Vagina Book Summary - Vagina Book explained in key points
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Vagina summary

Lynn Enright

A Re-education

4.2 (134 ratings)
30 mins
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    Sex education curriculums around the world are flawed, which can lead to dire consequences.

    In the Middle Ages, many of the tens of thousands of women killed in the European and American witch trials were midwives. They were killed for providing contraception, abortion care, and sexual health information to women. And with a male-dominated medical profession, female healers were seen as a threat to patriarchal systems. 

    Knowing about women’s health and sexuality has always been transgressive. The field of medicine has only recently opened up to include women, but there is still a severe lack of research on female sexual health. The author found that even a simple Google search often showed results laced with lies, myths and mistruths. So even when women are actually “educated” on their own sexual health, most of what they think they know might not be true. 

    Take one 2016 study of a thousand British women for example. Forty percent were unable to correctly identify the vagina, and 60 percent were unable to identify the vulva. Ignorance can be harmful. If a woman doesn’t know what a normal vulva looks like because she doesn’t know what the vulva is, how can she be aware of any potentially dangerous changes? 

    The key message here is: Sex education curriculums around the world are flawed, which can lead to dire consequences.

    At the moment, countries that have sex education programs in schools tend to focus on contraception. This centers around the male orgasm, teaching only how to deal with its fallout. Lucy Emmerson, the director of the UK’s Sex Education Forum, calls this the “period, pills, and pregnancy” approach.

    According to Emmerson, the state of sex education in English schools is dismal. She estimates that only around 1 in 15 schools teach the subject in a sex-positive way, discussing both female and male pleasure with accurate lessons on anatomy. But this is usually thanks to the initiatives of one particularly dedicated teacher or health worker – not a countrywide policy. And in the US, the state of sex education is far worse. Only 13 of the 50 states even require sex education to be medically accurate.

    Sex education should be thorough and complex, opening up discussion about consent, gender roles, LGBTQ+ sex and relationships, fertility, and women’s pleasure. So does a model of such a curriculum exist?

    It does! In the Netherlands, sex education is sex-positive. Children begin learning about relationships, their anatomy, and how to keep their bodies safe at age four. Later, students also learn about pleasure and equality, as well as reproductive health. Because of this approach, teenagers are reportedly having sex later. The country’s pregnancy rate is eight times lower than in the US and five times lower than in the UK. What’s more, a study that looked at the early sexual experiences of 400 American and Dutch women from similar backgrounds showed that American women are more likely to feel pressured into having sex for the first time, while Dutch women are more likely to first be in a respectful and loving relationship. 

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    What is Vagina about?

    Vagina (2019) aims to offer a greater understanding of the female sex organs, which have been misunderstood and neglected by science, education, and culture at large. From debunking the persistent myth of the hymen to exposing the economic and social forces that make getting your period even more of a nightmare, Lynn Enright explores and illuminates everything we weren’t taught about women’s sexual health.

    Best quote from Vagina

    We have been taught far more about shame than about our anatomy.

    —Lynn Enright
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    Who should read Vagina?

    • People with vaginas
    • Those seeking a deeper understanding of women’s sexual health
    • Anyone interested in learning about positive sex education

    About the Author

    Lynn Enright is an Irish-born, London-based journalist. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Independent, BuzzFeed, the Guardian, the Irish Times, Elle, the London Evening Standard, and the Financial Times.

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