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The vagina: gates to paradise

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To rewrite the history of femininity: the US cultural journalist Naomi Wolf set herself this immodest goal in her latest book "Vagina". Wolf, a controversial "third generation feminist" who is always good at controversy, assumes in her work, which was published in English in 2012 and in German this week, that the role of the vagina in female sexuality has so far been wrong because it has been underestimated.

Undetected neural network

The latest scientific findings have shown the existence of a hitherto unrecognized neural network between the female pelvis and the female brain, which allows the role of female sexuality to appear in a new light. On this basis, Wolf drafts a cultural-historical outline of how the vagina was and is represented in antiquity, in the history of the Judeo-Christian cultural area up to our supposedly sexually liberal times.

An appreciative counter-model

Disparaging and devaluing representations of the vagina, according to Wolf, not only shape the self-perception of women, but are also an instrument of power in order to master the stubbornness of women: "The fall of our species lies in the abandonment of the tradition of worshiping the feminine and of female sexuality and of everything that sexuality meant to us. " Wolf's book ends with an appreciation of the tantric philosophy, which she sees as an appreciative counter-model. "Vagina" was partly acclaimed and partly violently torn by the critics, not untypical for books by this author. We document two longer excerpts below.

"It is justified to say that the vagina sends signals to the brain during sexual intercourse, which produce consciousness. This bundle of living nerve cords in the female pelvis - which communicates so intimately with the brain via the spinal cord with its cocktail of messenger substances - triggers the secretion opioids and oxytocin after orgasm, which causes us physical pain when we fall in love with someone, which is why women at climax enter this uninhibited, uncontrollable trance that affects different areas of the brain.

From the pelvis to the brain

Although the network that runs through our clitoris, vulva and vagina is so delicate, it is incredibly powerful: the orgasmic pleasure that is generated there sends messages to our brain that have the power to control our menstrual and hormonal cycle to make us more or less fertile, to calm ourselves down just by the smell of our partner or to let us get wet when we are ensnared.

Conversely, the brain also sends signals to the clitoris, vulva and vagina to tell them when the right moment and situation has come to get wet, blush, climax and create a bond. This network has so much influence on all affected body systems that when we are sexually neglected - or sexually neglected ourselves if we don't have a partner - the messages that are sent from there via the spinal cord to the brain, and the hormonal responses in the brain can make us depressed and even increase the risk of injury and heart attacks.

This network continuously sends moods, sensations and emotions to our brain and from our brain to our skin. It is not the vagina itself, but this network of nerves that makes us feel much of what we feel; that makes every woman shudder at another touch; which lets the female consciousness flow as well as these messages flow through the nerve tract - in a flow that is reinforced by the cyclical nature of female sexual appetite. If femininity had a permanent place, I would say that it sits there: in that internal electrical network that extends from the pelvis to the brain.

Human Sexual Response model

This neural pathway explains why the image we have of female sexuality is so often wrong. Since the sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson published their model of the 'Human Sexual Response' based on their studies of the orgasm of men and women under laboratory conditions in 1966, our culture has this model of the sexual response with arousal phase, plateau phase, orgasm phase and recovery phase, the they have described and that - according to the authors - is very similar in men and women, accepted.

Her conclusion on the vagina is: 'It must be noted, by the way, that the natural or artificial vagina reacts to sexual stimulation with a basic pattern, regardless of the starting point of the stimulation (...)' - a view that has been suggested by recent research the facts are oversimplified. Even today, our culture tends to portray the sexual response of men and women as developing analogously or in parallel, even if it has accepted that some women can have more orgasms with a shorter 'refractory phase' in between than men can need.

In fact, this model of human sexuality was viewed as particularly liberal - after all, it admits sexual needs to women as well as men - and fitted very well with the pleasant notion of the second wave of feminism and the sexual revolution that women, at least in the sexual field, 'just like Men 'were.

Vagina and brain are inseparable

The Masters and Johnson model is now considered too reductive when it comes to us women. Recent research - including that of Rosemary Basson, a doctor at the University of British Columbia, Irv Binik at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and Barry R. Komisaruk at Rutgers University in New Jersey - confirm that there are many varieties in women this basic model, which is far too simply laid out by today's standards, exists. It is more accurate to assume, based on recent research, that while female sexuality may have some superficial analogies with male sexuality, additional levels of experience and sensation often play a role.

Indeed, female sexuality is very far removed from a purely female variety of what has traditionally been called 'sex', often from a male perspective. Research is increasingly realizing that the vagina and brain cannot be viewed separately from one another: Basson discovered that the subjectively felt arousal of women must also be measured in the head, not just in the body.

Cultural perception of the vagina

I came to the conclusion that, with the exception of a few healers, teachers, and practitioners, despite all of our 'sexual liberation', we are pressing the vagina into sexual ideologies that are basically anything but liberating, but only newer, 'hipster' or 'erotic' 'Are forms of long-standing enslavement and control. So we deliberately ignore the true role and dimension of the vagina. I came to the conclusion that the vagina is not nearly as free in the West today as we are led to believe - because its role is completely misunderstood, and partly because it is not shown the necessary respect. "

“The cultural perception of the vagina shapes the female brain. So if a woman hears for a lifetime that her vagina is referred to as a 'gaping wound' or 'slit', that perception of her vagina will neurally anchor itself in her brain; she listens to it regularly called 'Jadetor', the brain and perception are shaped accordingly by this more sensitive metaphor.

The most holy temple

In the Chinese Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) or in India in the 5th or in Japan in the 13th century, when the vagina was considered the most holy place in the most holy temple of a holy universe, that also summed up female brain the vagina as sacred. When the culture of medieval Europe branded the vagina during the witch hunts as the playground of the devil and gateway to hell, a woman may have felt ashamed to her core.

