Mini Review: The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter

About mini reviews:

Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .

The most surprising thing about The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter is just how long it is. I listened to the author read for hours while I was trekking along the freeway only to arrive home and pause at 44% complete. What else is there to know about vaginas??? I wondered. Later, I realized that when the author said her book was meant to be more like a reference manual and not read straight through, she meant it. If the chapter about putting CBD oil in your vagina isn’t for you, you can skip it instead of wondering what the heck other women are up to in their own homes.

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Certain chapters I appreciated, such as medical comparisons of menstrual products and what happens to the vagina during menopause. One need not be menopausal to appreciate knowing what’s coming in one’s forties. Other chapters didn’t apply, though I was happy the information was included for readers, such as trans people with vaginas (both male-to-female with bottom surgery and female-to-male with the use of testosterone). Nothing feels opinionated unless Gunter says it’s her opinion. She cites medical studies and acknowledges when a study is weak or questionable, or if there are no studies done on a subject at all.

Honestly, medical terminology is used so much — there are no euphemisms such as “lady parts” or “down there” — that I felt more confident talking and thinking about my own body. Increasingly, I was aware of how guarded I am at yearly physicals when asked questions about my body and give short yes/no answers that could have been expanded on. Cis and trans women are likely to feel more empowered with The Vagina Bible. And this is a book for women; Gunter makes it known how male partners and patriarchy have harmed vaginas by convincing women they are smelly, dirty, and need “freshening up” by using bogus products (Goop is the enemy for Gunter) and removing all pubic hair.

Would I recommend the audiobook? Gunter is fantastic about reading the book, meaning she doesn’t change her volume a ton, making this peaceful, easy listening. But, two important things lead me to recommend the physical or e-book copy instead: 1) with the audiobook browsability is difficult, and 2) listeners miss out on the plentiful diagrams included, which I didn’t know about until I skimmed a library copy.

23 comments

  1. I read this book and thought it was extremely informative even if I was horrified at some of the things that women consider to be true about their bodies. The best chapters for me were also the comparisons of products and the scientific studies. Science hasn’t really be studying the female body on its own for very long (and still doesn’t always) so I am always up for hearing more of the latest research. I agree that this isn’t a book to read straight through (which I did). And a lot of it wasn’t new information to me. Well I didn’t know much about Goop stupidity. But I know that many women here in the US (and certainly abroad) have no sex ed at all so I am so glad this book exists. Lack of education on our own bodies is horrifying. Reminds me of the “Period. End of Sentence” movie. Have ye seen that?
    x The Captain

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    • I have not seen Period, but it sounds interesting. I forget how hard access to basic feminine hygiene can be in other countries. I saw some film about women making pads in India and how impactful and empowering that was….was that in Period??

      I was interested in the chapter on transwomen and transmen, and her notes about menopause really opened my eyes. I know Gunter is now working on a menopause book, which I brought up in my book club. We were reading Why We Can’t Sleep, a nonfiction work about Gen X women. Turns out, most women don’t know anything about menopause and are confused when the symptoms begin a decade before their period stops, which is normal.

      I knew about Goop plus some, mainly because I was on Twitter when Gunter was really sticking it to Paltrow’s brand. I think Gunter held back in the book so it didn’t get too off the rails on one company.

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  2. Not having a vagina of my own, I’m grateful for your sharing this review. I now have an idea where to go with my ignorance, and appreciate the effort that went into both the book and your excellent and well-illustrated review. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Isn’t this book great! It’s probably one of the only books i’m actually going to keep and refer to-I also plan on giving it to my daughter when she gets her first period. I can see why it wouldn’t really work as an audiobook though…

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  4. I am on the waitlist at the library for this book (so who knows when I’ll get it) but now I’m wondering if I should just buy a copy. Do you think it’s a book you would return to as a reference?

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  5. Great review! I think I’ve mentioned I’m reading this one cover to cover because I am finding all of it interesting, even though I completely agree that picking and choosing applicable sections is probably the best general use for the book. This is absolutely the sort of thing I would’ve found more helpful than my entire sex ed class in high school. I’m glad you liked a lot about it, I’m SO pleased a book like this exists!

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    • It’s uncommon for me to find a reference book that I would actually want to keep and reference. We had some kind of health book when I was growing up that my mom would reference. It was general health, but it was a thing people used to do. Now we Google things, which I don’t think is better because you ALWAYS have to be asking, “Why is someone sharing this information and not other information? Do they want me to panic and buy something?”

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      • That is true, you always have to be careful to check your source on Google and consider their motivation. It’s more of a multiple-site research project, whereas with a trusted book you can just look for what you need and run with it. But I Google everything, and can’t think of any reference books I’ve used, other than specifically for school assignments years ago!

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  6. I feel what you mean by being guarded at yearly physicals – sometimes I just have no idea about how to talk about what’s going on down there, or even what things to pay attention to in the first place! This has never been on my radar before, as I don’t usually purchase reference books, but now I’m definitely have to get a copy.

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    • When I was still teaching college students writing and literature, the English department was crafting a way of making the English major more appealing. It’s hard to sell liberal arts majors to parents who are footing the bill. The chair decided that an English major is a good background for many further studies, such as lawyer, doctor, etc. Basically, our lives are narratives, and if you can’t craft a narrative, or know how to listen to one and analyze it, then you’re going to struggle. So, if I go to the doctor, I should be able to give a story about what’s going on and the doctor should do some thinking and pull out the relevant details and themes. However, doctors don’t seem to function this way. I’m constantly asked yes/no questions or “How many times a day…?” sort of queries. This is so hard for me and makes no sense. They’re not connecting that I did this thing and then this thing happened and then I felt this way for X number of days afterward. For me, that’s why going to a doctor can be hard.

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      • That makes a LOT of sense. It’s not part of their training to really listen to the patients, and diagnosing can be more of an art than a science. I remember a doctor my mom went to who only saw patients for SIX minutes at a time. He was pretty “in demand” and supposedly one of the best in the country, but we both agreed that he was too brusque and dismissive of her symptoms, and so we went to see someone else.

        (By the way, I am sorry it’s taking some time to reply. I just found out that WordPress doesn’t notify me for all comment threads I’m a part of, so I have to wrack my brains to remember the posts I’ve commented on. Have you encountered this problem? It’s a very pesky technical concern.)

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  7. This book seems to be wildly popular at my library and I wasn’t sure what it was about or why everyone seemed to be reading it. Since when did a book about vaginas become like a bestseller, I wondered? It sounds really informative, though, so I’m glad it’s being read so much. I think a lot of women really don’t know about their bodies. I definitely want to see if I can get my hands on a copy after your review. (If only the library would open again!)

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    • If you can get an e-book copy, I think that would work just as well. This is truly a reference book, not a read-straight-through book. It’s not a memoir, nor is it narrative. If you have a question about your vagina, you’d go to the TOC and seek out the chapter you need. Gunter reiterates information in different chapters, which also is an indicator that this is a reference book. You shouldn’t have to read chapter one if your concern is answered in chapter eight — that sort of thing.

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