You already know how I feel about Oprah. Namely, that she does the entire planet an enormous disservice by appearing on television and convincing housewives to buy into stupid, harmful bullshit. Now she’s taken it another step too far. Into our vaginas.

SFW, BUT VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I saw this clip yesterday, but I needed a full 36 hours plus a glass of wine before I could properly address it. It’s a woman named Dr. Christine Northrup, who is teaching Oprah and her audience how to . . . how to . . . I don’t even know. Direct their chi into their vaginas? To help them . . . orgasm? I don’t know, the whole thing makes me feel dirty, and not in the fun way.

A quick Google on Northrup shows a few interesting things. One, that she’s an author for Hay House, the publisher who keeps Sylvia Brown swimming in Twinkie wrappers. Two, that one of the top links is to a book-length criticism of her, but honestly the criticism makes her sound better than she sounds in this clip (on that site, she repeatedly tries to get her patient to have an hysterectomy and her patient refuses, believing she only needs Vitamin A).

So anyway, back to Oprah’s vagina. (I am so, so sorry.) The good doctor’s plan is to use Qi Gong to increase “energy flow” to the “lower hearts” (“vajayjays”) of the women in the audience. Qi Gong is an elaborate and often expensive superstition in which frauds and the gullible wave their hands over areas to increase “energy flow” to cure, well, everything. (Note: some of those gullible people are my friends. They’re still being gullible. Sorry, guys.)

So is it possible that Qi Gong works? I know you’re expecting me to say “hell no” and get on with the snark, but in this case, I’m going to give a qualified “yes.” See: there’s never been any proof at all that we have a magical “Qi” lifeforce running through us, but we do have blood. And it is possible to change how that blood proceeds along its way — for instance, if you have a good imagination or an Internet connection, you might be able to think of certain sexual situations that would cause that blood to rush to your, uh, “vajayjay,” to borrow Oprah’s term. Or your boy-jayjay, if you happen to be that sort.

So, all these women are hanging out thinking very hard about energy rushing toward their ‘jayjays. I’m going to get a little crazy here and suggest that maybe, just maybe, that might get them a little aroused, and therefore be considered a success.

Now, let’s all take a break to go vomit up our dinners at the thought of Oprah and her audience getting collectively aroused on national television.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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36 Comments

  1. Profile photo of writerdd
    January 19, 2008 at 5:15 pm —

    I've always thought Oprah should have stuck to acting. But then she might have become a Scientologist.

  2. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 19, 2008 at 6:23 pm —

    Ojay– I happen to be a martial artist, and I do specialize in "internal" styles. Qigong is one of these. So, as a practitioner, and as someone who has some few years of experience–

    THERE IS NOTHING FRIGGIN' MYSTICAL ABOUT QIGONG! It is a gentle exercise that improves joint mobility, balance, and one's sense of proprioception. And, one is supposed to meditate whilst doing it, as an aid to concentration. There is nothing magical about it.

    Fexake. I can't stand those charlatans that try to get you to believe you can shoot lightning bolts from your fingertips, or cure cancer.

    FEH.

  3. Profile photo of Expatria
    January 19, 2008 at 8:23 pm —

    Rav: Wait…so I SHOULDN'T be able to shoot lightning from my fingertips?? Man, I am SO doing this wrong…

    Also, I totally agree with Rebecca's assessment of qi. It's long been known that when you regulate your breathing, meditate, etc., you are capable of (to an extent) regulating your blood flow. It's not QUITE so specific as, say, pointing to your right big toe and saying "Move, my bloody minions! TO THE BIG TOE!!", but you can slow things down quite a bit.

    As to the video, this is NOT the first place I've seen this tactic (the "inner smile"). A book my sister had about multi-orgasmic couples and how to become such a couple (and yes, it was a little off-putting to find that on my sister's bookshelf) discussed using the "inner smile" as a way for a man to become, well, multi-orgasmic.

    But it seemed to me that the OTHER techniques listed in the same section, techniques involving selective muscle use and stamina-building, probably played as great a role (if not greater) in changing the degree of arousal, etc. And, of course, there is no need to invoke a mystical, undetectable energy source to make it all function…it's all perfectly physiological.

