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Wolf writes: "Rather that asking 'why the vagina? Why now?,' I am now more inclined to ask: why the repressive patriarchal silence about such important information? And why tolerate it any longer?"

Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)
Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)



A New Sexual Revolution

By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK

09 September 12

 

y new book, Vagina: A New Biography, has just come out in the UK – to a whirlwind of reaction. Why write about the vagina? And why now?

The main answer is that new neuroscience, which has been very little reported outside of scientific journals, is providing truly revolutionary new information about what the vagina is and does – information that, in my mind, makes our entire way of seeing that organ, which is regarded generally, in this culture, as merely a sex organ – obsolete. New information in related fields is also transforming, or should transform, our understanding of sex itself for women.

The main headline, in my view? The new science has established a radically new insight: that there is such a strong brain-vagina connection in women that many of the neuroscientists whom I interviewed called it "a single system". More remarkably, few of us know that when a woman has an orgasm – and, even before that, when she feels empowered to think about pleasurable sex, anticipate it, focus on how to get it, and feels in control of and knowledgeable enough about her body to know she can probably reach orgasm during sex – her brain gets a boost of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Then, in orgasm, opioids and oxytocin are also released. This experience does not just yield pleasure, a fact that is well known; it also yields specific states of mind.

Dopamine is what I call the ultimate feminist neurotransmitter: it yields motivation and goal-orientedness, trust in one's own judgement and, most notably of all, in my mind, confidence. (Cocaine, for instance, powerfully stimulates release of dopamine – hence the crazy confidence and sociability of coke users, at least under the influence, responding to that boost). Opioids give the brain the sensation of ecstasy or transcendence; and finally, oxytocin – which can be released both when a woman's nipples are being stimulated and during the contractions of orgasm – creates a sense of bonding, caring and intimacy. Oxytocin has been shown in studies to give people with heightened levels an advantage in reading the emotions of faces.

So, given this chemical bath, it is fair to say that the vagina is not just a sex organ at all, but a powerful mediator of female confidence, creativity and the sense of the connections between things.

Realizing the nature of this brain-vagina connection led me, as a feminist, to have the next obvious insight. If female anticipation of pleasurable sex, and female orgasm, led to this kind of mood-alteration – among many other newly-documented outcomes I report on in the book – this also explains why female sexuality, and the vagina in particular, have been controlled, abused, targeted, derided and shamed. And why women have been mystified and kept in ignorance of their own sexual responses – for five millennia, certainly in the west. The dopamine loop also, of course, explains why some cultures practice cliterodectomy and infibulations – practices that we should now understand alter not simply the body and sexual functioning, but the influences on the female brain itself.

In the book, I survey the cultural history of the vagina also. When you put the history together side by side with these astonishing new discoveries about the neuroscience of female desire, you comprehend, as one reader put it, "the whole story of why the vagina must be targeted and shamed in one big lie."

The, to me, mindblowing insights from this cutting-edge science do not end there: I learned that a strong body of data now show that the harm or injury of "nonviolent" rape goes far beyond what we (or the courts) have realized. Rape or sexual abuse that women may have experienced can change minute aspects of their bodies' and minds' very functions. It can alter, for example, the operation of their baseline autonomic nervous systems, so that raped women in one study (by Rellini and Meston) have different physiological responses to erotic videos and even to physical exercise than a control group of women who have not been so traumatised. Further; a researcher named Dr Burke Richmond has found a constellation of seemingly unrelated medical symptoms – from "phobic postural sway", which allows a woman literally to be more easily pushed over, to tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and perceptual problems such as vertigo – which last for years after a "nonviolent" rape.

These and other outcomes should radically alter the way the crime of rape is perceived and prosecuted. The new science establishes that in terms of harm, there is no such thing as a nonviolent rape. This should change the way rape is treated: the talking cure, for instance, often is not enough.

The new science offers some remarkable positive insights. These are especially in a situation such as ours in which, 40 years after "the sexual revolution", studies show that 30-40% of western women self-report "hypoactive sexual desire". In other words, they are just not that into it, probably because they are not having reliably good enough experiences with it. About 30% also report being unable to reach orgasm regularly during lovemaking. The good news from the new science is that we have misunderstood women's anatomy and pleasure; with better knowledge, we might address the issue of women's unsatisfactory sexual experience.

Scientists, for instance, have found a "neural arm" – horrible language, but our vocabulary is very impoverished – in the female pelvis, which they had not known existed. This has led to a reassessment of the previous assumption that the clitoris and "g-spot" were separate entities: instead, they form the north and south of the same neural structure. (This explains why over 90% of women reached orgasm – in lab conditions, with strangers – when both parts of their bodies were stimulated at the same time.) Drs Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple have recently found that when you stimulate different parts of a woman's vagina, cervix or clitoris, she experiences different emotions and the touch activates different brain functions. Komisaruk has also identified a new center of sexual sensation in women, at the mouth of the cervix.

These scientists have also found that female "pelvic innervation" (that is, neural wiring) is very different from male pelvic innervation: women have eight or or so tangles of "neural termini" all over their pelvises – from vaginal walls to clitoris to perineum and anus and so on, and every woman is different. The male system is simpler and more regular. So female and male sexual response, in spite of what Masters and Johnson believed, is not identical – and a lover of women does well to identify that specific woman's responses, unique to her, rather than assuming he or she "knows what works" from general past experience.

Also amazing, to me, is the discovery of Dr Jim Pfaus of Concordia University in Canada of the role played by female sexual pleasure and desire in mate selection (from experiments in lower mammals). It was liberating to me to witness in his lab how obvious it was that evolution, or Nature (call it what you will), had so valued female desire. It put the issue beyond the contested realm of culture and value judgments. As he put it, his lab rats had never heard themselves be called "sluts".

