In Vagina Naomi Wolf writes about a fundamental vagina-brain connection, that became severed for her when an old injury temporarily cut off the neural pathways between her vagina and brain.
Wolf started to notice that her orgasms began losing their intensity; that although she still felt physical pleasure, it wasn’t as strong. She had a short moment of pleasure without the long afterglow she was used to. She also noticed changes in her wellbeing, and relationship to the sensual world. Colours seemed less bright, and her creativity was effected too.
The book was ridiculed in the press. It was criticised as being too heterosexual, and too unscientific. Laurie Penny, writing in the New Statesman dismissed this vagina-brain connection as being no more mystical than the brain-elbow connection or the brain-toe connection.
It was interesting to me to read these reviews, because in their rush to criticise the books they seemed to not even be interested in what was really fascinating about Wolf was saying. Wolf described her subjective experience of what she lost when she was injured, and how it was mended instantly again after surgery. She was describing how sex can be a profound, transcendent experience.
She may not have the science accurately down on paper. She could of written the book in a more inclusive way. But she had the subjective experience of a vagina-brain connection, being severed and then fixed. Why were reviewers so quick to dismiss this?
The thing is when I read Wolf’s book I knew that everything she said was right, because I have been there. I’ve had the neural pathways between my vagina and brain severed and I can tell you it is exactly as Wolf describes it.
After my LEEP procedure I assumed that there was some emotional reason why I struggled with my creativity, gave up writing novels, and struggled to read them too. I also lost my passion for listening to music. I still listened to it from time time but I just didn’t feel that bothered.
I tried to write novels, but I had to give up because every time I started my brain felt like it was going to explode. I started a memoir that I never finished which I called ‘A Stone in my head’ because that’s what it felt like, as if I had this heavy stone in my head that was getting in the way of my thinking.
It was eerie when I heard Asha, my partner in the Intact Cervix campaign, describe what she felt as a dark shadow in our head. As I spoke to her I realised that what we are describing are metaphors for brain-injury .
The fact is that the relationship between the vagina and the brain isn’t fully understood yet. Those neural pathways and connections, haven’t been fully mapped and researched. It’s easy to be ‘pro-science,’ to dismiss this kind of talk as mystical, but this is a black hole where there is no science.
Instead of dismissing a woman’s subjective experience, we need to listen to her. A woman experiences a fundamental vagina-brain connection? Okay, lets research it to fully understand the scientific basis for this subjective perception. Then we can make sure medical procedures don’t damage it.
A woman’s right to an Intact Cervix is not just about our sex lives, it’s about our entire lives, our entire vibrancy, and existence in the sensual world.
I’m lucky that through these twelve years, I have chipped away at the stone in my head. I’ve got back my relationship to creativity, and music. Yoga, meditation, and actively fighting for my creativity every day, have helped me heal, and regrow those pathways. Day by day, I return a little more embodied into the sensual world.
But I still gravitate towards non-fiction books rather than escaping into an imaginary world. I rarely watch a film And I still dream that one day I’ll be able to write a novel without feeling like my head is about to explode.
Naomi Wolf describes how thousands of years ago, the Vagina was revered as sacred. It was worshipped in temples. In literature in the past, women write about orgasms as being an intense, spiritual experience. In our modern capitalist world, we’ve stripped sex of spirituality and made it all about the clitoris. This is a lie, and a social construct, and it’s time we returned to what sex, and life itself, is really about.
Vagina is essential reading for anyone who wants to connect deeply, with our vibrant, empowered sexual selves.