Book review: 'Vagina: A New Biography'

Sunday, 9 December 2012 - 9:26am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna
Vagina is Wolf at her worst — personal experiences turn universal and an emotional, mumbo-jumbo narrative of the vagina as a “divine, Goddess-shaped hole” make the fascinating accounts of the first half of the book a distant memory.

Book: Vagina: A New Biography
Author:
Naomi Wolf
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 550
Price: Rs400

At one point in her new book, Vagina: A New Biography, Naomi Wolf advises men to address the woman in their life as a “Goddess”. She does admit, however, that “the ridiculousness meter each one of us carries inside may not allow it to happen”. One wonders what happened to Wolf’s own meter during the writing of this book, which goes from randy lab rats proving the importance of a good cuddle to the science behind why men should buy their wives flowers.

Wolf begins with an incident that is entirely personal — a wonky spinal column has caused her orgasms to lose their “technicolour” quality. Wolf uses this incident, and the ensuing cure, as a springboard into the vagina’s history and science. The author’s strengths are exhausted in the first half when the vagina serves as a sort of cultural Rorschach. Wolf uses the examples of a few Victorian and Edwardian writers, such as Christina Rossetti and George Eliot, to make a case for a connection between female sexuality and creativity. Apparently, the better your orgasm, the better your writing. Spinsters and those with sepia-tinted orgasms, step away from your creative endeavours.

The historical and cultural explorations fall away in the second half when Wolf makes extremely dubious scientific jumps. On one hand, she goes to a Tantric expert who administers non-sexual vaginal massages and is besotted with him immediately. On the other, she makes a Frankenstein of sorts by fusing together semi-related sexual studies and anecdotal evidence to reach conclusions that would fit better in a dating advice column. “Men abdicate the moves that will trigger female sexual desire,” Wolf concludes after recounting how a friend had to book her own anniversary dinner at a restaurant.

Vagina is Wolf at her worst — personal experiences turn universal and an emotional, mumbo-jumbo narrative of the vagina as a “divine, Goddess-shaped hole” make the fascinating accounts of the first half of the book a distant memory. No wonder she’s rumoured to already be in the process of rewriting the book.




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