Most powerful to me of all of this transformative information is the fact that I now know how powerfully the vagina affects female consciousness, confidence, risk-taking and autonomy. These insights answer so many questions. Rather that asking "why the vagina? Why now?", I am now more inclined to ask: why the repressive patriarchal silence about such important information? And why tolerate it any longer?

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+104 # lisamoskow 2012-09-09 09:41
Having regular orgasms is an important aspect of female health. Why the shame and embarrassment about this?
To answer that question myself, the corporate influences in our country will
use whatever they can to keep people down and under their control.
It is empowering for women to grant themselves pleasure.
 
 
+17 # Interested Observer 2012-09-10 10:14
The shame aspect is almost entirely an artifact of past religious and cultural traditions. Corporate influences apart from those derived directly from the aforementioned cultural base have little to do with it (e.g. the Waltons of Arkansas, Chick-fil-A etc). More robust attitudes toward sex in any aspect will be simply mean new opportunities for revenue and profit to the corporate world. The recent KY and Trojan ads barely scratch the surface of what we will see in a world of totally de-stigmatized (female) sexuality. The politics of sex are not primarily corporate politics.
 
 
+3 # robniel 2012-09-13 12:50
the corporate influences in our country will
use whatever they can to keep people down and under their control.

I assume you include the most pernicious, the religions incorporated into every nook and cranny of the globe
 
 
+89 # Paulette453 2012-09-09 09:56
This is complex information - in terms of the neuroscience. I believe the Tantric masters of India and China knew this intuitively- perhaps because the freedom of sexual exploration was more freely encouraged in those social/spiritua l circles. Yes, spiritual. This kind of emotion which causes bonding and ecstasy has the potential to bring us closer to the Divine.
 
 
+32 # Celeste 2012-09-09 11:54
In Rajneesh's book entitled, "Sex," he says two compelling thing. First, "That lovers have often known what saints have not," and also in his mocking depiction of how Western tourists were made to interpret the Shivalinga.

This symbol, found in many temples in India is a literal depiction of the mating of the female and male sex organs. Rajneesh noted what he termed "The Christianizatio n of India" in that current temple tour guides are rather ashamed of the symbol, itself.

A friend of mine put it this way: "Good sex is a straight shot to God," and were it not important AND empowering, the entirety of the Judeo-Christian religious idolatry with its focus on Original Sin (directly attributable to sex) would not concentrate on this matter so formidably.

The control of sex, and more definitively, pleasure (especially in females given their robust capacity to know an infinite number or successive orgasms) is a major facet of any top-down, authoritarian rule-based hierarchy. This realization played a significant role in why it was that Wilhelm Reich was given a lobotomy, and his books banned. To the "uninitiated," Reich provided the link between sexual repression (on a collective level) and how it was that the supreme authority was externalized into the father/fuhrer figure.
 
 
-15 # brux 2012-09-10 18:47
I wonder if way way back when they built those temples if gays were demanding to be depicted on the walls ... or if they were ... and in what proportion?
 
 
+17 # Johnny 2012-09-11 20:10
In a sexually free culture, there are no gays. There are no straights. There are just human beings respecting and enjoying other human beings as their mutual attractions ignite.
 
 
+70 # dyannne 2012-09-09 10:02
It's about time some real science was applied to the study of the vagina, a MOST important part of woman. How can the female orgasm not be just as important as man's? Ridiculous.
 
 
+62 # Celeste 2012-09-09 11:55
It's called sexism, a symptom of misogyny; and it explains why Viagra is covered by insurance, no questions asked... while Planned Parenhood has to virtually beg for funding.
 
 
+18 # Secular Humanist 2012-09-09 22:33
Quoting Celeste:
It's called sexism, a symptom of misogyny; and it explains why Viagra is covered by insurance, no questions asked... while Planned Parenthood has to virtually beg for funding.

While the statement that Viagra is paid for by health insurance is commonly made, the FACT is, most health insurance does NOT cover erectile dysfunction meds. Ask any pharmacist. Most health insurance does, however, cover birth control meds. The forces of conservatism would like to change that, as their philosophy is rooted in the fundamentalist Christian tenets that the earth needs to be populated by more Christians to overwhelm the unbelievers, that we need to use up all the earth's resources to get to the Rapture, and that this also requires the creation of enough Christian babies to exhaust the repository of souls already created for them.

Agreed, however, that Planned Parenthood should be better funded. But the matter has little to do with institutionaliz ed sexism and much to do with religious philosophy -which in this case, is often sexist.
 
 
+18 # RLF 2012-09-10 06:55
It is also wrong to assume that a women's structure is more sensitive and highly developed than a mans. When one looks at anatomy, it appears that all of the same structures are there but are developed differently. It is also bad policy to bring up genital mutilation to women without also mentioning with out minimizing the genital mutilation of men that is still common in the west as well as the east.
 
 
+3 # bmiluski 2012-09-10 10:01
The DIFFERENCE is that genital mutilation of baby boys is to prevent health issues. The mutilization of teenaged girls is to prevent sexual pleasure.
 
 
+7 # Johnny 2012-09-11 20:13
No, the genital mutilation of boys is motivated by ancient superstitions, just as is the genital mutilation of girls. Check your archaelogy and your ancient histories, such as the first 5 books of the Bible.
 
 
+1 # shraeve 2012-09-23 05:07
Health issues my donkey! It was to keep us from discovering how pleasurable it is to pull back the foreskin and thus learn to masturbate.
 
 
+5 # bmiluski 2012-09-10 10:27
YOU MEN invented the religious rite of circumsition. Presumedly for health issues. The sole purpose for female genital mutilation is to prevent a woman from deriving any pleasure from sex.
 
 
+11 # Johnny 2012-09-11 20:15
Too bad people presume the motives of others. Mutilating some people: health issues, ok. Mutilating others: barbarism, not ok. What utter sexist bullshit.
 
