone who does not own a vagina but hopes to have a partner who will share hers? The biology is important to Naomi Wolf's argument, as is the chemistry, but if you don't like that sort of thing, ignore it and focus on The Goddess Array. What woman does not wish to be treated according to the Goddess Array? If treating a woman that way makes her happier, healthier and more willing to share (I mean her life, not just her vagina
Sep 12, 2012 Viola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Vagina Myth
Jaclyn Friedman
September 11, 2012
The American Prospect

Naomi Wolf's yoni worship isn't just silly—it's dangerous.

This summer, Michigan state representative Lisa Brown was banned from the House floor when she dared to say the word “vagina” in a debate about proposed restrictions on abortion. Just three weeks ago, Todd Akin revealed what many Republicans believe: If you get pregnant, it can’t have been rape. It’s been a year of politicians tryin
Nancy Stringer
Aug 26, 2012 Nancy Stringer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why does the author feel the need to write a book about the vagina? Because as many as 30% of western women report that they get little pleasure from making love. Because bad sex is linked to depression.

"A lot of my readers who are in their twenties, their first concern is about porn addiction....Pornography has speeded-up sex, so there is a lot less foreplay, kissing or going to second or third base. The desensitisation of the brain's response to porn is not good for intimacy."
Henry Le Nav
Sep 11, 2012 Henry Le Nav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Naomi Wolf’s new book, Vagina: A New Biography. Of course I would, I am a heterosexual, male, monogamist and a first class flake, so I was like a kitten with a bowl of warm milk. It puts me in mind of that song from The Sound of Music, These Are A Few of My Favorite Things. In a way, I wish some one else beside Wolf had wrote the book, then I would not be forced to acknowledge that much of the world thinks this is a silly book and most of the people who think that are women.

Oh goody, I have a theme song for this book.

Puscifer - Vagina Mine
Ben Babcock
This book was like tearing the scab off a freshly healed wound. It’s been so long since I’ve had to deal with the shittiness that is evolutionary psychology, and then Naomi Wolf comes along and reminds me of just how terrible it is all over again.

Well, let’s do this.

Vagina: A New Biography is Wolf’s syncretism of Eastern teachings about sex (particularly Tantra) with Western medicine, with a particular focus on the way women in the West regard their vagina. It’s the fifth book in the Banging Boo
Dec 13, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, feminism
EDITED/I CHANGED MY MIND: Naomi Wolf in general and this book in particular have been mired in controversy and showered with praise alternately. I find myself somewhere in the middle; I see its limitations and problems, but don't think its entirely harmful and Wolf herself does try to acknowledge any flaws or biases her and her book may have.

Overall, I learned some things I'm shocked aren't routinely taught to both men and women, and am confirmed in my suspicious that the Western mode of thinkin
Oct 05, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Yeah, that's right. I read a book called "Vagina."

Naomi Wolf and I have a complicated relationship. "The Beauty Myth" changed my life when I read it as a teenager. But then she broke my political heart when she became pro-life after being pregnant. Still, I feel compelled to read her books based on that early and powerful influence.

But this one was a dud. She gets two stars instead of one because she's Naomi Wolf, but, I really didn't think this was a very good book. Essentially, I felt like she
Brett Axel
Jun 09, 2012 Brett Axel is currently reading it
Of All the books I brought back from BookExpo, this is the one I've started reading first. For such a common thing, there are litterally billions of them out there, in fact, half of the people I know own one, and yet I know so little about them. Of all of the people that could be the author of such a book I am so glad it is Naomi Wolf. I'm also glad it is set up as a biography. I love biographies and I think the style works for the subject matter. I'm 20 pages in and so far it is as good a read ...more
Oct 20, 2012 cat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012

I loved this book. I also hated this book.

