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Vagina: A New Biography

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  3,457 ratings  ·  494 reviews
An astonishing work of cutting-edge science and cultural history that radically reframes how we understand the vagina—and consequently, how we understand women—from one of our most respected cultural critics and thinkers, Naomi Wolf, author of the modern classic The Beauty Myth.

When an unexpected medical crisis sends Naomi Wolf on a deeply personal journey to tease out the
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Ecco
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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 sexu…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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Oct 10, 2012 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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it liked it
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 tryi
Kara 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
Sep 17, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is a book that will make you question your faith in everything. It is not good at all.
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminism, science
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
Nancy Stringer
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.

Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Timothy Warnock
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 20, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Lena Lang
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Brett Axel
Jun 09, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Quite repetitive, tiresome and stating the obvious in many cases. I have to admit I skipped many parts while reading due to long recurring themes. At points I thought she was drawing personal only conclusions presenting them as universal. Overall, disappointing. Don't read it unless you want to find yourself in detailed explanation of anatomy and connection between mind and body... ...more
Holly Mccarthy
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I don’t normally write big reviews but I have too much to say about this book and feel like I may go down a rabbit hole of confusion and insanity if I don’t write my thoughts on this down.

I started off LOVING this book, and increasingly ended up disliking it when she started exploring toxic stereotypes not only around the vagina but around men being the only ones who can physically and mentally heal the traumatised vagina.

When I initially started this I was immediately fascinated and ultimatel
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
I enjoyed the facts but felt the delivery was a bit off.
Kathleen Brugger
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction, us
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
Liss Carmody
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wow, this book made me angry. I don't even know how to rate it, I'm so conflicted in my feelings about it. The list of things wrong with Wolf's prolonged study of the vagina is long, but at risk of becoming irrationally ranty I will try to keep this brief:

- Wolf's approach to scientific inquiry is to find an idea or an insight or a piece of new information, latch onto it, and run laps searching out evidence to support her claim. There is a lot of real science invoked here, and much of it is inte
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Kaethe Douglas
Sep 11, 2012 marked it as stricken
"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. ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: the economist
Shelves: on-kindle
(3.0) See a lot of the criticism this book has received, but there are some redeeming observations.

Her whole thesis is that there is a strong vagina-mind connection that we're all missing out on that has profound implications. She claims to have found evidence that women's creativity and assertiveness all come from how well their vaginas are treated and how well they perceive them. So there's a lot of nonsense science going on here that is hard to wade through.

In the end though, she does share w
Angela Natividad
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It took forever to get through this, but I’m glad I did. I learned a lot about my vagina. Much of it was legitimately life-changing and super validating. I hope more women read this, because it demystifies a lot of the emotions and behaviour even we can’t explain about ourselves. And I hope at least a few men read it, because it illuminates important details about why women might respond to their touch and attention (or lack thereof) the way they do, or why they may demand or seem to want things ...more
Sarah Sherwood
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this book incredibly interesting and useful. I enjoyed the many different approaches Wolf took to explore female sexuality and I learnt a lot. A lot of the book could be very technical but a good read nonetheless.
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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

Articles featuring this book

Her Favorite Books About Gender: The writer-activist shares her top five books in honor of her newest about female sexuality and identity, Vagina:...
30 likes · 5 comments
“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.” 17 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.” 14 likes
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