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September 07, 2012 4:46 PM When Real Neuroscientists Look at Fake Neuroscience

By Daniel Luzer

Journalist Naomi Wolf wrote in her latest book, Vagina: A New Biography that “a woman’s brain and vagina are best understood as one system.” What an interesting idea! The body works in mysterious ways!

Well not really. Perhaps it might be useful for some people think of a woman’s brain and vagina as one system, but some people got curious and sent some actual neuroscientists in to investigate. It turns out that whole brain-vagina connection, that’s some bullshit.

Wolf writes that we know the brain and the vagina are all one damn thing in part because “studies have shown that verbal threats or verbal admiration or reassurances can directly affect the sexual functioning of the vagina. One suggests that a stressful environment can negatively affect vaginal tissue itself…”

Well, sort of. According to a piece in the New Statesman by a Scottish scientist who goes by the pseudonym Neuroskeptic:

True of course, but it’s nothing to do with vaginas specifically. Threats, admiration and reassurances all influence our stress levels, and stress can affect the function of the vagina. But the same could be said for any other organ: stress also affects the heart, the stomach, and even the penis.
What’s more, the study Wolf linked to in support of her idea that “a stressful environment can negatively affect vaginal tissue itself” was in rats.

Yes, somehow the idea that a woman’s vagina is closely connected to her brain becomes a little less compelling as an explanation for how women operate once one realizes it’s actually a rat vagina Wolf is investigating.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer