The Vagina Monologues Reinforce the Existence of Patriarchy
by Andrea Lavigne
Founder of the Sex Trafficking Think Tank
The Vagina Monologues (TVM), is a book containing monologues of women’s (and one girl’s) “vagina experiences” recorded by Eve Ensler, author and activist. Ensler states in her book that her motivation for TVM grew out of her concern for an older woman who displayed contemptuous feelings about her vagina at a time when Ensler was longing to find a way back to her own vagina. TVM is also performed on stage as part of the V-Day Campaign, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.
While performances of TVM raise funds for victims of sexual and domestic violence, at the same time, it expresses postmodern Third Wave and Biological Reductionist “feminism.” Postmodern Third Wavers, a.k.a., “sex positivity feminists” spin reality into one’s perspective and simple narratives, co-opts and internalizes patriarchal notions and traditions, and cultivates pseudo-liberating solutions for sexuality. In bed with the postmodern Third Wavers are the Biological reductionist “feminists” who reduce women to their vaginas. In opposition to the postmodern Third Wave and Biological Reductionist agenda, Second Wave feminists identify with historical materialist reality, attempt to overthrow the patriarchal Capitalist social and economic material conditions in which women’s oppression is rooted, and struggle for full emancipation.
With all due respect, Ensler’s book provides us with a few serious monologues and some important “Vagina Facts.” These monologues discuss mass rape of Bosnian women; hysterectomies; cold gynecological exams; rape of a ten-year-old by her father’s friend; and, childbirth. The “Vagina Facts” cover: 1. A woman, during a witch trial, was considered a witch by a lawyer because of her half-inch sized clitoris; 2. A clitoris contains 8000 nerve fibers; and, 3– 5. Mention of the practice of genital mutilation. While many additional “Vagina Facts” are included in the performances, presentation of such serious subject matters takes second place to the gratuitous, vagina-centric monologues like reclaiming the words “CUNT” and “VAGINA” and faking orgasms.
For the sake of criticism, I have selected monologues from the book and performances which promote sexual objectification, prostitution myths, and predatory behavior. My criticisms are meant to promote dialogue, awareness, and direction toward women’s true liberation.
Monologues that Promote Sexual Objectification
This monologue is by a subject who plays around with the phonetics, “C C CA CA, Cunt” primarily as an attempt to bring back the ancient pro-woman meaning of the word “Cunt” and secondarily for shock value. This is just as ridiculous as the modern day Jews trying to reclaim their (or at least someone elses) pagan ancestral symbol, the Swastika, which originally represented the four poles, North, South, East, and West, but today represents anti-Semitism. Similarly, this reclaiming of the word Cunt, also reminds me if black people where to claim the word Nigger. I know some black people who are calling each other Nigger as a “friendly gesture” to each other or as a way to take it out of the hands of their white oppressors, but their success rate is low. In today’s patriarchal Capitalist climate inundated with pornography, rampant pimping of women and children into prostitution, and mass rape, the word “cunt” will lack ancient meaning as long as we remain in this patriarchal economic and social order. More constructive is for us to reclaim the action word, “L L, Li, lib, Liber, Liberat, Liberation” or “R R, Re, Revol, Revolu, Revolution.”
The Vagina Workshop
The “WOMAN = VAGINA” biological reductionist message is very clear in this monologue. A vagina workshop participant discovers that her clitoris “was me, the essence of me.” The vagina workshop leader convinces this participant that her vagina is “the essence of me, both the doorbell to my house and the house itself.” Furthermore, the participant poeticizes her vagina “My vagina is a shell, a tulip, and a destiny. I am arriving as I am beginning to leave. My vagina, my vagina, me.” This biological reductionism is a pathetic recurring theme as Ensler desperately attempts to establish feelings of sisterhood based on a common biology. This sexual objectification is exactly what the suffragettes were fighting against. Pioneers Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and others fought long and hard so women would be empowered–not by their sexual anatomy–but by their minds. Empowerment does not consist of staring at your vagina in the mirror and weeping or exulting. I think the suffragettes would be pissed if they saw this empowerment scam.
Because He Liked To Look At It
In this creepy segment of Ensler’s, we learn that this guy Bob is “ordinary, boring, and unappealing,” that is, until his date discovers his one redeeming quality — an obsession with vaginas. Bob voyeuristically stares, analyzes, and fetishizes her crotch for over an hour. She discovers how “beautiful and erotic” her vagina is because a man obsessively appreciates it. She actually could have just removed her crotch from between her legs, set it on a pedestal in her foyer, and left the house while Creepy Bob remained. She gives Creepy Bob kudos for validating her sexuality and making her feel worthy through his creepy fetish.
A Monologue that Promotes the Prostitution Myth
The Woman Who Loved To Make Vaginas Happy
This is a monologue about a woman who leaves her career as an attorney to become a lesbian dominatrix prostitute specializing in the use of sexual props, i.e., whips, handcuffs, and ropes. Why did Ensler choose this fantastical “sex worker in charge” prostitution myth in her program? What agenda is Ensler promoting? Although she doesn’t use the term “sex worker” to describe this lesbian dominatrix prostitute, the content implicitly cultivates and promotes this “free will sex worker” false notion. This “free will sex worker” spin is highly promoted on stage by the actresses who fun-lovingly perform this monologue as a highlight of women’s empowerment. This “free will sex worker” myth is also propagated when the performer intensely revels in her one-woman grand finale of faking a series of her female johns’ multiple orgasms.
These postmodernist Third Wavers would also like us to believe that because a woman is role-playing as an “independent self-assured dominatrix”, that she is truly an independent self-assured dominatrix in full charge of the night. In reality, most women used in prostitution have pimps and johns who force them into this “independent self-assured dominatrix” role—which is dangerous for the woman because the “props” can easily be used against her in a real-life, fatal scenario. The postmodernist Third Wavers, pimps, johns, and other misogynists like to conceal the issues of economic and social coercion and force, and deny the harms of prostitution.
Monologues that Promote Predatory Behavior
I Asked A Six-Year Old Girl
Ensler asked a six-year old girl the following questions: “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?”; “If it could speak, what would it say?”; “What does your vagina smell like?”; “What’s special about your vagina?” To the latter, Ensler quotes the six-year old girl as answering, “Somewhere deep inside it I know it has a really smart brain.” Not only do I find it hard to believe that parents would allow an adult to interrogate their first grader about her vagina, but also that a six-year old girl would know about somewhere deep inside her vagina. If a little girl knows about somewhere deep inside of her vagina, there is a good chance she was raped. Imagine a male counterpart to this story: A middle-aged man asks a six-year old boy what is special about his penis. This would surely land him on a sex offender registry or in jail.
The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could
This is a monologue where an adult woman reflects back to the age of thirteen when she claims she was “sexually liberated by a twenty-four year old woman.” At age thirteen, the girl is coerced by a twenty-four year old woman into her car. The woman tongues the girl’s mouth, takes the girl into her house, plies her with vodka, and has sex with her. The now adult woman explained to Ensler, “She was my surprising, unexpected, politically incorrect salvation…transformed my sorry-ass coochi snorcher and raised it up into a kind of heaven.”
What puzzles me is that this rape is propagated as sexual liberation by Ensler, the rape survivor, and the many activist actresses who perform this monologue. We would all love to believe that sexual liberation was what truly happened for this thirteen-year old girl, for the sake of “adolescent vagina empowerment”, but it was undeniably rape according to healthy life stages of development and law. Furthermore, it is unethical and illegal to give a minor alcohol.
The notion of sexual liberation does not hold up anymore than it would if this was a story of a homoerotic curious thirteen-year old boy who was picked up by a twenty-four year old man, plied with alcohol, and anally penetrated.
What might be a scene from a public service kidnapping prevention video shown to schoolchildren becomes, in Ensler’s play, a love story.
TVM promotes a postmodern Third Wave and Biological Reductionist agenda of promoting sexual objectification, prostitution myths, and predatory behavior. I find TVM patronizing in today’s era. What is even more incessantly patronizing is the “Vagina’s R Us” merchandise, such as the “Vagina Warrior” t-shirts, vagina-shaped chocolate suckers, “cunt power” stickers, and other vagina-centric paraphernalia. It is purely dated. I remember learning about some guys who laughed themselves silly while at a Super Bowl Sunday event when many of them sat around drinking beer wearing Vagina Warrior t-shirts. Furthermore, imagine the absurdity if this were a men’s global struggle movement where men walked around sucking on penis-shaped chocolate suckers. Why would I want to wear a “Vagina Warrior” t-shirt or suck a vagina-shaped chocolate sucker, unless I was trying to fulfill some heterosexist male fantasy, which won’t be happening anytime soon.
TVM expresses the view that in order to end violence against women, all we need do is tap into our “vagina power” and become “Vagina Warriors”. I believe we urgently need to elevate our struggle for the liberation of humanity. We need to abolish private ownership of land, animals and people (i.e., wage slavery, slavery, prostitution, domestic servitude) and the corresponding social relations of this production. We need to abolish the patriarchal institutions that buttress the patriarchal Capitalistic economic order. We need a mass movement to affirm our struggle for emancipation.