This is a section from Tamara Cohen’s interview with Wolf in The daily Mail
When making love started to leave her cold, feminist writer Naomi Wolf felt depressed and confused.
But searching for answers lead to a startling discovery that the female orgasm is not necessarily down to experience, upbringing or a lover’s skill – experts believe it is all to do with a woman’s internal wiring.
After enjoying a satisfying sex life throughout her 30s, the best-selling author of ‘The Beauty Myth’ has told in a new book how she slowly became aware she was losing the ‘vitality’ she had once felt.
Her relationship with her partner of two years, however, still gave her ‘great emotional and physical happiness’.
Miss Wolf, 46, said: ‘To my astonishment and dismay, while my orgasms were as strong and pleasurable as ever, something very different was happening after sex, to my mind.
The American academic researched her condition but found no explanation for the loss of sensation until she visited New York gynaecologist Dr Deborah Coady.
Dr Coady told her it could be a problem with the pelvic nerve – her area of expertise – being compressed and causing numbness.
Some pelvic nerves originate in the clitoris, others from the vagina and cervix, and branch out, via the pudendal nerve to the base of the spinal cord.
Miss Wolf said: ‘All of the complexity, I would learn later, gives women several different areas in their pelvis from which orgasms can be produced, and all of these connect to the spinal cord and up to the brain.’
She was referred to Dr Jeffrey Cole, an expert in muscular-skeletal medicine who x-rayed her back and found a crumbling of her vertebrae, even though she had never experienced pain or back problems.
Scans showed two of her lower back vertebrae – L6 and S1 – had been jolted out of alignment so only half of each stack of vertebrae touched each other.
Naomi Wolf said she felt she was losing what made her a woman. She could not face living with a loss of sensation
It turned out she had been born with a mild version of spina bifida, a condition which stops the vertebrae developing properly.
Unaware of it, her fragile vertebrae were further damaged by a fall in a department store in her 20s, from which she thought she was unhurt.
Over the years, her spinal column drifted further out of alignment around the injury and was now compressing one branch of the pelvic nerve – that terminated in the vaginal canal. The branch to her clitoris was intact.
Dr Cole told her: ‘All women’s wiring is different. That’s the reason women respond so differently from one another sexually. The pelvic nerve branches in very individual ways for every woman. These differences are physical’.
He added that men’s sexual wiring is much more uniform.
Miss Wolf told the Sunday Times: ‘I almost fell off my chair in astonishment…neural wiring? Not culture, not upbringing, not patriarchy, not feminism, not Freud?…’
‘It presented the obvious suggestion that anyone could learn about her own, or his or her partner’s particular neural variant as such, and simply master the patterns of the special way it worked.’
She went through a painful four-hour surgery to re-fuse the vertebrae which involved putting a 17 inch metal plate with attached metal joints into her lower back.
It was three months before she was allowed to make love again – but the sensations in her pelvis returned.
She said: ‘Slowly, but steadily as internal sensation reawakened, as the ‘blended’ clitoral and vaginal orgasms that I had been used to returned to me, sex became emotional for me again.
‘Sexual discovery for me was like that transition in the Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy goes from black-and-white Kansas to colourful, magical Oz.
‘Gradually I re-experienced the sense of deep emotional union, of post-coital creative euphoria, of joy with oneself and one’s lover…and the sense that all was well in some existential way, that I thought I had lost for ever.’
American author Naomi Wolf made her name with The Beauty Myth, a book that exposed the tyranny of the ideal of female beauty. Now she’s back with a no less dramatic or controversial new work. In Vagina: A New Biography Wolf makes the case that the vagina is much more than a sex organ – it is integral to female well-being, and a catalyst to female creativity, confidence and identity.
In this talk for Intelligence Squared she’ll be explaining how the latest neuroscience reveals fascinating new discoveries about the vagina and female wellbeing, and discussing sexual relationships, pornography, history and literature. She will show how men can learn more about ‘what women really need’, and how women can experience themselves in a new way.
How helpful is it to know about the physical intricacies of Naomi Wolf‘s Technicolor orgasms? In extreme detail? In her new book, Vagina: A New Biography, out next week, Wolf says that when it’s going right, there’s a “post-coital rush of a sense of vitality infusing the world, of delight with myself and with all around me.” Blimey. I’ll have what she’s having.
Following surgery to correct vertebrae problems in her lower back, she found that “sexual discovery for me was like that transition in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy goes from black-and-white Kansas to colourful, magical Oz.” Wow. You can already feel the earth moving. It’s a stampede of women rushing to the nearest osteopath to get their spinal cords checked.In one sense the wealth of detail about the pudendal nerve, the clitoral branch and the “blended orgasm” is most useful. Woolf’s account is certainly informative. And far more factually accurate and entertaining than all that nonsense with love balls and Christian-Grey-flavoured popsicles which has dominated the world of International Sex News over the past six months thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey.
“Slowly, but steadily as internal sensation reawakened,” she writes. “As the ‘blended’ clitoral and vaginal orgasms that I had been used to returned to me, sex became emotional for me again.” “Blended” orgasms? Is there a recipe book for that?
The trouble is, Wolf has now introduced – unintentionally, I’m sure – a truly horrific element of competition. It’s not easy to live up to anyone’s description of their biggest and best climax. Are your orgasms Wizard of Oz-strength? Or are they more of a Toto-style whimper or a Tin Man creak? And are you getting your blend right? It’s all about the blend, sweetie!
Confusingly, the “blended” orgasm usually refers to a combination of clitoral and G-spot stimulation. A vaginal orgasm is generally assumed to mean the same as a G-spot orgasm. (Can you tell that I have had to look this up?) It was Freud who first suggested there were two types of orgasm, classing the clitoral one, hilariously, as “immature and inferior” and the vaginal one as “mature and feminine.” Later, in the 1960s, sex researchers Masters and Johnson proved that most of their subjects could achieve clitoral orgasm but only a minority experienced vaginal orgasm. Lucky enough to get two for the price of one? Treat yourself to some ruby slippers.
There is a cringeworthy sense of too much information here. In a well-meant attempt to demystify the female orgasm and the clitoris with its 8,000 nerve endings, Wolf seems to have achieved the opposite effect. All this talk of vertebra alignment, muscular-skeletal specialists and the vaginal canal is most offputting.
Inevitably her candid account has already caused her to be misquoted and misrepresented across the globe. “Naomi Wolf says surgery can help women achieve orgasms.” No, she doesn’t. She is writing about how her own back surgery affected her own sex life. It’s not the same thing.
Worst of all, it may well prove counter-productive to make anyone think that the female orgasm is rocket science. We don’t want people protesting that they’re not qualified to participate in this event without a PhD in anatomy. Anyone can get involved. Just follow the Yellow Brick Road. Don’t mind the munchkins.
The talk is being held by Intelligence Squared, the world’s premier forum for debate and intelligent discussion. The date is Thursday September 6, 7pm at The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BS 020 7409 2992. You can can buy tickets from the website here. See you all there!