 
+5 # brux 2012-09-10 18:50
> How can the female orgasm not be just as important as man's?

It's a good question to ask, and as in all good questions none of them are ridiculous.

Going at it, excuse the expression, from another point of view, are both experiences absolutely equal in importance to both sexes, and every member of their respective genders?

If there are any differences at all I would bet there would be some asymmetry due to gender, but that is just a speculation, maybe not too? Or maybe the differences are not significant.
 
 
-107 # Dumbledorf 2012-09-09 10:04
Let's face it, men are of no value in this world or under such a system.

Just kill us all and get it over with.
 
 
+62 # Buddha 2012-09-09 11:42
Someone has inadequacy issues...

Us strong males comfortable in our own skin and sexuality has no concerns, indeed, WELCOMES a strong woman as an equal partner in our lives and in our society/governm ent.
 
 
-23 # Celeste 2012-09-09 11:56
You sound like a real "dream date." Fantasize about Ted Kasinsky much?
 
 
+6 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:01
This comment was to Dumbeldorf... the dislikes imply that readers attributed it as a response to Buddha.
 
 
+17 # juliajayne 2012-09-09 12:13
Why so defensive? You men have lots of control/power and part of your power comes from YOUR sexuality. As someone down thread mentioned, we women who enjoy our sexuality, know our bodies and have the inherent confidence that comes with that knowledge, really do think of themselves as more powerful. I certainly do. So, what's the downside of that for you or any other man? Do tell.
 
 
+4 # brux 2012-09-10 14:20
> Let's face it, men are of no value in this world or
> under such a system. Just kill us all and get it over with.

We are doing a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good job at killing ourselves, no?
 
 
0 # karlarove 2012-09-10 21:53
Hint, the article isn't about you Dumbledorf. Did you even read the article?
 
 
+37 # Deboldt 2012-09-09 10:27
The closer we come to the final circuit of the drain politically, ecologically and culturally, the more our knowledge of the world and human nature seem to be expanding. It now looks as if our species will become extinct at precisely the same moment when a tiny minority of us reach the highest level of understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe. Isn’t there a certain poetry in this?
 
 
+10 # Celeste 2012-09-09 12:03
Fortunately for those of us whose views extend beyond science and what it can measure, there is a welcome acknowledgement of the soul's continuity. Anything truly learned becomes part of the record. You cannot really unlearn what's been recognized through direct experience. Memory is the key.

Can you explain how it is that tiny pulsing computer chips can retain memory? Have you noticed how many manmade inventions copy actions enacted by creatures in the natural world? Perhaps the entire universe is etched in memory. We swim in the virtual sea of all that has been experienced and codify its witness at the level of our own cognition and/or sentience.

After all, how often has science had to refute a former theory on the basis of new and ever emerging data? Thinking in finite ways when you're taking part in the mystery of The Infinite can only take you so far... conceptually.
 
 
+1 # Johnny 2012-09-11 20:20
True, but as Einstein observed, thinking of the infinite can only make you aware of the majesty of what you never will comprehend. Not a bad thing, in my opinion, but certainly no argument for the fat man on the cloud or the continuity of the soul after the brainwaves cease.
 
 
+1 # Ma Tsu 2012-09-11 16:22
Ah, yes, the race between entropy and ecstasy is well an truly joined. Now, by a show of hands, who's for entropy?
 
 
-88 # QDP 2012-09-09 10:51
Just what we need, more talk about the vagina. Can't you gals just DEAL WITH IT? We have enough problems with mysogenists, derelicts, predators, and just plaun stupid religious zealots. Why you women want to talk about just provides greater illustration to the broadening chasm. Men just don't get it, so why even frustrate yourselves in the attemPt? The space between always needs secrecy, mystery and fear. Let it be.
 
 
+36 # Buddha 2012-09-09 11:45
Oh, men GET it, some just don't want to face it. After all, look at the focus we have on our own phallus, physically, socially, in literature, etc. All to many men feel THREATENED by women and talk about vaginas. And just as with people who hate on the LGBT community, for men like this it has more to do with their own insecurities and inadequacies than anything else.
 
 
+8 # Celeste 2012-09-09 14:41
Chinese fortune say, "You, Buddha be one real smart cookie!"
 
 
+15 # Celeste 2012-09-09 12:05
The fact that women are still under-represent ed, under-valued, and/or controlled by male-dominant societies in just about every land means this issue should NOT go away. You can be sure that were the subject the all mighty penis, there'd never be enough time for its prowess to be discussed, nor enough pundits to grant it salutations.
 
 
+24 # butterfly 2012-09-09 11:02
I've had great sex for over 30 years. Multiple orgasms; ecstasy; autoerotica...y ou name it. And now we know why it feels so good. It's about time objective science caught up with subjective experience. Naomi Wolf isn't telling us sexually satisfied women what we don't already know. Cuddling after sex is fantastic; there really is an afterglow; of course different parts of our anatomy respond differently; and it's no surprise that our vaginas are wired to our brains. Why all the excitement about a subject that people have been writing about for years?
 
 
+42 # DaveM 2012-09-09 11:08
Further understanding of the human body leads to further understanding of the human mind. Which in turn, lends insight into the human condition.

As the author strongly implies, that should involve ALL of the body and ALL of the mind. To ignore anything is to diminish our understanding of the whole.
 
 
+14 # CC1951 2012-09-09 11:34
I'm so glad that we are able to talk like this; in comprehensive, scientific terms. A woman can stimulate herself and not feel guilty about it...,men have been doing it for years!
Whether you call rape 'forcible' or'legitament', is irrelevent. No matter what you call it, rape is rape!
To hell with political rhetoric, let' s just have FUN!!!
 
 
-11 # Bob P 2012-09-09 13:17
Women are hard wired to experience sex as enriching. If men are only having fun, no wonder there are so many rapes. I guess us men have to be trained into enriched lives, or do we have that wiring somewhere in us too?
 
