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Naomi Wolf: live webchat TODAY, Thursday 6 September, 12pm to 1pm

(410 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 04-Sep-12 15:22:16

Naomi Wolf is joining us for a live webchat on Thursday 6 September at 12 noon. Naomi's latest book, Vagina - A New Biography, has attracted major media attention this month and we're delighted she's joining us to tell us more about the book and answer your questions. 

Described as 'exhilarating and groundbreaking', Vagina combines cultural history, physiology and personal memoir to explore the role of female desire and how it affects female identity, creativity and confidence.

Naomi Wolf is author of seven books including the bestseller, The Beauty Myth. She travels regularly to speak about gender equality and social justice. She lives in New York and is working towards a doctorate at New College, Oxford University. 

Please post your question to Naomi in advance, or set the date in your diary to join us this Thursday at midday to chat to Naomi 'live'.

NormaStanleyFletcher Thu 06-Sep-12 11:05:02

This will be interesting.

I am shock that Naomi wrote that huff post thing using facts gleaned from the daily mail.

I too would be interested in why Assange's worry about a theoretical exradition to the US (they haven't applied for one) trumps the rights of two women to have their case heard.

TunipTheVegemal Thu 06-Sep-12 11:05:57

Justine, I dunno about Naomi being a 'leading feminist' - the media treat her as such but I don't know a lot of feminists who are in any sense led by her - not since The Beauty Myth, at any rate.

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 06-Sep-12 11:12:52

She's a leading feminist like John Redwood is a leading socialist.

Feminism means anything the media says it means, nothing more nothing less. If they want it to mean empowerfulment, that's what it means. If they want it to mean rape apology, that's what it means. If they want it to mean cuntini, that's what it means.

See, even George Galloway is a feminist by the media definition.

Greythorne Thu 06-Sep-12 11:17:33

I feel really conflicted about this.

Naomi Wolf was a hero for many years, I LOVED The Beauty Myth, read all her other books, even the dire Fire with Fire, and generally read her articles with interest and respect.

I admit I have not followed the Assange case closely, but thanks to these links on this thread, I see that Wolf has adopted a very surprising and disappointing stance which seems to have liberal politics trumping feminism.

Naomi - are you willing to rescind your original misinformed article about Swedish law / Assange's case?

How do you feel knowing you have disappointed so many people who by instinct and intellect self identify as feminists (ie a constituency you presumably identify with)?

Greythorne Thu 06-Sep-12 11:19:01

Naomi - what do you think about the DSK debacle?

BlameItOnTheCuervo Thu 06-Sep-12 11:25:03

Fastidiablueberry, I think I love you.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 06-Sep-12 11:26:56


Justine, I dunno about Naomi being a 'leading feminist' - the media treat her as such but I don't know a lot of feminists who are in any sense led by her - not since The Beauty Myth, at any rate.

Well, OK, clearly not everyone would use that description but I think you'd have to concede something like: influential voice on feminist issues - and as such I think she's an obvious webchat guest for Mumsnet.

(And an aside I think we'd probably would be inclined to have George Galloway on MN - we've had Nigel Farage - who better to take him to task than Mumsnetters?)

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 06-Sep-12 11:29:32

Ooh ooh, brilliant, can we have George Galloway, can we, can we?


I bet he'd be too frit to come.

ShirelyKnort Thu 06-Sep-12 11:29:36

PLEASE don't have Galloway on.

<fears for own blood pressure>

TunipTheVegemal Thu 06-Sep-12 11:31:31

smile & fair enough re Galloway, Justine - I remember the Farage webchat fondly.... (and clearly Fastidia here is dying to get at him).
Not sure about 'influential' either, but I take the point that MN invites a range of voices for webchats.

NaomiWolf Thu 06-Sep-12 11:56:59

Hello -- I am glad to be here and have always admired the Mumsnet community. I will be talking about Vagina: A New Biography, which is about the latest neuroscience about women's sexuality and how that relates to their courage and confidence, but I want to clear the air by addressing some issues first.

I want to set straight very strongly and clearly for the record a number of misconceptions that are around in the UK press right now, and that I see reflected in some ways below.

