naomi wolf

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Nature, Nurture, And Vaginas

One of my favorite questions to explore since I took a psychology class in high school has been the relationship of nature and nurture, or biology and culture. How much of human behavior is determined by relatively fixed factors like our genes and hormones, and how much is shaped by environment, family, diet, and culture? These intersections are tricky and difficult to navigate, yet teasing out distinctions has been a key project of sexuality scholars and feminists for decades now (to cite but one example, in the Victorian era it was believed that women’s wombs would wander, causing distress and dumbness, and so women’s bodies were held against them as a reason they couldn’t be educated, own property, or participate in politics – which, today, is known to be obviously untrue). While I’ve not yet had a chance to read feminist Naomi Wolf’s controversial new book Vagina, I’d like to use its premise as a leaping-off point for discussing how complicated the nature-nurture relationship can get when you throw in sexuality and history (both personal and cultural). As Wolf describes her project in an interview, she “stumbled upon hugely important scientific discovery after hugely important scientific discovery,” proving what she called a “profound brain-vagina connection.” Drawing from scientific studies as well as her own sex life, the book’s premise seems to be that women’s sex lives are unfulfilling in large part because women’s biology (specifically regarding sex and vaginas) is so misunderstood. Continue Reading →