 
+2 # great_pumpkin 2012-09-09 15:25
Quoting Bob P:
Women are hard wired to experience sex as enriching. If men are only having fun, no wonder there are so many rapes. I guess us men have to be trained into enriched lives, or do we have that wiring somewhere in us too?


Bob P.: Men probably do have that wiring too, except in many cases due to circumcision, some chunks may be missing and therefore the experience of richness may be fundamentally altered from what nature had in mind.
 
 
+15 # Majikman 2012-09-09 16:55
Both sexes are hard wired to experience sex as enriching, empowering and Divine IF they have the courage to hear and follow their own truth and not succumb to the tyranny and suppression of those who seek to control us.
 
 
+3 # David Heizer 2012-09-10 22:35
If you read the article, it would seem that women are far better wired for it than men are.
 
 
0 # NoCircRN 2012-09-11 12:31
Yes, if men and women are both whole and natural in their bodies, they are the same in their minds. Men with foreskins are better at pleasuring women with vaginas,as they are whole and complete and can take advantage of their "wiring" to make beautiful music together.
 
 
+8 # David Heizer 2012-09-10 22:34
Rape is not about having fun.
 
 
-62 # trs 2012-09-09 11:44
The problem is that this woman is the David Books of the left. Not much can be said of her work on feminism generally other than it seems to be another product of mediocre thought and political posturing at the service of career promotions. In this case, the issue is that she delves on a field that has become the place for every dilettante to perform intellectual gestures. The vagina and the brain are a single system?????? Really? Ocytocin is a feminist neurotransmitte r? Look, little dear, the only reason why this book evokes negative reactions is not because you are a woman and we are just patriarchal beasts trying to suppress your brilliant insights. The problem is that you are a dilettante and a schemer and serious neuroscientists --neuro-chemist s, neuro-psycholog ists, neuro-anatomist --tend to dislike journalists who use scientific work as mouthwash to make political statements. If you are interested in neuroscience, get a degree in neuroscience and keep the humbug to yourself. Thanks.
 
 
+18 # juliajayne 2012-09-09 15:42
You complain, yet offer no rebuttal as to where Ms. Wolfe gets anything wrong. To whit, I exhort YOU to state what credentials YOU have to repudiate her work.
 
 
+9 # RLF 2012-09-10 07:01
I know tons of ignorant morons with prestigious degrees.
 
 
-3 # David Starr 2012-09-10 12:23
First, I HOPE Naomi Wolf is on the Left. I state this because there were two previous articles I read from her that made me really wonder. This article does have its' points, e.g., patriarchal behavior derived from out of the Victorian Age. Regressive and antiquated.
 
 
+16 # Buddha 2012-09-09 11:52
I think here that Ms Wolf is over thinking much of this. Discomfort at talk about the vagina, its science and how it functions in a woman's reproductive and pleasure generating system isn't a cause in and of itself, it is a symptom. The core comes both historically (where Puritan women were not much better than chattel, and even today with the evangelist "wives should be submissive to their husbands" you see its vestiges) and in the traditional role of the male as the dominant and the provider, which many insecure males feel is slipping away as women are liberated. In fact, during this last recession, hasn't male jobs been lost more than female? So conservative men are lashing out in their fear, trying to put women back into that comforting "barefoot, pregnant, and out of the workplace" box, and attacking their sexual liberation is part of this. And they will only be successful if women en masse don't standup, claim their power at the ballot box and in the halls of government power in States and in DC.
 
 
0 # Celeste 2012-09-09 14:45
Your calm, honest, fair analysis on this matter make you a credit to your gender (and to the women in your closest circle).
 
 
-15 # trs 2012-09-09 15:13
A good man, possibly a good jew, or maybe a good chinese. What the hell... almost a human being. Congratulations !

How can anyone take this type of statement seriously Celeste? Read yourself.
 
 
0 # David Starr 2012-09-11 12:24
To quote: "A good man, possibly a good jew, or maybe a good chinese. What the hell... almost a human being." If I read this right you're implying Jews and Chinese are not fully human. How can you tell when you almost have a brain?
 
 
+4 # Dean 2012-09-09 12:03
vERY good---so also is the penis!
 
 
+24 # Johnny 2012-09-09 13:05
I think that it is safe to trace the repression of female sexual pleasure to the status of women and girls as the property of men, like horses or other livestock, from Torah times and earlier, as documented, for example, by Herodotus and Homer. And I would submit that by denying women the freedom to enjoy sexual experience, men have been denying themselves the pleasure of mutually respectful--and fun--relationsh ips: by repressing women's erotic freedom, men in effect castrate themselves.
 
 
+11 # Celeste 2012-09-09 14:48
The man who turned me onto multiple orgasms and was the best lover I've ever known put it this way: Sex was communion between us. Beyond fun, souls can come into an exquisite, transcendental form of union. And while orgasm, per se, is not pursued by Tantric Rites, there, too. lovers can utilize their bodies as conduits and thereby rise together into something magnificent... something a lot more spiritually gratifying than fun for fun's sake. In my experience, when love is not present, fun stands in for it.
 
 
-1 # David Starr 2012-09-09 14:17
To quote: "Realizing the nature of this brain-vagina connection led me, as a feminist, to have the next obvious insight. If female anticipation of pleasurable sex, and female orgasm, led to this kind of mood-alteration – among many other newly-documente d outcomes I report on in the book – this also explains why female sexuality, and the vagina in particular, have been controlled, abused, targeted, derided and shamed." I'll "buy" that. First time I agreed with Wolf. Glad she says she's a feminist, but, previously, she coulda fooled me. I was very critical of two previous pieces by her published on RSN. Patriarchalism reminds of me machoism, and machoism I find is a chacteristic of facsism; rather than manhood.
 
