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The Brain-Vagina Connection

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Posted on Sep 8, 2012
joethedork (CC BY 2.0)

Women in vagina costumes march in a San Francisco parade.

In the course of writing her new book, “Vagina: A New Biography,” author and activist Naomi Wolf discovered research in neuroscience that strongly suggests that “the vagina is not just a sex organ at all, but a powerful mediator of female confidence, creativity and the sense of the connections between things.”

Wolf says a number of neuroscientists she spoke with referred to the connection between the brain and vagina as “a single system” in which the functioning of a female’s mind is shaped by sexual experience. This relationship suggests that many cultures have physically mutilated female genitalia in order to impair a woman’s thinking. Likewise, bodily functions that are not immediately related to sex—including ringing in the ears, perceptual problems such as vertigo, and a condition in which a woman can “more easily be pushed over,” according to one researcher—as well as physiological responses to pornography and physical exercise, have been connected to sexual abuse and rape, whether it’s the “legitimate,” “nonviolent” or “forcible” kind.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Naomi Wolf at The Guardian:

... Few of us know that when a woman has an orgasm – and, even before that, when she feels empowered to think about pleasurable sex, anticipate it, focus on how to get it, and feels in control of and knowledgeable enough about her body to know she can probably reach orgasm during sex – her brain gets a boost of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Then, in orgasm, opioids and oxytocin are also released. This experience does not just yield pleasure, a fact that is well known; it also yields specific states of mind.

Dopamine is what I call the ultimate feminist neurotransmitter: it yields motivation and goal-orientedness, trust in one’s own judgement and, most notably of all, in my mind, confidence. (Cocaine, for instance, powerfully stimulates release of dopamine – hence the crazy confidence and sociability of coke users, at least under the influence, responding to that boost). Opioids give the brain the sensation of ecstasy or transcendence; and finally, oxytocin – which can be released both when a woman’s nipples are being stimulated and during the contractions of orgasm – creates a sense of bonding, caring and intimacy. Oxytocin has been shown in studies to give people with heightened levels an advantage in reading the emotions of faces.

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