Neuroscience and Female Sexuality: Another Critique of Naomi Wolf’s “Vagina”

Post to Twitter

Here. Below is an excerpt:

Oddly, one of the few places in her book where Wolf gets the science right — in a discussion about the physiology of a clitoral versus vaginal orgasm — quashes the universalizing claims she makes elsewhere in the book. It was a pinched pelvic nerve in Wolf’s spine that apparently prevented her from experiencing vaginal orgasms and a surgical cure of the problem that inspired the book. She notes that her doctor told her, “Every woman is wired differently; some 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.”

Indeed, there is important new research here suggesting that, for example, that the wiring of these nerves affects the types of orgasms women have. Clitoral-focused orgasms seem to rely on one arm of the pudendal nerve, while cervical and some vaginal sensation and related orgasms are linked to the pelvic nerve. As Wolf rightly notes, this knowledge should bring comfort to women who think themselves different or psychologically immature for having the “wrong” kind of orgasm.

Again, however, there is more complexity to the female orgasm than the author conveys. For one, as she does mention, new anatomical data suggests that the clitoris, far from being located only outside the body, actually wraps around the vagina internally. Which means that it, too, can be stimulated from within. “It’s shaped like a wishbone and the tip of the wishbone is the part that is external,” says Barry Komisaruk, professor of psychology at Rutgers and a leading researcher on sexuality. “The rest of it has these two legs that straddle the vagina and during intercourse the penis can actually stretch the vagina to the point where the legs of clitoris are stimulated.” While there are distinct vaginal and clitoral orgasms experienced by many women, the two types of stimulation can also intermingle. Neither is inherently superior, nor required for conception.

Share
This entry was posted in Feminism and Science, Sex and Sexuality. Bookmark the permalink.