If you follow Dr. Jen Gunter on Twitter, you know that she rarely takes prisoners in dealing with the forced birth cadre, those who sell overpriced and useless products aimed at women, and run-of-the-mill misogynists. Her tone is more measured in The Vagina Bible, but you won’t come away from reading this book with any doubt about her medical knowledge or what she thinks about the value of the clitoris, the idiocy of jade eggs for your vagina, and how to choose a contraceptive.
In fact, as the blurb from Ayelet Waldman puts it on the cover, “Buy this book if you have a vagina or if you spend any time at all in reasonably close proximity to one.”
For example, here’s her take on the clitoris:
The clitoris has one purpose: sexual pleasure. It is the only structure in the human body solely designed for pleasure.
Think about that for a minute. I don’t recall any doctor ever telling me that the sole reason we have a clitoris is to have a good time. And once we understand that, we can also understand that women have the right to sexual pleasure.
Gunter doesn’t just talk about these issues as if they only apply to cis-gendered women. Her discussions of periods in trans men and surgical issues for trans women are examples of how this book includes everyone with a vagina.
Nor is the book only for the young: Her discussion of menopause and GSM (genitourinary syndrome of menopause) is as thorough as her discussion of contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.
I found it interesting that most serious issues with menopause affect about fifty percent of people. As someone who found menopause, even during the hot flash phase, much less annoying than a menstrual cycle, I am glad to learn that my experience is not out of the ordinary. Those who are having problems will be equally glad to know there are some good solutions.
This book covers things I never even knew existed, such as vulvodynia, which appears to be a nerve pain that doesn’t have an obvious physical cause. It can include pain with sex. There are treatments, but it can be difficult to get a diagnosis. That makes the book’s discussion of this very practical for the 8 to 15 percent of women who have or have had this condition.
Because Gunter’s discussion of sex assumes that there’s nothing wrong with engaging in it, she is very practical about sexually transmitted diseases as well as discomfort that can arise with sex. She points out the value of the HPV vaccine, noting that anyone who has sex is likely to be exposed to this virus. Her discussion about HIV protection takes into account that some women can be at risk of sexual exposure and that trans men may also be at risk.
There is useful advice on pregnancy and childbirth, and on whether and how to remove unwanted hair.
The only thing I wish this book had discussed more thoroughly were the pain and other symptoms some of us have with menstrual cycles. (She discusses tampons and other menstrual products thoroughly.) While menstrual discomfort is not directly related to the vagina (unlike the use of tampons), it is a close enough topic and also one on which there is a great deal of misinformation.
As a teenager, I didn’t have the language to explain the misery that accompanied my period that went beyond “cramps,” which were actually only a small part of the problem. Explaining any more than that to a male doctor who didn’t ask the right questions was beyond my ability. I needed help with this.
But that’s my only complaint about this book. Follow Waldman’s advice and buy this book if you have a vagina or spend time around one. You’ll be glad you did.