I really don’t even have words for how phenomenal an experience being in The Vagina Monologues was. Seeing it last year was…revolutionary towards my overall lifestyle and most likely played a non-trivial role in my extended deep exploring of my sexuality and sensuality. Fact: I actually went home after that performance last year, took all my clothes off, grabbed a mirror, laid down on my bed, and looked at my vagina, because I hadn’t actually seen it since I was a little kid bending over in the full-length mirror in my aunt’s room because I was curious. I thought it was beautiful and I understood why people have historically compared it to a flower. And a few weeks later when my ex wanted to turn on the light and look at me, really see my vagina and have a better understanding of its anatomy and the ways in which he could please me, I was a little freaked out, but I wasn’t ashamed to let it happen. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing ever, but I had learned to resent the idea that my body should embarrass me with people that I’m comfortable enough to be intimate with. The Vagina Monologues started that in me. I have to agree that I didn’t actively think of my vagina as “something attached to me,” or really think about it at all, before seeing the show last year. And as I laughed, cried, gasped, and smiled during the performance, I knew that I had to be involved this year.
So despite not being where I wanted to be thesis-wise, I auditioned. I wanted to perform “He Liked to Look at It,” which is arguably my favorite of the monologues, but I got selected to perform “I Was There In The Room,” which is about witnessing someone give birth. Oh, the irony. I wasn’t really a fan of this monologue, because birth freaks me the fuck out beyond like, nearly anything else that involves vaginas (
besides that video RC made me watch), but I recognized its power and its message. I may not have truly identified with that character the way I could see myself in some of the other monologues, but I learned her and felt her and channeled her. After every show, people came up to me, both friends and complete strangers, to tell me how powerful my voice was and how commanding a presence I held. We sold out two shows, including one for which we had to bring in extra chairs from the dining hall because we were legitimately out of seating.
My favorite lines from my monologue:
“We forget the vagina. All of us. What else could explain our lack of awe? Our lack of reverence?”
Awe. Reverence. These are feelings I want every woman to have about her body, every person to have about hir own self. But I don’t think they’re things I’ve fully internalized about my own body and my own self, and especially not about my “down there.”
Being in the show has made me realize that I really don’t have a word I feel comfortable referring to my vagina as…which translates into me actually never referring to it at all, which I think makes it easier to not think about it often (or as something that is a part of me, because what other parts of my body do I not give names to? Perhaps my nipples. I’m unsure that I ever directly refer to them either. I should work on that. Or that space behind my knee that doesn’t actually have a name because who ever needs to refer to it? I don’t want my vagina and my nipples to be in the same category as the useless space behind my knee.) There is a power in naming things. I don’t want to sacrifice that power. But “vagina” is so…clinical and just un-sexy. I don’t really like “pussy” or “cunt”. Things like
“va-jay-jay” are just…no. There are other words, I’m sure, but I am positive that this disinclination towards referencing my vagina is intricately linked to my general disinclination towards talking during sex, which I know I’m not comfortable with. So maybe I need to spend more time figuring out why I don’t like particular words for the vagina and discovering one I do like, because I want to be able to employ the ownership enabled by having terms for things.
We have a student-written monologue about…basically when sex doesn’t feel good. She talks about not enjoying sex with her ex-boyfriend, and she describes it as “mechanical”. That word floored me the first time she used it, because I think it would be inaccurate to say that I’ve never been bored during sex. I have a distinct memory of being with someone, being on top and just going up and down, up and down and not being particularly into it…but it was just for a little while and then I got out of my head and more into the moment. I didn’t regret the experience overall. But her monologue has made me wonder a) whether I should have, and b) if I’ve been having bad sex, or worse sex than I’d previously thought I’ve been having. I’ve turned down sex recently and I doubt that my experiences listening to this monologue and that fact are unrelated. She and her vagina deserve better than mechanical sex, and so do me and mine.
We were supposed to have a transgender woman perform a monologue about what it means to be a vagina-less woman, and though she didn’t actually perform with us due to unfortunate circumstances (the details of which I do not know), her story is making me think more about what it means to be a woman. (I’m also interested in whether transgendered individuals do more to fight or support gender normativity, but that’s another thought train for another time.)
But even apart from the specifics of various monologues, there was something profound about being in this show, and especially about staging the show the way we did it, with the cast members “hiding” in the audience. The cast members got the audience to participate very heavily, from reading intros for various pieces to grabbing hold of a performer’s breasts during an orgasm scene. The energy in that room was palpable, and it was all revolving not only around sex and sexuality, which is not terribly uncommon, but around VAGINAS. We were celebrating them, and helping to create a space in which they could be openly and comfortably celebrated was…transformative.
Moral of this story: If you’ve never seen The Vagina Monologues, go buy the book. And/or find a local performance to go to next February.
To commemorate this experience, I purchased this necklace on from LipsLikeCherry’s etsy store. (You can find ANYTHING on etsy.)
|Yes, that is a vulva.|
The front reminds me of the rose from Beauty and the Beast.