I was expecting the book to be both well written and well researched but what I was not expecting to uncover from a book that might be considered either 'mainstream' or 'liberal' depending upon your particular viewpoint, chapters which provided an insight into the reason why women experience such a complete and utter loss of self-identity and creativity when we experience sexual abuse, trauma or chronic pelvic pain in all of its many forms (IC, vulvodynia, pudendal (pelvic ) nerve pain). Scientifically speaking women are wired differently than men in that we have nerve bundles that attach to the spinal cord and send pleasure or pain signals to the brain. Whenever chronic pain or trauma occurs within the vaginal area for women we lose our sense of 'self', our creativity is blocked and we begin to feel incredibly depressed. What is the science behind this? For a healthy woman who can enjoy a healthy sexual life with orgasms, the constant flood of oxytocin and other pleasurable chemicals released from the brain perpetuate feelings of love and creativity for women.
I personally experienced the pain of IC, vulvodynia and pain during and after sexual intercourse for many years. When I look through my journals during this time I often wrote about myself in third person and felt that if I could not be a 'normal' woman who was able to enjoy my sexuality that I felt almost asexual. I no longer enjoyed all of the creative outlets such as writing for pleasure, reading, gardening, etc. Wolf's research in this book solidify that loss of identity and creativity has been scientifically proven within in lab studies. Wolf's personal experience with a crisis within her pelvic area (spoiler alert) occurred when she noticed a change in the quality of her orgasms and found out through many doctor visits that she had a pinched pudendal nerve stemming from a childhood birth defect spina bifida. Fortunately for Wolf, after surgery and the use of a brace and other techniques she was eventually able to repair her pinched pudendal nerve and experience the same creatively enhancing orgasms that she thought were lost forever.
Wolf's experience of loss of her creativity due to a change in her orgasms ultimately caused her to examine very thoroughly how chronic pain within the vagina could affect a woman long term. Two special things to note: Wolf's OB/GYN that compassionately helped her to uncover what was possibly wrong and then sent her to see a specialist is Dr. Deborah Coady who, I must point out, will be guest speaking at the Alliance for Pelvic Pain in Pennsylvania next month! (Please see some of my other more recent blog posts about this event.) The interview that Wolf conducts with Dr. Coady in this book were so well written that I found myself crying throughout an entire chapter as Dr. Coady (as well her assistant Nancy Fish who is herself a vulvodynia sufferer and maintains her own practice to help women suffering from chronic pelvic pain conditions) both explain the severe and debilitating depression that women experience while suffering from chronic pelvic pain issues. As Fish explains in the book "All of them feel depressed. All of them have depression."
This book is important on so many levels and I applaud Wolf's foray into addressing all of the areas about the vagina including society's ever-changing views about the vagina, how health as well as severe pain within the vagina can affect a woman psychologically but in ways that are scientifically based, and how the role that supportive partners and medical doctors and practitioners can play in a woman's understanding of her vagina. As an IC and pelvic pain sufferer turned advocate I highly recommend this book. Thank you Naomi Wolf.