 
-5 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:05
If you don't see the connection between top-down hierarchies that depend on the macho use of force and how that reduces the collective status of women, then you're the one with the blind spot.
 
 
+3 # David Starr 2012-09-10 13:39
Don't know where you cooked up this reply, implying I'm, perhaps, anti-women?
To quote myself: "Patriarchalism reminds of me machoism, and machoism I find is a chacteristic of facsism; rather than manhood." I would think this is more than clear that I'm NOT in support of patriarchy. I especially used the words fascism and machoism on the same level. SO, I have know idea where you would have thought otherwise. Care to explain?
 
 
-2 # David Starr 2012-09-10 17:17
Well, there's a thumbs down for this post. Care to give an explanation, whether it be someone misunderstandin g my intial post, or someone who may not like my machoism/fascis m remark?
 
 
+2 # dyannne 2012-09-10 19:00
Please explain how patriarchalism is like machoism? I get it that you think they are similar and on the same level. I just don't understand how you equate them.
 
 
+1 # David Starr 2012-09-11 09:23
I'm using machoism as being applied to forms of male domination. patriarchy kind of has that character where the father, e.g., is the "ruler." I admit the terms are of different eras, and in terms of prominence. But maybe patriarchy can be called a "gentleman's machoism." The word macho itself has a more direct tone and meaning to it, using today's critieria. I view it as ultra-maleness, given its' meaning especially in recent history. Thus, I see macho as being a characteristic of fascism because of its' ultra-maleness, i.e., agressive traits exhibited without rhyme or reason, in regards to the bully, tyrant, as well as cocksureness. I see manhood as being different than machoism if it means combining strength with maturity, humbleness, understanding; but with the idea that one is able to use his strength, and if necessary, in a brutal manner, to defend oneself, or someone else, from, say, a bully, a tyrant, and thus against what I call ultra-maleness, i.e., machoism.
 
 
+16 # great_pumpkin 2012-09-09 15:19
Hello, It seems there is a good bit of man-bashing going on here. Let's don't forget to consider what neurological effects circumcision may be having on the male brain. Could be that circumcised men can't help a more casual "just having some fun" stance. If a very important chunk of nerve endings and sexual brain wiring are removed at birth. And what about just plain trauma? They do this without anesthetics! At a few days old, before the new little person even has words to talk about it or their brain is capable of forming long term memories of it. Ladies, think about what it would be like to have someone grab you when you were small and powerless and chop off your most sensitive parts. So please don't trash the men. They probably want 20 times the sex that we do because when they do it, they aren't getting the full emotional juice they need from it, nor the feelings. We can't even say what's normal for a man emotionally and psychologically unless we stop the barbaric practice of circumcision. And yes, ladies it's at least half up to us to stop it when we have children and are in a position to make those decisions. I have 2 boys (grown now) and they are intact and happy with themselves. When i had them, I told the doctors and my husband that circumcision was going to happen only over MY DEAD BODY. So have some compassion, please.
 
 
-9 # bmiluski 2012-09-10 10:08
I believe it was YOU MEN who invented this religious ritual. And now you're crying about it? Typical.
 
 
+1 # shraeve 2012-09-23 05:18
How can we ascertain who invented it? It started in prehistory.

Female genital mutilation is usually done by women.
 
 
+5 # dyannne 2012-09-10 19:05
I so agree with you g_p. I didn't get this way back when I was having babies, but I got it later as a grandmother and tried to get my daughter to not circumcise my grandson. I couldn't get through to her or her husband and the deed was done. Proud of you for your brains, sensitivity and guts. Teach on, my sister!
 
 
+5 # lorenbliss 2012-09-09 16:38
Ms. Wolf confirms the already absolute proof patriarchy is an unnatural act.

Her message is the wisdom of the vagina makes Woman the natural leader of the Revolution.

And I a man have lived long enough to know she speaks absolute truth.
 
 
0 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:06
Always right on!
 
 
0 # shraeve 2012-09-23 05:19
Which revolution is this?
 
 
-2 # jodavwel 2012-09-09 18:17
I think Ms Wolf should have consulted with Dr. Candace Pert respecting this subject matter.
 
 
-4 # Smokey 2012-09-09 18:33
A corporate conspiracy to prevent women from having great orgasms? Helen Gurley Brown will shake in her grave and old man Hugh Hefner will laugh....
Sex has been big business for a very long time.... In organized religion, there are still a few prudes and crackpots who make life difficult for women and - to some extent - they also restrict the sexual activity of men. Ask male homosexuals and bisexuals for more information about that last point.... It's the big corporations that become more powerful every year.
Sexual activity and moneymaking activity
become less restricted and more demanding and more profitable every year... Stop by the cabaret, for a few drinks, and you'll learn plenty.
 
 
+11 # lorenbliss 2012-09-09 20:50
You're wrong. A plethora of studies has proven beyond argument oppression is infinitely more profitable than permissiveness.

That's why there was fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, fascist Spain, Pinochet's Chile.

It's why the Ruling Class now heavily funds theocracy, whether Christian, Islamic or Jewish.

In theocracy, bosses rule by divine right; work orders are holy writ; collective bargaining (and any other expression of democracy) is forbidden as heresy; sex is restricted; female sexuality is damned as sin; the rage and frustration imposed by sexual taboos is sublimated into frantic productivity and frenzies of trinket materialism – capitalist "growth."

Though the male psyche is compartmentaliz ed, its sexuality easily distorted or suppressed, female sexuality is wholistic, an implacable force inseparable from the life-energy itself. Hence to suppress female sexuality is not just to destroy the woman but to attack Nature – the theo-political function of misogyny.

Here, precisely as Ms. Wolf now understands, is the reason for capitalism's all-out war against women.

Which, by the way, correctly identifies female sexuality as the one truly revolutionary force – beyond ideology, language, nationality or race – on this tragically beleaguered planet.
 