    If you do happen to read/use any of these tactics, whether or not you disregard the woo-woo aspects, you may just notice a qualitative difference. But who can say how much of that difference is placebo effect-derived and how much is from muscular/circulatory control, let alone how much comes from some sort of pornwoo. (Shouldn't this be a bug_girl post??)

    Realistically speaking, tao/qi/tantric methods are unlikely to be any more effective than the tips you'll find in a typical issue of Cosmo or Maxim or whatever.

    However, if your vajayjay or boy-jayjay actually DOES smile at you, my suggestion is to lay off the pre-sex hallucinogens.

  4. Profile photo of Joshua
    January 19, 2008 at 10:06 pm —

    Ok. So, I've spent this weekend at a sci fi con, and still this is the most disturbing thing I've seen.

    Thanks, Rebecca. Without this post, I wouldn't have known there was something in the world even more disgusting than a 400-pound middle aged guy in a Slave Leia outfit.

  5. Profile photo of Rodney
    January 19, 2008 at 10:21 pm —

    Okay,

    Oprah sucks.

    I think it's safe, at this point, to ingore anyone she endores.

    Mind you, I'm a liberal.

    So, I want to agree with a black woman (especially if she's pretty AND SHE IS, SO SHUT UP!!!!)

    But I can't. She's SO wrong, most of the time.

    So, She's a very, very atractive woman who couldn't possibly be more wrong. Go figure.

    Too bad, she should read a book or something,

    rod

  6. Profile photo of devolve
    January 19, 2008 at 11:32 pm —

    One of the greatest contributions to humanity that any one person can make is to cease using the gawd-awful word "vajayjay", and any/all of its derivatives FORTHWITH.

    Please.

    I beg.

  7. Profile photo of thad
    January 20, 2008 at 12:09 am —

    I think the real question is: there is anything we can do to help you feel dirty… in a good way, of course.

  8. Profile photo of Gerrit
    January 20, 2008 at 2:46 am —

    Yes, you ruined my weekend. But i like your glasses, so that evens it up.

  9. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 20, 2008 at 4:28 am —

    Well, Pats, if this woman on Oprah is actually teaching real qigong, I suppose that's one thing. But nothing they did on that video was anything that I recognized.

    And why was everyone so childish as to not be able to call a vagina a vagina?

    I find that to be at least as disturbing as the woo-woo stuff.

  10. Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
    January 20, 2008 at 4:30 am —

    Yeah, the "vajayjay" thing: I've actually used that word after I heard a friend use it. I thought it was funny in a faux-immature, ironic manner. Then I see this and realize oh my god, grown women are using it to seriously avoid saying the word "vagina." VAGINA, people. VAGINA. It's not a dirty word.

  11. Profile photo of writerdd
    January 20, 2008 at 6:11 am —

    VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA

    Reminds me of two things:

    Eve Ensler's fantastic performance piece, The Vagina Monologues

    and

    Jeff on Coupling (BBC America) saying "Breasts Breasts Breasts Breasts Breasts" to an Israeli woman who can't understand a word of English.

  12. Profile photo of Jack
    January 20, 2008 at 6:31 am —

    If any women out there need help putting with chiing up their fun part's please contact me.

  13. Profile photo of Jack
    January 20, 2008 at 6:33 am —

    Well I butchered that sentience. I go to bed now, chi girls tomorrow.

  14. Profile photo of Chupacabras
    January 20, 2008 at 9:09 am —

    To think that all this time I regarded Qi Gong as a friend of Master Yoda…

    As for sex, I guess I can get rid of the "light saber" kind of toys.

  15. Profile photo of Jen
    January 20, 2008 at 10:00 am —

    This reminds of a scene in the movie The OH in Ohio, where the main female character attends a "vagina workshop" in order to cure her sexual dysfunction. The workshop is – of course – led by Liza Minelli, who gives many hilarious, New Age-y instructions about getting to know one's vagina. It's not nearly as funny when Oprah's doing it.

  16. Profile photo of Kimbo Jones
    January 20, 2008 at 11:27 am —

    Vajayjay has become a pet peeve of mine. I'm in health care and I hear it all the time. From health care professionals. Female health care professionals. Sigh. Way to set an example, ladies. I think they think it's cute. It's not.

    When did we get so Victorian about our bodies again? I thought we'd moved past this childish garbage.