It is a rare and powerful book that can have me bouncing up and down with excitement and urgently reading aloud a passage on female physiology to my wife one minute, and leave me embarrassed for the author and wondering if I was reading satire the next. Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A new Biography had me jumping back and forth between the two fairly regularly. Within the first few pages, I had decided that this was not the book for me, so filled were they with
Vikki VanSickle
Naomi Wolf is one of my favourite people. I have read everything she has ever written and credit her for my interest in women's issues. I have loved her since stumbling upon an excerpt of Promiscuities in a women's fashion magazine (something like Marie Claire or Glamour) when I was thirteen years old. It was the first time I had ever read anything feminist and it opened a whole new world for me.I include Wolf on my list of smart, interesting female pop-cultural role models such as Nora Ephron a ...more
Nov 16, 2012 Lena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. I was dissapointed to hear it tirn to shreds on my NEW YORKER podcast for it's lack of appreciation for rational scientific discourse and it's endoresement of psuedoscientific terminology. It was said that Wolf distorted the scientific data that she discussed. While this may have been true in several areas ( though I didn't personally look into it), I think the overall message of the book was a powerful one that needed to be vocalized.
I think it was very str
Tiya Rosa
Oct 11, 2012 Tiya Rosa marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's Colbert's fault.

Dec 30, 2012 Timothy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult review to write. I absolutely LOVE reading about sexuality, neuroscience, tantric practices, and perceptions about orgasmic pleasure, these are incredibly important topics. We carry such burdensome beliefs concerning human sexuality, barbaric beliefs that cloud our minds from what is otherwise life affirming bliss-- we are born judgment free and open, unburdened by the labels and divisiveness that so many of us learn throughout life-- we learn dogma and ego and certainty, sha ...more
Having read The Beauty Myth I was expecting a lot from this but sadly I was left largely disappointed, confused and generally peeved. To start with Wolf (by her own admission) only looks at the vagina from a heterosexual point of view, more to the point a white middle/upper class heterosexual point of view, which excludes far more than it includes but this is who she is, so we'll move on. Then she goes through the history of the vagina and being female generally which was really interesting and ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Roxane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that will make you question your faith in everything. It is not good at all.
Jan 19, 2017 Bloodorange rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, feminism, non-fiction
Everything is a vagina:


I picked up this book on recommendation of a charming youtuber, and boy, what an entertaining, absurd, fascinating, guilty-pleasure read it was!

Firstly, this is Naomi Wolf - a privileged conspiracy theorist, New Yorker, Jewish princess, and former political advisor to presidents. Just google her pictures and remember this very woman who wrote a book on beauty being a cultural construct.

Part of this book hilariousness results from the references to stories involving people
Kathleen Brugger
Overview: Ms. Wolf had a unique experience that could have been an extremely useful contribution to our understanding of the mind-body connection. Unfortunately she misinterpreted it due to her feminist biases and made this experience all about women.
A few years ago Ms. Wolf began to notice that after having sex she didn’t feel the deep sense of well-being she had always enjoyed post-coitus. Slowly she stopped feeling joy, confidence, or creativity in her everyday life, and instead experienced i
Feb 14, 2014 M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2014
I thought this book was going to be a dull, inaccessible read. Boy was I wrong. This book is a revelation. It explains exactly why and how the female sexual response is different from woman to woman, and details what women need to get the most out of their sex lives, and their creative, professional and personal lives. Wolf introduces the concept of the Goddess Array, which unsurprisingly runs counter to what the media spoon feeds to women: women need safety, they need to be nurtured, cherished ...more
Nov 05, 2012 Clay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Let me start by saying that I liked the book, I learned a lot, and I find Wolf's perspective fascinating at times. Having said that, I feel like a more appropriate title would be, "Vagina: An Anecdotal Journey Peppered with a Bit of Science." I wish that her documentation was more robust and I wish that her ties between scientific research and less recognized philosophies were less tenuous. But in the end, the book made me think and that is what I appreciate in a book.
Jan 12, 2013 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It definitely enlightens you about what it is that makes women's sexuality so different from their male counterparts' and how the physical gets to influence the mental - how the vagina is all wired up to trigger phychological responses not only regarding the automatic and obvious realm of sensations but also regarding emotions.
Sep 11, 2012 Kaethe marked it as stricken  ·  review of another edition
"Mind-vagina connection"? I think that I would not be impressed by the neurology here, especially soon after reading Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference.
Science-wise, I think it was a mess. She makes some good points that I think deserve proper exploration, but this book doesn't do it. She loves anecdotes and musing and rat-studies, and we're supposed to be convinced.
Plus, I think this book should be more properly called a biography of the heterosexual vagina.
Philip Cherny
A while ago, I added this book to my ever-expanding “to-read” list after watching Naomi Wolf’s promotional interview on The Colbert Report. While sympathetic to the core women’s rights causes addressed by feminism on the whole, I occasionally have misgivings about the fragmentary factions of particular issues addressed by feminist voices, especially among those who assert a narrow ideology of how all women ideally should liberate themselves from the oppression of the patriarchy. Of course, this ...more
A Naomi is not a Naomi is not a Naomi


