In The Vagina Bible (Citadel, Sept.), ob-gyn Gunter shares facts and dispels fallacies about women’s sexual and reproductive health.
Why did you feel a need to write this book?
People come in with false ideas about how things work, or what’s normal. If you don’t have accurate information, you can’t ask the right questions. It’s like having a map with all the destinations written incorrectly. I got very obsessed with the idea of creating an accessible textbook for women. If I am going to change the patriarchy, information is the way to do it. I want women to know that if somebody tells them something nasty about their body, it’s that other person that has the problem. Maybe if women know the truth, they’ll be immunized against those words.
What does a doctor’s visit with an informed patient look like, and how does that help them access better care?
It’s so amazing. Every appointment is a fixed amount of time, so if you’re spending all that time undoing misinformation, then you may never even get to why that person was there in the first place. When someone comes in with good quality information, you can move on to other health concerns, or you can spend additional time giving them information that they didn’t even think they might need.
You warn your readers about messages coming from Big Pharma, but also from what you call Big Natural. How are they damaging?
They’re both selling products. I don’t see any difference really, except that Pharma at least has to do something to get a drug approved through the FDA. It’s fascinating that people will believe all this stuff about supplements, washes, and douches. They’ll say Big Pharma is just trying to make a buck. But that’s what Big Natural is doing, too, and they’re gaming the system even more.
What would you say is the most persistent myth about vaginal health?
That the vagina is dirty. A close second is that the vulva is in this near state of catastrophe. How could you not think that when you walk into a drugstore, and there are literally shelves of products?
So should people be talking to their friends about their vaginas?
Yeah. I think one of the big issues with the reproductive tract is that we don’t talk about it in nonsophomoric ways, and that adds another layer of shame and another difficulty around accessing information. The more that we talk about vaginas and vulvas and orgasms and lubrication in adult ways, the more that’s going to help.