This morning I find myself reading yet another review of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography. It’s really quite compelling, not because Wolf’s ideas seem terribly novel but because, if Jenny Turner’s reading is accurate, the work seems so monumentally bad. And I’m tempted to believe she’s right – not only due to that notorious “cuntini” extract, but also because of a rather more positive review from Sarah Vine in the Times (sample quote: “[Wolf] argues, with really quite commendable courage, that being fulfilled as a woman means being treated like a lady. And if that isn’t a radical feminist message I don’t know what is“. You’re right, Sarah. You have no fucking idea what a radical feminist message is).
Obviously Wolf’s work isn’t the only feminist – or “feminist” – engagement with the cunt, and thank heavens for that. Turner’s Guardian review mentions a ton of other books about vaginas, none of which I’ve read (although apparently they’re way better than this current “effort”). The fact that I’d never heard of these books does disconcert me a little. Am I still a proper feminist despite this obvious lack of interest in the political implications of feeling horny? I mean, it’s not that I’m not concerned about efforts to suppress female sexuality and expression. But when it comes to my orgasm and what it means, I really can’t be arsed. Or vagina-d. Or whatever.
It is quite possible that I’m just crap at sex. It’s just never seemed all that important. Take masturbation, for instance. It’s fun ‘n’ all, but for me it’s never had quite the significance ascribed to it in Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, or, um, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. And this marks the sum total of my literary engagement with wanking (beyond reading books written with the sole purpose of making you want to wank, obviously. But they’re just something pleasant, like having a bath, eating a Caramac or drinking that first coffee in the morning. Let’s not get over-excited, at least not in a non-rude way).
I don’t always have an orgasm when having sex. Big fucking deal (or not, as the case may be). It might be because of certain power relations with which I’m not engaging. Or it might be to do with neural wiring (something Wolf seems to consider so revolutionary “[she] almost fell off the exam table in astonishment”. God knows what type of exam that was). It might, on the other hand, to be to do with the fact that sometimes I’m in the ‘rudeness zone’ and at other times my mind’s drifted a bit and I’m worrying about how far overdrawn I am or whether couscous or rice goes best with quorn fillets. I have never felt tempted to explore this in any further detail (perhaps if I came up with a definitive list of which carbohydrate accompaniments go with which protein-based teatime “centrepieces”, that would help. I’ve just not got round to it yet; unfortunately I keep getting distracted by the urge to have a shag).
So does all this make me a bit of a wash-out, feminism- or indeed womanhood-wise? I don’t pass the Naomi Wolf test, nor even the Cosmo test. I’m all for women being able to make their own decisions about sex but I’ll be honest – some of my decisions have been atrocious. Yet I don’t feel remotely outraged about this; at best, I assume I need a more go-to attitude to sex. Or failing that, just more memorable porn (perhaps I should revise, then recollection of the best bits isn’t such a sodding effort). But none of this really seems worth the trouble.
I realise I’m probably missing out. Things could be so much more “technicolour”. But look, it’s first thing in the morning, I’ve got coffee and a Caramac, and I might even run myself a bath. What more could you want? (And yes, who knows, I might even partake of a wank.)