1) I started reading this book because I heard rumours way back when that Naomi Klein was to write about about the vagina. I never even glanced at the name on the cover. Had I been aware it was Naomi Wolf, I would have been annoyed and never got the book in the first place. I never read any reviews, so when this book was slaughtered by all respectable critics, I noticed nil.

2) I continued reading and finished it only because it is my New Year's
Jan 04, 2014 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Naomi Wolf's earlier books, The Beauty Myth and The End of America, are two of my favorite books, so I was eagerly looking forward to reading her latest. But reading it was deeply disappointing. In addition to credulously repeating the unproven claims of pseudo-science practitioners, she also engages in wild speculation--not just about implausible scientific hypotheses, but also about the motives of men who disrespect women. I mean, obviously, I hope we're all against men disrespecting women, bu ...more
Mar 30, 2013 Fred rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I gave it three stars (liked it) even though I wanted to give it two (it was ok) - and as best I can make out it is not so much because I "liked" it, as that I felt like reading critical/mocking reviews of this book beforehand colored my perception from the beginning. I tried to shake that throughout, but I'm not sure I was able to - so I gave it the extra star just in case I'm not being wholly fair. Make any sense? No?

Anyway - the bad:

1. This is one of those weird "The New Science I have
Mar 04, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it is a valuable book to read, particularly for a woman, but at my wife's suggestion, as a male. I can't say I agree with her cherry-picked assertions that female sexuality and pleasure is more highly valued among eastern cultures, as a student of the history of East Asia and South Asia; but I see how that prospect could be alluring to new-age folks. There are examples of more progressive and liberal sexual thought regarding healthy sexuality in all cultures, and in nearly every culture, ...more
May 19, 2013 Bianca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A multidisciplinary look at the vagina that I think should be utilized in sex-ed courses (at least portions of it). From the lengthy history of attitudes and treatment of the female reproductive system, to modern media studies on acculturation Wolf weaves in the scientific with the phenomenological successfully. She openly admits to faults in her studies and the studies she includes (like limits to heterosexual couples, Western women and lack of male consideration in some), which really serves t ...more
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Shattered and Gobsmacked! 5 45 Dec 16, 2014 08:59AM  
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Naomi Wolf is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Beauty Myth, The End of America and Give Me Liberty. She has toured the world speaking to audiences of all walks of life about gender equality, social justice, and, most recently, the defense of liberty in America and internationally. She is the cofounder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, which te ...more
More about Naomi Wolf...

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“Rape and sexual assault ... should be understood not just as a form of forced sex, they should also be understood as as a form of injury to the brain and body, and even as a variant of castration.” 11 likes
“Every woman is wired differently. Some women's nerves branch more in the vagina; other women's nerves branch more in the clitoris. Some branch a great deal in the perineum, or at the mouth of the cervix. That accounts for some of the differences in female sexual response.” 11 likes
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