A scientific journey to the centre of the new female body
The Latin term for the female genitalia, pudendum, means “parts for which you should be ashamed”. Until 1651, ovaries were called female testicles. The fallopian tubes are named for a man. Named, claimed, and shamed: Welcome to the story of the female body, as penned by men.
Today, a new generation of (mostly) women scientists is finally redrawing the map. With modern tools and fresh perspectives, they’re looking at the organs traditionally bound up in reproduction—the uterus, ovaries, vagina—and seeing within them a new biology of change and resilience. Through their eyes, journalist Rachel E. Gross takes readers on an anatomical odyssey to the centre of this new world—a world where the uterus regrows itself, ovaries pump out fresh eggs and the clitoris pulses beneath the surface like a shimmering pyramid of nerves. Full of wit and wonder, Vagina Obscura is a celebratory testament to how the landscape of knowledge can be rewritten to better serve everyone.
"Rachel E. Gross’s mesmerizing and often humorous Vagina Obscura vividly uncovers the scientific and popular biases that have colluded to stem our knowledge about ‘down there.’ Gross brilliantly investigates questions regarding sex, sexuality, and reproduction that have been hidden, made shameful, or just never asked." — Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex
"With the perfect mix of verve and nerve, clarity and composure, Rachel Gross finally gives this organ system its due. I loved every fold and crevice of this book." — Florence Williams, author of Breasts: An Unnatural History
" Well-researched and beautifully told, this story of the vagina exposes an alarming lack of scientific curiosity about female genitals across species and centuries. But its brilliance lies in the revolution it heralds. A gripping read that should inspire significant change in science and society." — Gabrielle Jackson, author of Pain and Prejudice
"The vagina is having a much-belated moment, and thanks to Rachel E. Gross, now so are the ovaries, clitoris, and uterus. In Vagina Obscura, Gross clears away the linguistic and scientific shroud from the least investigated and most misunderstood structures in the human body and tells their story deftly and beautifully." — Emily Willingham, PhD, author of Phallacy: Life Lessons From the Animal Penis
"This book is what we’ve been waiting for." — Francesca Brown, Stylist
"Vagina Obscura should cause a revolution in how we think about the vagina." — Rosamund Urwin, The Sunday Times
"Vagina Obscura make[s] a convincing case for the importance of diversity among scientists in order to bridge the knowledge gap between sexes, and [is] a clarion call that the remaining terra incognita of female biology merits far more comprehensive mapping." — Mia Levitin, Financial Times