The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History

The Vagina is a fascinating examination of our heritage by Emma L. E. Rees, published in 2013.

It is an informed study that catalogs a range of artistic and literary representations of female genitalia and demonstrates an understanding of the various aesthetic, intellectual and political discussions that frame them. Rees scrutinizes our (in)abilities and (dis)inclinations to acknowledge the place of female sex, sexuality and sexual health in discourse. From Rees’s book, we know better the various ways in which female sexual organs and female sexuality have been the particular points of misogynistic attack for centuries and the complicated ways in which our language continues to obscure, abhor and deny them. For instance, Rees speculates about the history of the “indecent” nature of the word cunt, and equally interesting is this book’s long excursion into the history of the vagina dentata, the mythical and monstrously “toothed” genitals. Her history of sanitary products and the increasing euphemization and sanitization of menstruation is particularly illuminating.

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