Vagina | Lynn Enright

Summary of: Vagina: A Re-education
By: Lynn Enright


Embark on a journey of discovery and dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding women’s sexual health in Lynn Enright’s enlightening book, ‘Vagina: A Re-education’. This summary highlights the flaws of sex education worldwide, emphasizes the importance of proper understanding of the female anatomy, and uncovers the historical repression and mistreatment of women’s sexuality. Learn about the lack of research on female sexual health, explore the difference between the vulva and vagina, and discuss the cultural and societal factors that contribute to the ongoing mystery around female pleasure and orgasms.

The Importance of Comprehensive Sex Education

The historical demonization and persecution of midwives in the Middle Ages is still affecting women’s healthcare in present-day. Many sex education programs in English-speaking countries focus solely on contraception without providing accurate information on anatomy, LGBTQ+ sex and relationships, consent, and women’s pleasure. Without proper education, women’s health is endangered, and misinformation continues to perpetuate. However, the Netherlands has a thriving sex education system that is sex-positive and aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of sex and relationships to children as young as four. This approach has led to lower pregnancy rates and a healthier understanding of sexual activity among Dutch teens compared to their American counterparts.

Understanding the Female Anatomy

The vulva is not the same thing as the vagina, and understanding the female anatomy is key to combat the misinformation about women’s health and sexuality.

It’s common to hear people interchangeably use the terms “vulva” and “vagina,” but they are not the same thing. The vulva is a part of the female anatomy that includes the clitoris, the mons pubis, the inner and outer labia, and the vaginal and urethral openings. The vaginal opening is not just a hole; it is a muscular tube with two walls that can expand immensely and is enclosed and self-cleaning.

Self-consciousness and misinformation about the female anatomy are common among women of all ages. For example, many are concerned about the length of their inner labia, but a 2018 Swiss study showed the range to be from 2 to 10 cm. The clitoris, on the other hand, is the only organ in the human body whose sole function is to provide sexual pleasure and arousal.

The inner sex organs, including the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, play critical roles in the reproductive system. The uterus is the source of menstrual blood and expands dramatically during pregnancies. Its opening, the cervix, is a tiny hole through which menstrual blood or seminal fluid can pass. On either side of the uterus are the ovaries, which store and mature eggs, and also produce hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.

It is essential to learn about the female anatomy, in all its complexity, to combat widespread misinformation about women’s health and sexuality. By doing so, we can shed light on issues surrounding self-image, reproductive health, and sexual enjoyment.

Hymen Myth Debunked

The author shares her personal experience with the misrepresentation of the hymen and how it has been used to control women’s sexuality. She explains that the hymen is not a reliable indicator of virginity and has no biological function. The belief in its significance stems from a misogynistic agenda to shame and control women. The author also sheds light on the dangerous and harmful practices related to hymen repair.

The Neglected Pleasure Organ

The clitoris is the only organ that exists solely for female pleasure, yet it has been ignored in sex education and scientific research. The minimization of women’s pleasure stems from deep societal inequality and is even seen in the violence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It took until 1993 for urologist Helen O’Connell to discover that the clitoris was much larger than previously believed. Despite this, mainstream education has failed to include such information. The resistance to FGM is growing, but it is still prevalent in 30 countries and has affected approximately 200 million females. Women’s pleasure should be valued and protected with the same care given to male sexual function.

The Female Orgasm Unveiled

The societal misconceptions and shame surrounding the female orgasm cause neglect of its many forms, leading to the “orgasm gap” between the sexes.

For the author, the pursuit of orgasms was a source of shame throughout her life, starting with the secret desire for an orgasm, which was not discussed in school or openly among peers. Despite experimenting with masturbation, the inability to experience an orgasm triggered further shame. Even when achieving orgasms through clitoral stimulation, the author felt shame for not attaining the socially preferred vaginal orgasm.

The root of the problem, the author suggests, lies in the societal idealization of vaginal orgasms propagated through cultures, although unsupported by science. Sigmund Freud’s outdated claim regarding clitoral orgasms’ immaturity further complicates the matter. His theories align with the patriarchal values, putting the focus on male pleasure and deeming female orgasms irrelevant, leading to neglect of the different forms of female orgasms obtaining outside the vagina and triggering the “orgasm gap.”

To close the “orgasm gap,” it is essential to stop categorizing orgasms and focus on educating society about female sexuality and pleasure. A significant study highlights that sexually active heterosexual women experience fewer orgasms than any other demographic, while the unsatisfactory experience with casual partners affects orgasm frequency. It is crucial to discuss the female orgasm’s potential forms and for women to verbalize their pleasure to attain gender equality in sexual satisfaction.

In conclusion, it becomes imperative to talk more openly about female pleasure and move beyond seeing sex from the male perspective, as this understanding may help close the “orgasm gap” between the sexes.

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