A) I don't 'support Julian Assange' in the sense of defending anything he may be found to have done in terms of accusations of sexual assault. I have -- based on my twenty-three years as a worker in rape crisis centers and battered women's shelters, and as an advocate for women's rights, due process and the rule of law, consistently pointed out -- most recently this week in a globally syndicated column, which is why the UK press' misstatement of my position is indefensible -- that rape victims in Sweden whose assailants are NOT wanted by the US government face underfunded hotlines, brutal neglect by police, the highest rape rates and some of the lowest convictions in Europe -- and that a situation in which the whole world waits for an accused assailant while thousands of injured, traumatized and desperate women are ignored by the same police and prosecutors -- is a terrible miscarriage of justice for RAPE VICTIMS all over the world whose attackers are not pursued in the same way.

I also make the case that the US government is entirely capable of cynically making use of women's issues to pursue its own agenda but that this cooption of this crucial women's issue by my government has no bearing on whatever happened between these people, which should be pursued in a court of law with a single justice system, and with the US government, which cares nothing about the rights of rape victims in this case, not involved. No ALWAYS means No. Having sex with a sleeping partner who is not consenting is ALWAYS legally and morally rape.

No other reporter has called the Swedish Rape Crisis line -- I did because, as a counselor for rape victims, I know these are the only people who really understand what Swedish rape victims go through. They described official neglect or worse, which is what rape victims face from police all over the world.

Over six hundred women in Sweden are waiting fruitlessly for space in shelters, trying to flee violent sexually abusive men. So once again: I am against the hijacking of the rape issue for unrelated government agendas that have nothing to do with justice and the wellbeing of rape victims and I am FOR justice and support for every single rape victim in the world, as my quarter-century advocating on their behalf and supporting them as a volunteer should make clear beyond any doubt. Now I look forward to our discussion.

NaomiWolf Thu 06-Sep-12 12:05:22


Do you agree that the pornification of contemporary society is the biggest challenge facing women, ahead of the pay gap and the glass ceiling?

How should we counter the pornification of society and young people's lives?

This is such a great important question and one especially important for a parents' community, and I especially worry about it as a parent. So the answer is: it is way up there. Studies show that in spite of a hypersexualized culture, with porn everywhere, women's sexual satisfaction and wellbeing is dropping below levels of forty years ago -- this pornification has NOT liberated women.

A third report hypoactive sexual desire, which is losing interest in sex over time. And I show in the book how the 'porn script' of our society can lead to sexual unhappiness for both men and women -- women often feel (especilly young women) rushed and pushed -- to offer more and more extreme kinds of acts that they may not really want for themselves -- and the new data show that men's and women's sexual response (men more quickly) is actually blunted over time because the brain habituates and sometimes addicts to porn, and thus requires more and more extreme stimulation.

So young men and healthy middle aged men are reporting problem with ejaculation or arousal because, as Dr Jim Pfaus puts it, the brain, when men masturbate chronically to porn 'bonds with the porn' instead of a partner.

But why is this issue about more than 'just sex'? Because the amazing discovery that I researched in Vagina is that new neuroscience has found a brain-vagina link that is so strong that scientists are now calling it 'one system' -- so a woman's experiences of her vagina -- good or bad, traumatic or losing interest -- affect her brain directly. The vagina delivers dopamine, opiates and oxytocin which affect women's confidence, creativity, and sense of connection. So damage to the vagina is a way of targeting women.

I have a whole chapter on rape showing that new neuroscience shows that rape -- even 'nonviolent' rape -- is violent in the effects on the brain. There is no such thing as nonviolent rape. So the vagina should be understood as much more than a sex organ and the harm porn can do should be better understood as well.

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 06-Sep-12 12:05:59

So should Assange be extradited so that he can face questions about rape allegations?

What is your actual position on that?

aufaniae Thu 06-Sep-12 12:06:28

Hi Naomi. I saw you on Newsnight, you started to touch on the stuff about the connection between the vagina, nervous system and brain.

Sounded interesting. Please could you let us know a bit about this. Also where did these ideas come from? Are they accepted yet or is this pretty new?

ArtexMonkey Thu 06-Sep-12 12:08:53

It is terrible when rape victims are subjected to police neglect or are disbelieved. Rape victims often find that, just as we think our ordeal is over, it is actually just beginning.

These injustices are compounded by hacky poorly researched articles sneering snidely at them and rewriting their trauma and violation as "personally injured feelings".

Would you agree Naomi?

