Female Empowerment Through Literature: Four Must-Reads

Though literature can provoke and offend, it is likewise capable of acting as a medium of inspiration and empowerment. 

Among the four books listed below are feminist non-fiction texts focusing on women’s sexuality and menstruation, encouraging female empowerment through education.

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. 

Centred around women’s sexuality, Dr. Emily Nagoski’s non-fiction book Come As You Are explores masturbation, female anatomy, the relationship between sex and emotion and sex and culture, and the complexities of orgasms. Drawing on a wide array of research, the primary intention of the book is to help maximise women’s sexual well being, thus acting as a source of empowerment through encouraging a deeper understanding of sex.

In the first part of the book, Dr Nagoski delves into the female anatomy, examining the diversity of vulvas and busting myths about the hymen. She goes on to explore sex contextually, including self-criticism and how stress can both positively and negatively influence sexual interest. The last part of the book focuses on arousal, desire, and finally on orgasms, exploring the diverse ways in which they can be experienced. 

Throughout her work, Dr Nagoski repeatedly draws on her experience as a professor of Women’s Sexuality and as a counsellor, filling the book with accounts from her students and patients. Come As You Are is an engaging and informative read, perfectly balancing scientific research with real-life experiences. I recommend this for every reader who wants to learn more about women’s sexuality. 

Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez

Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women reveals how data is systematically biased in favour of men, drawing on newest research and a range of case studies from across the world. 

Perez exposes a variety of gender data gaps, such as the impact of job adverts tailored towards men, the repercussions of excluding women’s medical health data in relation to BPA, or the potentially deadly consequences of failing to account for the average female body when designing dummies used in air bag testing. 

Invisible Women is a shocking and essential read, unveiling the effect our male-orientated world has on the other half of its population. Perez uses this data to demand urgent action on gender based inequality.

Period Power – Maisie Hill

Described as the “handbook of periods”, Maisie Hill’s Period Power lives up to its reputation, examining everything from how hormones during the menstrual cycle affect our mood and behaviour, to tips on how to identify personal pitfalls and take control of your cycle. 

Hill explains the range of hormones active during the menstrual cycle and the various impacts they can have on the body and the mind. She explores the menstrual cycle and its phases in immense detail, proceeding to evaluate both menstrual products and contraceptive methods. 

Period Power focuses on explaining the biological and medical side of menstruation, yet as it is littered with personal anecdotes from the author, it is an accessible and above all informative, educating and truly empowering read. An absolute must for any menstruating person trying to understand their body and this intricate process, better. 

Vagina: A New Biography – Naomi Wolf 

In Vagina, Naomi Wolf, feminist writer and author of the bestseller The Beauty Myth, explores female sexuality and the intricacies of the female orgasm, based on her extensive research. 

First recounting her own experiences with orgasming, Wolf further delves into its biological aspects and examines the relationship between pleasure and the nervous system, concluding that the experience of an orgasm is down to neural wiring rather than cultural conditioning, as commonly assumed. 

Though the book offers informative research on the female anatomy, women’s sexuality and its cultural history, Wolf also takes some rather conservative stances- stating for instance that women who do not orgasm regularly, thus deprived of oxytocin and dopamine, will inevitably become resentful and exasperated beings. Whilst Wolf continues to use the word “vagina” when describing the vulva and some sections are rather controversial, Vagina: A New Biography is an interesting and informative read, offering some valuable insights into women’s sexuality and the anatomy of orgasms. The book is able to encourage female empowerment through providing a deeper understanding of women’s genital anatomy.

Words by Samira Rauner

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