Editor's note: A gentle warning to listeners across the country, this hour will address mature subject matter.
With Meghna Chakrabarti
OB-GYN and New York Times columnist Dr. Jen Gunter advises her patients — and her hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers — to put away the jade eggs, the garlic, and to stop listening to Gwyneth Paltrow. In her funny, fact-based book, Gunter separates myth from medicine about women’s bodies.
From The Reading List
Excerpt from "The Vagina Bible" by Jen Gunter
I HAVE A VAGENDA: for every woman to be empowered with accurate information about the vagina and vulva.
One of the core tenets of medicine is informed consent. We doctors provide information about risks and benefits and then, armed with that information, our patients make choices that work for their bodies. This only works when the information is accurate and unbiased. Finding this kind of data can be challenging, as we have quickly passed through the age of information and seem to be stalled in the age of misinformation.
Snake oil and the lure of a quick fix have been around for a long time, and so false, fantastical medical claims are nothing new. However, sorting myth from medicine is getting harder and harder.
In addition to social media feeds that constantly display medical mes saging of variable quality, there are the demands of a headline-driven news cycle that constantly requires new content-even when it doesn't exist. With women's bodies, there are even more forces of misdirection at work. Pseudoscience and those who peddle it are invested in misinformation, but so is the patriarchy.
Obsessions with reproductive tract purity and cleansing date back to a time when a woman's worth was measured by her virginity and how many children she might bear. A vagina and uterus were currency. Playing on these fears awakens something visceral. It's no wonder the words “pure,” "natural,” and “clean” are used so often to market products to women.
Members of the media and celebrity influencers tap into these fears with articles about and products to prevent vaginal mayhem, as if the vagina (which evolved to stretch and tear to deliver a baby long before suture material was invented) is somehow so fragile that it is constantly in a state of near catastrophe.
Why The Vagina Bible instead of The Vagina and Vulva Bible? Because that is how we collectively talk about the lower reproductive tract (the vagina and vulva). Medically, the vagina is only the inside, but language evolves and words take on new meaning. For example, "catfish" and "text" both have additional meanings that I could never have imagined when I was growing up. “Gut” is from the Old English for the intestinal tract, usu ally meaning the lower part (from the stomach on down) but not always. It's actually a very imprecise term; yet it has been embraced by the medical community and is even the name of a leading journal dedicated to the study of the alimentary (digestive) tract, the liver, biliary tree, and pancreas.
I have been in medicine for thirty-three years, and I've been a gynecologist for twenty-four of them. I've listened to a lot of women, and I know the questions they ask as well as the ones they want to ask but don't quite know how.
The Vagina Bible is everything I want women to know about their vulvas and vaginas. It is my answer to every woman who has listened to me pass on information in the office or online and then wondered, “How did I not know this?”
You can read the book in order from front to back or visit specific chapters or even sections as they speak to you. It's all good! I hope over the years many pages will become worn as you go back to double-check what a doctor told you in the office, to research a product that makes wild claims about improving vaginas and vulvas, or help a friend or sexual partner out with an anatomy lesson.
Misinforming women about their bodies serves no one. And I'm here to help end it.
From the book THE VAGINA BIBLE by Jen Gunter. Copyright © 2019 by Jen Gunter. Excerpted with permission by Kensington Publishing Corp.
New York Times: "Your Vagina Is Terrific (and Everyone Else’s Opinions Still Are Not)" — "When I was in my 20s and already a doctor, I still let my sexual partners believe they were the experts in female anatomy, despite the fact that I was studying to be an OB/GYN. These men would tell me things that were untrue and I would count ceiling tiles while they fumbled around in the wrong ZIP code, if you know what I mean.
"Instead of correcting them, I just nodded and faked my share of orgasms because I prioritized men feeling comfortable over my own sexual pleasure.
"It’s enraging that faking orgasms to satisfy a man’s sexual script has not been confined to the trash heap of bad history. Studies tell us that up to 67 percent of women who have experienced penile-vaginal intercourse have faked orgasms. All for reasons painfully familiar to me: not wanting to hurt my male partner’s feelings, knowing I won’t be listened to, feeding his ego or simply wanting the sex to end.
"We rarely talk openly about what’s required for a woman to have a good sexual experience, and so many heterosexual women learn the mechanics of sex and female orgasms from movies (most of which are written, directed and produced by ... men). What I like to call the three-strokes-of-penetration-bite-your-lip-arch-the-back-and-moan routine."
Washington Post: "Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop touted the ‘benefits’ of putting a jade egg in your vagina. Now it must pay." — "We need to talk about Gwyneth Paltrow's vaginal eggs. Again.
"For the uninitiated, these are the egg-shaped jade or quartz stones sold through Goop, Paltrow's new-age wellness company and lifestyle brand. Per Goop, women are supposed to insert said eggs into their vaginas — and keep them there for varying periods of time, sometimes overnight — to 'get better connected to the power within.'
"For $66, one can buy a dark nephrite jade egg, which allegedly brings increased sexual energy and pleasure. Or, for $55, there is the 'heart-activating' rose quartz egg, for those who want more positive energy and love. Until recently, a page on Goop's website promised that the eggs would 'increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general.'
"Those claims were, well, a stretch, with no grounding in real science, according to a consumer protection lawsuit filed by state prosecutors representing 10 California counties. On Wednesday, state officials and Goop announced that they had settled the suit, with Paltrow's company agreeing to pay $145,000 in civil penalties.
"Specifically, the suit called out Goop's jade egg, its rose quartz egg and its 'Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend' as products 'whose advertised medical claims were not supported by competent and reliable science,' according to the Santa Clara County district attorney's office. For example, the flower essence blend had been marketed as a blend of essential oils that could ward off depression.
"And the jade eggs? They had developed a reputation — and a backlash — of their own."
Grace Tatter produced this hour for broadcast.
This program aired on August 29, 2019.