    PS…It's annoying to me how people can't seem to say vagina on TV, but I hear penis all the time. Like the vagina is that gross kid that picks their nose, but the penis is that fun body part that likes to party. And once on Grey's Anatomy, a SURGEON said "vajayjay". If a writer can't get a surgeon to say "vagina", I fear for humanity.

  17. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm —

    Well, while we're on the subject of vaginas, here's an old Welsh ode thereto upon which I stumbled some time ago (the ode, not the vagina):

    Cywydd y Cedor

    Pob rhyw brydydd, dydd dioed,

    mul frwysg, wladaidd rwysg erioed,

    noethi moliant, nis gwrantwyf,

    anfeidrol reiol yr wyf,

    am gerdd merched y gwledydd

    a wnaethant heb ffyniant ffydd

    yn anghwbi iawn, ddawn ddiwad,

    ar hyd y dydd, rho Duw Dad:

    moli gwalt, cwnsallt ceinserch,

    a phob cyfryw sy fyw o ferch,

    ac obry moli heb wg

    yr aeliau uwchlaw'r olwg;

    moli hefyd, hyfryd dwf,

    foelder dwyfron feddaldwf,

    a breichiau gwen, len loywlun,

    dylai barch, a dwylaw bun.

    Yno o'i brif ddewiniaeth

    cyn y nos canu a wnaeth,

    Duw er ei radd a'i addef,

    diffrwyth wawd o'i dafawd ef:

    gadu'r canol heb foliant

    a'r plas lle'r enillir plant,

    a'r cedor clyd, rhagor claer,

    tynerdew, cylch twn eurdaer,

    lle carwn i, cywrain iach,

    y cedor dan y cadach.

    Corff wyd diball ei allu,

    cwrt difreg o'r bloneg blu.

    Llyma 'ynghred, teg y cedawr,

    cylch gweflau ymylau mawr,

    pant yw hwy na llwy na llaw,

    clawdd i ddal cal ddwy ddwylaw;

    cont yno wrth din finffloch,

    dabl y gerdd â'i dwbl o goch.

    Ac nid arbed, freisged frig,

    y gloywsaint, gwyr eglwysig

    mewn cyfle iawn, ddawn ddifreg,

    myn Beuno, ei deimlo'n deg.

    Am hyn o chwaen, gaen gerydd,

    y prydyddion sythion sydd,

    gadewch heb ffael er cael ced

    gerddau cedor i gerdded.

    Sawden awdl, sidan ydiw,

    sêm fach, len ar gont wen wiw,

    lleiniau mewn man ymannerch,

    y llwyn sur, llawn yw o serch,

    fforest falch iawn, ddawn ddifreg,

    ffris ffraill, ffwrwr dwygaill deg,

    breisglwyn merch, drud annerch dro,

    berth addwyn, Duw'n borth iddo.

    The Sour Grove:

    Every foolish drunken poet,

    boorish vanity without ceasing,

    (never may I warrant it,

    I of great noble stock,)

    has always declaimed fruitless praise

    in song of the girls of the lands

    all day long, certain gift,

    most incompletely, by God the Father:

    praising the hair, gown of fine love,

    and every such living girl,

    and lower down praising merrily

    the brows above the eyes;

    praising also, lovely shape,

    the smoothness of the soft breasts,

    and the beauty's arms, bright drape,

    she deserved honour, and the girl's hands.

    Then with his finest wizardry

    before night he did sing,

    he pays homage to God's greatness,

    fruitless eulogy with his tongue:

    leaving the middle without praise

    and the place where children are conceived,

    and the warm quim, clear excellence,

    tender and fat, bright fervent broken circle,

    where I loved, in perfect health,

    the quim below the smock.

    You are a body of boundless strength,

    a faultless court of fat's plumage.

    I declare, the quim is fair,

    circle of broad-edged lips,

    it is a valley longer than a spoon or a hand,

    a ditch to hold a penis two hands long;

    cunt there by the swelling arse,

    song's table with its double in red.

    And the bright saints, men of the church,

    when they get the chance, perfect gift,

    don't fail, highest blessing,

    by Beuno, to give it a good feel.

    For this reason, thorough rebuke,

    all you proud poets,

    let songs to the quim circulate

    without fail to gain reward.

    Sultan of an ode, it is silk,

    little seam, curtain on a fine bright cunt,

    flaps in a place of greeting,

    the sour grove, it is full of love,

    very proud forest, faultless gift,

    tender frieze, fur of a fine pair of testicles,

    a girl's thick grove, circle of precious greeting,

    lovely bush, God save it.

