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Naomi Wolf's Vagina on iTunes


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It took a pounding from the critics, but it's now released on iTunes as V****a.

I mean who cares? If it were, say, a pure unadulterated mine for comedy gold or something, one would have to start a thread on it here.

Subject edited to correct the Author's name.

Perhaps I should start this thread off by saying that I've accidentally bought a copy for my mum, thinking it was a guidebook to Vienna (thanks Guardian).

Further edit: To explain: The woman in question has published a book with the title in question. However, Apple have determined that the word in not a suitable one for people to read with the naked eye, and have therefore decided to soften the blow to our sensibilities by placing a few soothing asterisks over the word, despite the fact that it is not a swear word, and indeed is the correct term for the body part concerned.

They clearly feel the same way as Maude Lebowski, who said the following:

"My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina."


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Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell by Katherine Angel

Katherine Angel puts her own sex life on the page in this fragmentary, giddily joyful study of female desire

Olivia Laing

The Observer, Sunday 2 September 2012

Katherine Angel unwraps the question of what it means to be a woman, both object and subject of desire.

"It is fatal," Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One's Own, "to be a man or woman pure and simple." This phrase, repeated several times, might be thought of as the guiding sentiment of Unmastered, Katherine Angel's provocative and profoundly personal investigation into female desire. Angel's mission is to find a way of both inhabiting and writing about sexuality that offers a release from the corseting hand-me-down strictures of how a woman should behave. Desire, after all, is a form of hunger, and as such incompatible with the notions of abstemiousness and passivity that continue to burden the female mind.

Unmastered is constructed as a series of numbered aphorisms. Sometimes no more than three words occupy the page ("Am I pornography?"). It's a model that's found favour with a range of writers on sexuality, especially the transgressive kind, from Susan Sontag's seminal essay Notes on "Camp" to the cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum's Humiliation. This laying bare of language is matched by Angel's radical unveiling of her own sexual life: the antics of what she beautifully calls "the lubricious body". She describes in graphic terms the act of sex, of touching and being touched, of having her breasts admired, of being tied to a bed with a belt by an unnamed lover.

It's hard to overestimate the riskiness of these passages, their courage and their exquisite sensuality. Angel deploys a range of voices, from the poetic ("a deep juddering pleasure, a ferry's heavy murmur") to the frank ("**** me. Yes, **** me!"). There's a voyeuristic thrill to the exposure, a swell of reciprocal pleasure, but the real joy lies in the artfulness with which she uses these intimate episodes as a way of unwrapping the larger issue of what it means to be a woman, both object and subject of desire.

Angel is an academic at Warwick University, a researcher in the history of female sexual problems. As such, her investigations, while almost painfully intimate (one chapter is given over to the experience and aftermath of an abortion), occur within what is emphatically a larger conversation. She uses pared-down, poetic fragments from a multitude of fellow explorers – among them Woolf, Sontag, Susie Orbach, Havelock Ellis and Michel Foucault – as a way of building up a working map of sexual desire.

It quickly becomes apparent that to be true to one's sexuality means crashing up against pretty much all the forces invested in telling us what a woman should and shouldn't do. Does revelling in the pleasures of penetration automatically mean inhabiting the traditional female role of reassuring men, inflating them with a sense of their own potency? "Is this a compulsion to be what the other person wants?", Angel asks herself of her own desires. "I lock him into his masculinity. I am anxious to protect it, for it pains me, it pains my femininity, to see it fragmented." And, at the same time: "I am so **** hungry!"

In her quest for sexual freedom, Angel more than once experiences feminism as an oppressive as well as a liberating force. In one amusing, troubling scene, she attends a lecture by the venerable sex researcher Shere Hite in which Hite and an audience member agree that lesbian porn using dildos should be boycotted. Later, she falls foul of another speaker at a feminist conference for raising the question of whether erotic images of female submission are automatically pathological evidence of patriarchal oppression.

On the other hand, she also challenges a male academic she nicknames Mr Pornography ("he has probably watched more pornography than anyone, anywhere") on his pro-porn stance, pointing out that despite his celebration of its democracy and inclusiveness, it still radically fails "to represent the nature, range and realities of pleasure in women".

Despite this latter comment, Angel's assumptions about sexuality tend toward the heteronormative and can on occasion feel a touch coercive. A statement like: "I was weaned on this – the hypostatised, brutal man; the yielding, deferring woman. So, by the way, were you" might be true in terms of the dominant culture but elides entirely the subtle shadings of sexual difference. This is particularly odd when so few of the writers she draws upon (Sontag, Woolf, Orbach, Foucault) can be categorised as entirely heterosexual.

Nonetheless, Angel makes a persuasive case for the idiosyncrasy of desire, its obstinate individuality. Caught between oppressive forces, her escape is by way of the sensual body itself. As such, Unmastered is a giddily joyful book, thicketed with exclamation marks. Days after reading, its images linger in the mind: an erotics that encompasses eating macaroons after an afternoon of bondage, or seeing a dead fox "on the southern underbelly of Peckham Rye, a restful body of red, a serene splash of white".

In its richness and its exultant tone, Unmastered frequently recalls another statement from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own: "Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body?" Woolf was talking about the fantastical figure of Shakespeare's sister but she might have found a more cheering answer here, in this elegant and uplifting journey through the labyrinth of female lust.



This woman is an academic at Warwick University. I'll bet her tutorials will be popular this term.

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