A woman in Elizabethan England, where the vagina was described as a 'hole', may have felt emptiness or worthlessness inside; and according to Freud, when culture, at least in Germany, England and America, made vaginal excitability a test of femininity, women may perceive themselves as inadequately feminine. If the culture to which a woman belongs - as is the case today in the high-gloss sexual athletics of the West - conveys the ideal image of the vagina as the producer of multiple orgasms that can be called up at the push of a button, the woman will feel that she is subject to constant scrutiny cannot exist.

One of ten million openings available

If mass culture presents each vagina as just one of ten million available openings, as in today's porn industry, a woman will perceive herself as interchangeable, worthless and anything but sacred in her sexual nature. All of this does not only take place on the surface: such perceptions arise at the level of the neural synapses. The female brain exhibits physical changes over time in response to these types of repetitive impulses in the woman's environment. These triggers also affect self-confidence and the ability to hope.

In a lecture I give regularly about female sexuality, I always ask the women present to remember the first words they heard about their vagina when they were fourteen or fifteen when they passed or through a construction site the streets ran. I can literally feel the deep discomfort of around eight hundred women who are simultaneously reminding themselves where they were when they first heard someone say, `` Sit on my face '' or: `` Bring your thing '' at the transition to womanhood. 'How did that feel?' I ask her. 'Have you perhaps asked yourself: Is that me, that shameless - or vulgar - thing?'

And in this mood, in which the injuries can still be felt, I have the pleasure of reading you a list of other terms for vagina from other cultures. 'Golden lotus flower', I read from the love poetry of the Chinese Han or Ming dynasty, 'fragrant arbor', 'gates to paradise', 'precious pearl'. Chinese Taoists are just as poetic: Taoist texts refer to the vagina as' heavenly gate ',' red ball ',' hidden place ',' jade door 'or' jade gate, 'mysterious valley', 'mysterious gate' and 'treasure'.

Different categories

In sacred tantric texts vaginas are divided into different categories, but all of them are loving: the chitrini-yoni (the yoni of an "artistic woman") is' round and soft and becomes easily and quickly moist, with little pubic hair. Their love juice is said to be extraordinarily hot, smell sweet and taste like honey. ' The Hastini yoni 'is wide and deep and likes extensive clitoral stimulation'. The yoni of the Padmini ('lotus woman') is' like a flower, loves sunlight - so it wants to be viewed in daylight - and the caresses of strong hands. Their juices have the scent of a freshly blooming lotus flower. ' Shankhini's yoni (the 'magic' or 'shell woman') is 'always wet (...), covered with a lot of hair and (...) loves to be kissed and licked'.

The Hindu vagina image sometimes refers to a vagina-spirit connection that the West sought to disguise: a Hindu synonym for vagina is the 'lotus of their wisdom'. 'What if it were the same everywhere?' I ask my audience. 'What if the words you heard as girls and young women had given you - in the most intimate, sexual sense - an image of yourself as a source of wisdom, a precious, fragile treasure?' A reverent and appreciative language about one's own sexuality would not only make women more sexually open, but also enable them to move around the world with even greater creativity, strength and connectedness. (...)

Language is powerful. As Virginia Woolf says about another kind of arousal, namely the intellectual: 'You cannot think well, love well, sleep well if you have not had a good dinner. The light in the spinal cord doesn't ignite from beef and prunes. ' By that she meant that the body and the imagination are interrelated, and she was right.

An anti-erotic word

In our culture, the sexual imagination of the female body has to be content with linguistically poorer explosives: Even the word vagina itself is difficult to say. With its annoying busy V and the unsatisfactorily soft G, it is, so to speak, an anti-erotic word. If you think of vagina in our culture (or search for it in Google or Amazon), you get cool and repulsive medical word compositions ('vaginal herpes', 'vaginal discharge') or other, not exactly inspiring hits from the health sector ('vaginal tone') . At the other end of the association spectrum, there is nothing but porn.

It is almost impossible to feel your essence as an exciting, mysterious, profound and multi-layered woman on a daily basis when the language around the center of our being comes across as shabby or medicalized, hostile or with derogatory hardcore terms. We are a long way from honey and mussels among modern writers. On the website Onlineslangdictionary.com, a collection of slang expressions, the following brutal terms can be found for vagina: 'ax wound', 'ax wound', 'open wound' and 'wounded soldier'. The query for slang expressions for vagina on Yahoo.com resulted in the violent-sounding English words 'hole', 'gash' (gaping wound), 'slit' (slot) and so on.

Associations with meat

It is striking how many of the slang expressions mentioned by young men have to do with meat - brutal images of meat being prepared for consumption, such as in 'butcher's buckets' (in which unusable meat waste ends up), or of other, inferior industrial- or junk food meat as a consumer product. This slang suggests that young men of today who are influenced by the West do not equate vaginas with dark magic as they did in the past, nor with their maliciously insulting associations; instead, most of the terms evoke inferior junk food, mass-produced goods and are not particularly emotionally charged.

Does this shift have to do with the way in which the vagina is depicted in pornography, as a 'sausage case'? Does it have to do with how pornography is done - in mass units, like junk food - or with how sex is presented in pornography, namely as fast and replaceable, like junk food? And with the way in which pornography is consumed - especially by this generation that has experienced sexual initiation with it - namely casually and regularly? "(DER STANDARD, May 4th / 5th, 2013)

Naomi Wolf, "Vagina. A Story of Femininity." Translation from English by Barbara Imgrund, Gabriele Gockel and Karola Bartsch. Copyright 2012: Naomi Wolf. Rowohlt-Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg 2013