  18. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 20, 2008 at 12:22 pm —

    'Ere– Where IS Bug_Girl, anyway?

  19. Profile photo of limadean
    January 20, 2008 at 2:56 pm —

    I’m guessing it would work if you put your hand on what she eludes to as the actual “lower heart.”
    Eh? Ehhh?

  20. Profile photo of BigHeathenMike
    January 20, 2008 at 4:05 pm —

    “Vajayjay” is annoying on the same level that “cutie-patootie” is annoying – it’s a vacuous, silly word for something that has so many other either more anatomically correct (if you’re, say, a surgeon)…or just plain fun words to call it. With that said, shouldn’t the “boy” version be “peenaynay”? You know, if we’re sticking to the etymology.

    Hooray for vaginas, but keep Oprah’s away from me.

  21. Profile photo of xenu
    January 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm —

    Does Oprah really believe in half the crap she peddles on her show? god I hate her show.

  22. Profile photo of exarch
    January 21, 2008 at 3:49 am —

    Expatria wrote:

    Also, I totally agree with Rebecca’s assessment of qi. It’s long been known that when you regulate your breathing, meditate, etc., you are capable of (to an extent) regulating your blood flow. It’s not QUITE so specific as, say, pointing to your right big toe and saying “Move, my bloody minions! TO THE BIG TOE!!”, but you can slow things down quite a bit.

    Well, this is also something that bothers me about martial arts. Many times, saying stuff like "make sure you can feel the energy flow toward your fingers" makes a lot more instinctive sense than explaining not to tense up too much, etc… Even if you don't believe anything is flowing anywhere at all, it FEELS that way. I.e. if you're doing it right it feels as if energy is flowing toward your fingers.

    As such, I'd place it among the figurative speech like a mental block (for example writer's block?). It's not like brain pulses between synapses is being interrupted somewhere, but it FEELS like your thoughts are stuck.

    For that matter, try explaining what it feels like to having just been dumped by your boy/girlfriend without using any similes or emotionally laden figurative speech.

  23. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 21, 2008 at 4:23 am —

    Well, you are correct. The idea of qi is still used by modern martial artists. However, the best explanation of what qi really is was given by Pavel Tsotsouline in his book the Naked Warrior– essentially it's about intra-abdominal pressure, or power breathing. The more muscles you activate in your body, the more strength you have at your disposal. The diaphragm is a large muscle that really does aid immensely in stability and strength tasks. Learning how to control that muscle is what "focussing your qi" is all about. Additionally, the qigong and taiji exercises are supposed to hone your proprioception to the point that you can feel and flex as many muscles as possible– including ones that you aren't normally aware of.

    So if you can imagine the feeling of "qi" coiling and spiralling around your belly, think of it as individually flexing the various muscles around your waist and stomach in sequence.

  24. Profile photo of exarch
    January 21, 2008 at 8:33 am —

    I just watched that movie at home. Sadly, it was the worst quality video I've ever seen (I'm not sure if this is due to the video itself or just my computer acting up, but it was all choppy).

    Anyway, I was thinking today that the correct childish avoidance of the grown up word was "hoohah"? Or is that so last week?

  25. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 21, 2008 at 8:51 am —

    I always thought "Hoo-hah!" was a Yiddish exclamation/interjection describing a kerfluffle of some sort.

  26. Profile photo of Kimbo Jones
    January 21, 2008 at 11:59 am —

    "Does Oprah really believe in half the crap she peddles on her show? god I hate her show."

    I'm going to come down on the side of "no" – she just knows that most people will be like "ooh, free gift!" and then after that she can say the sky is green and grass is blue and all will be fine and dandy.

  27. Profile photo of flygrrl
    January 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm —

    Well, Rebecca, I just want to say THANK YOU for hatin' on Oprah… I mean, I've been saying this stuff for years, to the blank stares of my girlfriends. The woman uncritically pushes crap and woo (I was *screaming* by the end of the John Edward episode, especially when the one female scientist in the audience stood up and said "I don't believe in this" and was made to look like the grumpy old fuddy-dud), encourages disgusting consumerism, and despite all the claims of female empowerment does everything possible to validate every irrational, emotional, and anti-intellectual tendency of women in this country.