 
+3 # Anarchist 23 2012-09-09 21:32
that is probably the lowest level of sexual union-cheap hook-us, 'in and out, a cowboy' as they say in these parts. Real sex is tender, loving, and unhurried and is between two people who profoundly care about each other. And it is very very very rare. Not everything is a commercial enterprise but in this society at this time it seems so. Wolfe's compendium of scientific insights helps confirm the idea of a greater capacity for relating in pleasure for humans. It sure beats the war which the dying patriarchy is waging everywhere. The Nazis too waged war on women's power and sexuality-it was only for procreation of children of the state.
 
 
+4 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:19
Riane Eisler (author of "The Chalice & The Blade") found a direct relationship between a society's fondness (and practice) of war, and its efforts to restrict women's rights. Note the parallel with our nation today!
 
 
0 # shraeve 2012-09-23 05:22
That is probably because they needed women to keep on producing more warriors, to replace the ones killed.
 
 
-1 # Majikman 2012-09-09 21:37
Sorry, Smokey, you're confusing the entire mind/body sexual experience that Ms Wolf writes about with commercialized rut of the Hugh Hefner/Helen Gurley Brown variety.
 
 
+3 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:15
Homosexuals and bi-sexuals take on feminine characteristics and this offends the misogynistic precepts and values that patriarchal religion is built upon. The fundamental teaching (which makes the Taliban a lot more like Christian fundamentalism than adherents of either would dare to admit) is that women are defined as the lesser sex.

It's useful to maintain a ranking system based on gender when males, in general are feeling trapped and imprisoned in their lives. The uber-capitalism of our times projects onto First World people a status similar to those who are occupied by an outside dominant power.

When the male can boss around the female it defuses his anger somewhat as he gets to experience some measure of power. This is why sexism and misogyny factor substantially into hierarchical societies... like our own, increasingly.
 
 
+2 # lorenbliss 2012-09-09 19:53
If I had any talent at fiction, I'd write a novel, “The End of Tomorrow,” its main character an archaeologist who solves the mystery of patriarchy – how it suddenly emerged to violently end 100,000 years of matriarchal sustainability.

The archaeologist finds proof insectoid aliens traveled to Earth 5,000 years ago, that they faked apparitions – Moses' burning bush, Ezekiel's fiery wheel – to convince us the supreme deity is male. Hence patriarchy; hence too its progression to capitalism, fascism, Nazism and soon to extinction.

Stunned, the archaeologist now understands the capitalists' secret credo: “there is no tomorrow; might as well rape and loot everything.”

She recognizes that against this parasitic frenzy stands only Woman with her vaginal intelligence, the sensibility damned by the bug-minded patriarchs as “original sin” but in reality (and as the Gaia Hypothesis implies), the focused awareness of the planet. She knows if Woman cannot rally us to action, we will not just render ourselves extinct but reduce our world to a garbage dump inhabitable only by cockroaches – and their infinitely patient, infinitely more cunning intergalactic cousins. But how to awaken the masses?

An epic: imagine the special effects when it's made into a film.

(Not to worry; it's only a plot outline for a book I lack the skill to write. Those with real talent feel free to make it their own.)
 
 
+1 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:21
Such a champion of The Goddess! Marion Zimmer Bradley would be proud of you.

BTW: Have you ever seen the fine Japanese film, "Woman of the Dunes"? It's quite lovely and somewhat fitting to your bug metaphor.
 
 
+2 # lorenbliss 2012-09-10 15:42
Thank you, Celeste. Credit pivotal experiences, one at age 12, the other at 30, each in deep solitude amidst real wilderness, as if Nature had chosen (for some reason comprehensible only to herself) to show her true face to a hunter. Then credit Robert Graves, Erich Neumann, Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler and Barbara Mor for resolving the huge perplexity so evoked.

I know of Bradley but question her unriddling of Arthurian myth. More likely what happened -- this by the date implicit in "the end of the age of the dragon" -- is there were two Arthurs. One was the original, c. 2000 BCE, a god, like Bendegeid Vran "once and future king"; two was the Romano-British warlord who took the name Arthur to unite his regime with the most ancient British traditions. Myrddin likewise enters from 2000 BCE, chief architect at Stonehenge (in all probability a Minoan woman), also Arthur I's counselor and perhaps lover as well. Mayhap Arthur II so named his advisor to be true to the story: the return of the king. The “end of the age of the dragon” refers to the end of the epoch when north was reckoned on the Dragon Star, Alpha Draconis in the constellation Draco, about the same time Stonehenge was finished, c. 2000 BCE.

For more on my own passage, go to Outside Agitator's Notebook, lorenbliss.type pad,com, particularly “Abutments” (16 January 2011) and “Dancer Resurrected,” (16 February 2012). Again thanks.
 
 
+3 # angelfish 2012-09-09 20:18
Like the fools in North Carolina who think they can legislate the ebb and flow of the Tides, these Fools in Congress are trying to legislate something that is OUT of their domain, entirely! Women have taken possession of their Orgasms and are FREE to have as many as they Can! It amazes me that ANYONE would try and legislate someone's bodily organ, be it a Vagina, or a Uterus or a Brain! Congress needs to BACK OFF ANYTHING that has to do with these Organs! Any activity related to them is something to be dealt with by the Principals involved and, possibly, their Physician if needed, NOT some Radical Right-Wing, Religiously Fanatical Nut-Job Congressman OR woman with an Axe to grind! Remove ALL Laws referring to a woman's Vagina, her RIGHT to Contraception and if, where, when and how she obtains an Emergency or Elective Abortion! All problems and misery solved! The Woman is FREE, as she has ALWAYS been, to make this VERY personal decision for HERSELF without benefit of Congress intruding on her CHOICE. People who are against Birth Control and Abortion are FREE to go without, however, women who DO so choose to avail themselves of these remedies should ALSO have the right to do so UNMOLESTED by Congress or the Law. Orgasms are the sole responsibility of the woman and her significant other.
 