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 06-Sep-12 12:10:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TunipTheVegemal Thu 06-Sep-12 12:11:03

With respect Naomi, the issue is not the UK press's misrepresentation of your position. Please credit us with more intelligence than this. Our concerns arise from your own words, in articles you wrote and interviews you have given.

NaomiWolf Thu 06-Sep-12 12:11:49


Hi Naomi. I saw you on Newsnight, you started to touch on the stuff about the connection between the vagina, nervous system and brain.

Sounded interesting. Please could you let us know a bit about this. Also where did these ideas come from? Are they accepted yet or is this pretty new?

So so facinating. So when a woman thinks about rewarding sex, fantasizes about it or strategizes to get it, her brain gets a boost of dopamine. This is the ultimate feminist neurotransmitter -- raising her levels of confidence, motivation, goal-orientedness, sociability and so on. When she has a satisfying orgasm, or when her nipples are stimuated, she gets oxytocin -- which is about connection, trust and reading emotions. When she climaxes, too, she gets a boost of opioids, which are about transcendence or bliss, a sense of being 'swept away' -- indeed one Georgiadis study showed that parts of women's brains that are about self-consciousness and self-regulation go quiet in orgasm. So this to me explains why the vagina has been targeted for millennia -- the vagina isn't properly understood just a sex organ, let alone a shameful or porn-y part of women -- it is an essential part of what makes women good leaders, great parents, great thinkers, confident, risk-taking, self-trusting. So when you want to target women you target the vagina. There is tons more amazing discoveries in the book from the latest science that show that our understanding of female sexuality and even anatomy is totally out of date -- I can explain that in another question....

NormaStanleyFletcher Thu 06-Sep-12 12:12:16

The fact that loads of other alleged rapists are not being persued does not seem a good reason not to chase a prosecution for the one who happens to be well known.

pofacedalways Thu 06-Sep-12 12:12:32

Naomi Women Against Rape have also stated publicly that they feel, after so many years of fighting for rape victims' rights that the Assange case is being hijacked for political reasons, largely men who don't usually give a sh*t about the subject. But they have now been called 'anti-women'. However it has also brought out of the woodwork a huge number of those that before one wouldn't have known were apologists for rape, like Galloway and Todd Akin. Surely Assange should go to Sweden and face up to the charges, if he is innocent?

MmeLindor Thu 06-Sep-12 12:13:53

Do you think that the rights of Assange are more important than the rights of two women who accused him of serious sexual assault and rape?

And what does that signal to any woman raped by an important political figure?

Should DSK not have been investigated because of his political standing? Maybe that was a conspiracy too.

This is why it is important that these cases come to trial. Because it is not up to journalists or bloggers to decide, but a judge and jury.

SuperB0F Thu 06-Sep-12 12:14:25

My vagina gets really upset at the thought of rape victims being told they should lose their anonymity sad

mcmooncup Thu 06-Sep-12 12:16:25

So, let's get this straight, it seems you think they should lay off Assange because not every rape victim is privileged with the same political backing?

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 06-Sep-12 12:16:55

My vagina's a bit confused about whether you think Assange should face trial for rape allegations or not, Naomi.

My brain's a bit confused about it as well.

To say nothing of my nipples. They're waiting hopefully for a straight answer to that.

NaomiWolf Thu 06-Sep-12 12:16:56


Have you read Cordelia Fine or Lise Elliot? Because I'm struggling to understand your construction of 'neuroscience' as it appears to have no relationship to the actual research in neuroscience.

So if you go to the notes and bibliograohy, you will see dozens of studies cites, and I also travelled around the world to interview such cutting-edge neuroscientists as Dr Jim Pfaus, Dr Burke Richmond, I explored the MRI studies of Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers and Dr Beverly Whipple who have recently found that if you stimulate women's vaginas, clitorises and cervixes in different ways, different areas light up showing a different emotional response and brain function response. Dr Jim Pfaus allowed me to watch his astonishing studies with rats and female sexual desire, which established its role in mate selection -- he showed that female rats injected with naloxone, that blocked sexual pleasure, remembered and made choices in the future based on their bad or disappointing sexual experiences, compared with the control group that was injected with saline. There is a vast amount of new documentation that has not been widely reported but can be found in PubMed and in academic journals cited in my notes.

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