    I'm all for better orgasms, but without Oprah's help, thank you very much. And I'm proud that my two-and-a-half-year-old says "vagina" loudly, even at inopportune moments like in the grocery store, rather than some idiotic euphemism.

    /rant

  28. Profile photo of exarch
    January 21, 2008 at 2:31 pm —

    As for "Qi" (or Chi), I tend to disagree. Since the "flow of energy" is actually something that stops (or at least feels like it) when a muscle is tensed up. That's the whole difficulty (and seeming contradiction) of martial arts, that you can actually punch/hit/kick/etc… harder if you don't tense up all your muscles (since that makes you more flexible and thus react quicker and move faster than if you're working against your own muscles).

    Maybe what you feel is just your circulation, which slows or gets obstructed when muscles around the veins and arteries are taking up all the space. I don't know, but it's more than just "feeling muscles you didn't know you had".

    A big part of martial arts is mental/psychological though. I'd say perhaps more than with anything else, the "placebo" effect is at work. So much so that you get stuff like the Yellow Bamboo guys who fall all over themselves when their teacher yells at them the right way. You can use this "placebo" effect to empower yourself as much as you can use it to out-bluff the other guy. There's some pretty intriguing psychology at work there, some of which I'm sure has already been studied superficially. But in my opinion, supernatural it ain't.

  29. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm —

    While some of the feeling can indeed be attributed to sensitivity to one's own circulatory systems, one still should be able to activate muscle tissue.

    It's being able to tense and sense precisely, not muscles you don't know you have, but muscles of which you aren't always aware. For instance, imagine individually flexing the abdominal muscles in a circular pattern– intercostals, rectus abdominus, spinae erectors, and so forth.

    Body control is the key.

    One's body should be 'song'–relaxed– but that does not mean limp or floppy. The muscles do have to be activated in order for us to do anything. But there should be no tension until the moment of impact.

    In striking, one should move as though cracking a whip. Relaxed and fluid, but at the point of impact, a sharp snap. Also, in internal martial arts, force is generated through the turning and twisting of the waist.

    Really, this is what characterizes an art as "internal" as opposed to "external."

  30. Profile photo of Lab Lemming
    January 21, 2008 at 2:54 pm —

    I thought there was another word for using elaborate hand motions to increase blood flow to the genitals.

  31. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 21, 2008 at 3:30 pm —

    Ah, well, I've never practiced Tantric qigong. I'll leave that to Sting and his missus.

  32. Profile photo of John Phillips
    January 22, 2008 at 12:00 am —

    Rav Winston, thanks for the Welsh verse, that was excellent even though my Welsh is very rusty as I haven't been far enough over the border to speak Welsh for years so it took a while to work through it. I admit, I never thought I would ever see Welsh verse on a US based site, whatever the subject :), but somehow I am not that surprised that it is this one.

  33. Profile photo of zaphod900
    January 23, 2008 at 9:59 pm —

    Being a man, I am certainly no expert on that part of a woman's anatomy, but I think the proper euphemism should be "VaGeeGee". At least it has SOME of the same letters.

  34. Profile photo of Rav Winston
    January 24, 2008 at 4:06 am —

    John Phillips said,

    January 22, 2008 at 4:00 am

    "Rav Winston, thanks for the Welsh verse, that was excellent even though my Welsh is very rusty as I haven’t been far enough over the border to speak Welsh for years so it took a while to work through it. I admit, I never thought I would ever see Welsh verse on a US based site, whatever the subject :), but somehow I am not that surprised that it is this one."

    Ooh, go oan, bach!

    –Actually, since I do most of my socializing virtually, I have learned to type is several dialects, including Lallans, and the odd Welsh word.

    Nice to meet you, Skeptic-Jones!

  35. Profile photo of skidoo
    February 17, 2008 at 10:36 pm —

    The politically correct word is “cooter.” Come on people, get it straight! :-)

  36. Profile photo of capheind
    May 29, 2009 at 11:44 am —

    The greatest fuel for woo, mysticism, and religion is that internal bodily sensors are something of an evolutionary afterthought. After all, being able to feel that deadly spider on your neck, or see a lion running towards you is far more useful than knowing the structure of your organs, the movement of your blood, or the fact that snakes don’t live in your spine. At least to a hunter-gatherer.

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