 
+5 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:30
The entire basis of the Abrahamic religions is a rationale for males to control women's sexuality so that they can control the bloodline, i.e. lineage. It's the primal staple of the philosophy that has turned all living systems into commodities.

When women can own property, obtain an education, and make their own decisions about childbearing, the entie weight (or bedrock) of patriarchy's foundation shifts. This is one earthquake the old church has long sought to pre-empt. And turning female sexuality loose is its greatest threat. That's why sex has been portrayed as a sin, and there are often major obstacles met by women in their access to birth control.

Women's rights constitute THE war the patriarchs have not fought for, but rather against... for many, many generations. The rot is deeply set.
 
 
-7 # Secular Humanist 2012-09-09 20:38
Unfortunately, while I am happy to be enlightened by some of what Ms. Wolf is telling us, and while I agree with much of what I already was aware, I have to take issue with a few of her statements.

Start with "...female sexuality, and the vagina in particular, have been controlled, abused, targeted, derided and shamed." She makes this assertion as if it were a self-evident truth. I will grant that there are corners of the Western World where some of this may be happening (and I concede there are ongoing attempts by a few to control procreation options), but in most of it one would have to look hard to find examples of vaginal targeting, targeting (whatever that means), abuse, derision or shame. Certainly most males find the vagina and almost everything to be a most admirable body part.

Second, "The dopamine loop...explains why some cultures practice cliterodectomy and infibulations.. .." Sorry, I just can't buy that the few non-western cultures that engages (or still engage) in these ancient and barbaric practices are so sophisticated as to have the slightest grasp of the neurochemical interrelationsh ips Ms. Wolf is reporting our science is only now beginning to understand.
 
 
-2 # brux 2012-09-10 13:29
i am a male and objectively, there is no no doubt about it, you should not even try to attack that or defend your position.

the complexity is in what that means and how to parse it and perceive it, and then react to it. what does it mean ?
 
 
+5 # NoCircRN 2012-09-11 12:40
The cultures that circumcise (both men and women) know that it decreases sexual pleasure and that is the goal. If the man or woman is denied whole genitals, they are denied normal and natural sexual relations. Sophistication is not needed when the goal is control and harm.
 
 
-1 # brux 2012-10-01 22:18
male and female circumcision are completely different things, putting them both together in the same sentence is really nonsensical.
 
 
-9 # Secular Humanist 2012-09-09 20:45
Finally (though I could go on), I don't know where Ms. Wolf finds the "repressive patriarchal silence." she decries. The scientists have been reporting. Science writers chose their subjects and a Web search shows Ms. Wolf has had no trouble getting her interpretation of that science out there.

To agree while disagreeing, I doubt any thinking person would argue that any rape is nonviolent, even if not physically violent. It's just that I'm not sure where she was trying to go with that line of argument or the point in doing so with respect to vaginal neurophysiology . I think I smell an agenda that reaches into and comes close to debauching science to find rational to satisfy its needs.
 
 
-3 # Secular Humanist 2012-09-09 21:29
Celeste makes a number of comments on this story and is no doubt well qualified to remark on matters psychological (she's an astrologer per her profile, and most con artists are proficient at applied psychology). However, when she considers speaking to matters of science, I propose that she would do well to stick to her astrology. In addition (in my opinion), invoking spirituality and the teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh (a homophobe, bioterrorist, mass misogynist, and con man extraordinaire ) has no place in a discussion of scientific findings.
 
 
+2 # Celeste 2012-09-10 12:36
Where is it that you saw any correlation between my profile and posts? And who are you to judge me?

What are your bona fides, RF Beltran, that you wish to expunge the value of Ms. Wolfe's work by suggesting that her motive is anti-science, which it clearly is not.
 
 
0 # Texan 4 Peace 2012-09-09 22:14
Seems to me this essay would be much more accurate if most instances of "vagina" were replaced with the word "clitoris."
 
 
+7 # amy jo 2012-09-10 09:55
Take a look at our schools, where women have long dominated and been the primary shapers of our young males. Schools are designed for girls and girls do much better there. In our northern Illinois school district, girls started passing up boys in every area a few years ago --since funding was approved in the 90's to focus on programs for girls. Now girls surpass boys not only in language skills (where they always did better) but now also in math and science. Boys are pathologized for being boys and having too much energy to sit in (grade school)classes designed by women. Boys are forced to read before biologically ready (and often come to hate school) Boys are also over-represente d in special education and all disciplinary programs.

Woman have a little more power than we like to admit. (I am a women by the way and sympathetic to many womens' issues) But since seeing my son suffer in school, I'd like to see the broader and more truthful story be told.

Males have always been the ones sacrificed in battle and the tough corporate world. They die longer and they are not coddled as children. Men are not as good at speaking up and saying these truths. Again, women are verbally gifted and get their message out. Sorry to complicate the pro-woman narrative.
 
 
+6 # hammermann 2012-09-10 10:28
Much of his seems obvious- any decent lover knows here are multiple centers of pleasure, and a tangle of nerve endings in women, and their sexual response is quite different from us. But, come on, dopamine is a feminist chemical- you want to appropriate my neurotransmitte rs? Of course there is a direct brain connection- all pleasure is based in the brain, and sex causes deep changes in mood, contentment, bonding, confidence.. and all this applies to men too. Afterglow sure, we aren't all 5 minute machines: I've had girls who just wanted to fk and run, and I never saw them again- that's not what it's supposed to be about. Men aren't just walking diks, like pop science or nonsense feminism makes out- as one girl said to me once, "You forget there's a man attached." TRS has some points- Wolff is a bit of a dellitente, a a brilliant self-promoter but I see no problem in a book about vagina's- after all, they hold the secrets of the universe.

Agree w Pumpkin- circumcision is a barbaric religious practice that should be a crime, yet the gutless AMA? just recommended it, based on bullshit studies of AIDS transmission in Africa... duh where people don't wash much in nice purified water (60% the places to wash will give you diseases or parasites). If a man washes daily or after sex, convinced there is no added risk- but this was a sop to the religions that somehow foisted this on the Western world (only US does it routinely- in Europe it's unusual).
 
 
+9 # hammermann 2012-09-10 10:29
Note 50% of US doctors are Jewish, which may have much to do with circumcision's alleged efficacy... but it is genital mutilation, as clearly as clitorectomies are. A knife without the sheath becomes dull and damaged.
 
 
+9 # brux 2012-09-10 10:40
I appreciate Naomi Wolf's vagina rant, but as usual anyone who knows a little science often uses it to make pretenses like now we understand everything.

The reason people deserve rights, respect, justice is not because of anything we find in science that can be popularly turned into a essay, but because of the basic ideals of fairness and justice that should be ... SHOULD BE ... inculcated into all of us when we are born and socialized into society.

it is not our penises or vaginas that make us human, it is our brains and bodies, and most of all culture.

the problem is that it is so profitable and easy for those rights to be taken away and used for the benefit of whatever group that can manage to trick and oppress us.

what we really need to be doing is to teach people how to be conscious and thoughtful and reflective of treating others like they would like to be treated themselves. we don't do this practically anywhere in the world, we hardly even try, and most of the effort is to lie about it.
 
 
+2 # Activista 2012-09-10 15:13
Thanks Naomi Wolf for another systemic observation and brilliant conclusion. Yes - body is psychosomatic - MUCH more complex than mechanistic (surgery) solutions what our Medical Schools teach.
(this is true for animals also - was able to recover my dog from cruciate injury to take care of her mind and body via swimming exercise.
30 years ago in American Medical Association journals "doctors" were disputing that stress can cause high blood pressure ...
Everything is psychosomatic ... cutting body by knife is VERY PROFITABLE ($50K for bypass surgery in New York ..) but in 80% NOT needed ...
 
 
+2 # worldviewer 2012-09-10 15:48
This article doesn't go far enough. It divorces sex from relationship. Sex triggers oxytocin--a bonding hormone. It's most effective in an ongoing, meaningful relationship. Casual sex is like a drug--very exciting, but superficial--ca sual sex thwarts the deeper feelings that sex reinforces within a relationship with bonding.
Boo to you.
 
 
+3 # Activista 2012-09-10 19:32
"studies show that 30-40% of western women self-report "hypoactive sexual desire". In other words, they are just not that into it, probably because they are not having reliably good enough experiences with it"
do you think that "there is an ongoing, meaningful relationship" between man and woman without healthy sex? Casual sex is schizophrenic in the long run (and profitable to our "sexy/money culture"). I am not American, lived in the different cultures and nowhere is population bombarded by SEX - and sex/drugs is as schizophrenic/b ad as in USA.
Wonder what culture has invented and using Viagra (Viagra Helps to Raise Pfizer Profits 38% ...)of course half of Insurance cover it - and there is NO dental insurance in Medicare. Sick Money Culture.
 
 
+1 # Ma Tsu 2012-09-10 23:35
Patriarchy, dears, it's a ten thousand year old game and it has run its course. How would I know? This article (and thousands of other like it) tells me so.
See 'The Chalice and the Blade' by Riane Eisler, anything by her pal Maria Gimbutas or Eve Darling of the National Optimists Party.
And finally, our species is designed to seek pleasure an avoid pain. Seek, sisters, seek!
 
 
+17 # Brazford 2012-09-11 07:24
As a man, I'd like to say that female orgasm is the sexiest thing in the world to me. Add love, and deep heartfelt intimacy, and the mixture becomes divine. I do not want power over this! I have many men friends who I think would agree with me. I think men, and their attitudes, can get lumped together in discussions like this. There are many of us out here who love and appreciate women and their bodies and their orgasms, their powerful connections to their hearts and compassion. We have much to learn from you. We love you!
 
 
+3 # charleswesleydemarco 2012-09-12 15:25
Ms. Wolf is right about the facts, in the main. I have serious worries about her conclusions regarding value and culture, however. She writes, “It was liberating to me to witness in his lab how obvious it was that evolution . . . had so valued female desire. It put the issue beyond the contested realm of culture and value judgments. As he put it, his lab rats had never heard themselves be called "sluts".” Nor have male lab rats heard themselves called ‘cheaters’ or ‘players.’ Evolutionary psychology suggests that human males are hard wired for promiscuity and females hard wired to ‘nest.’ (Remember that the lust-sex system, burning testosterone, is distinct from the pair-bonding child-rearing system burning dopamine; the attachment system fueled by oxytocin is a third.) Males mainly like clear skin, good teeth, and the right hip-to-waist ratio. Women tend to like square jaws (a ‘truthful signal’ of high testosterone), except when ovulating, when they prefer rounder faces. Such facts are hardly liberating. The notion that evolutionary psychology will sweep away repression along with the need for decisions of value strikes me as naïve at best, fashionable though it is at present. Rather than putting the issue “beyond the contested realm of culture and value judgments,” we need to make better and more humane judgments, with the best science in plain view. We need good science about our evolutionary endowment, quite often, to know just what we should resist!
 
 
+1 # youngexec 2012-09-13 16:42
Cultures have sought to regulate women's sexuality for the same reason economies seek to regulate banks... look what happens when you don't!

The underlying myth of female sexual "empowerment" is the notion that women don't grossly abuse and misuse sex when their "freedom" has no checks and balances.
 
 
-1 # shraeve 2012-09-23 04:50
90% of women reached orgasm when their clitoris and g-spot were stimulated at the same time - in lab conditions with strangers!

So much for the myth that women need bonding or commitment or romance in order to have a sexual response.
 

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