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The Vagina Monologues: The V-Day Edition

The Vagina Monologues: The V-Day Edition

4.1 42
by Eve Ensler

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A poignant and hilarious tour of the last frontier, the ultimate forbidden zone, The Vagina Monologues is a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery. In this stunning phenomenon that has swept the nation, Eve Ensler gives us real women's stories of intimacy, vulnerability, and sexual self-discovery.

Celebrated as the bible for a


A poignant and hilarious tour of the last frontier, the ultimate forbidden zone, The Vagina Monologues is a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery. In this stunning phenomenon that has swept the nation, Eve Ensler gives us real women's stories of intimacy, vulnerability, and sexual self-discovery.

Celebrated as the bible for a new generation of women, The Vagina Monologues has been performed in cities all across America and at hundreds of college campuses. It has inspired a dynamic grassroots movement—V-Day—to stop violence against women. Witty and irreverent, compassionate and wise, Eve Ensler's Obie Award-winning masterpiece gives voice to women's deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who reads it will ever look at a woman's body, or think of sex, in quite the same way again.

Included in this special edition are testimonials—both joyous and heartbreaking—from young women who have performed The Vagina Monologues at their colleges for V-Day, February 14, to raise money for organizations fighting to protect women.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

NY Times
If Ms. Ensler is the messiah heralding the second wave of feminism, and a lot of people think she is, it is partly because she's a brilliant comedian...The audience...was overwhelmingly adoring.
NY Newsday
The most exhilarating part is, no kidding, her extremely virtuosic way with a series of orgasmic moans...Ensler, a writer-performer with a good-natured but seriously evangelical mission about this body part, must be enjoying her success in getting the word out on such a legendarily unmentionable, mythologized and misunderstood fact of life...
Ensler breaks taboos by talking, talking and talking some more—stripping fear and shame from what she celebrates here. It makes for quite a party. Funny, outrageous, emotionally affecting, and occasionally angry...THE VAGINA MONOLGOUES confront words to demystify and disarm them. In so doing, Ensler disarms the audience too.
Sara Kelly

For some of us, a little vagina goes a long way. Most of us, however, are not Eve Ensler, the woman behind The Vagina Monologues. For Ensler, not even the limits of the human constitution can keep a determined vagina down. And that, in essence, is the point of this literary adaptation of her Obie-winning one-woman show. Assembled in seemingly random fashion from interviews with "a diverse group of over two hundred women about their vaginas," the monologues, their author contends, are for our own good. The intent is purely missionary -- to reclaim the much-maligned "vagina" for women the same way the gay community has reclaimed the term "queer."

It is with great pride and purpose that Ensler invokes the "V" word. Like a precocious child, she repeats those telltale three syllables guaranteed to get a rise out of the grown-ups. "I say 'vagina,'" she explains, "because I want people to respond." And they respond, she says, because they know they shouldn't. Since learning the word's liberating power for herself as an adult, Ensler has hardly tired of its cryptic joys. "I say it in my sleep," she boasts. "I say it because I'm not supposed to say it. I say it because it's an invisible word -- a word that stirs up anxiety, awkwardness, contempt and disgust."

The Vagina Monologues is comprised of roughly 15 thematically linked pieces (the number varies depending on whether you count the "vagina facts," dedications, explanations and musings that punctuate the interviews). A foreword by Gloria Steinem attempts to connect the vagina with the core beliefs of world religions (i.e., Tantra's central tenet is man's inability to reach spiritual fulfillment except through sexual and emotional union with woman's superior sexual energy). Doubtless, Monologues suffers in translation from performance piece to text. But to help ease the transition, Ensler has appended a few paragraphs of context to most selections.

Two, "Jewish Queens accent" and "English accent," are introduced with a semblance of stage directions. Others launch directly into diary entries or unbroken lists of interviewees' responses to Ensler's questions. "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" asks the author. "If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?" "What does a vagina smell like?" The responses range from pithy to banal. "Yum, yum," "Oh, yeah" and "Is that you?" say interviewees who mentally dress their "sexy"- and "wet garbage"-smelling vaginas in everything from "a pinafore" to "a slicker."

The Vagina Monologues is by turns confessional and voyeuristic. It's hard to know, for instance, just how to respond to the tragic tale of a Bosnian rape camp survivor ("... they took turns for seven days ... smelling like feces and smoked meat, they left their dirty sperm inside me ...") when juxtaposed with a vignette about a woman who experienced her first orgasm in a hands-on tutorial called "The Vagina Workshop" ("I felt connection, calling connection as I lay there thrashing about on my little blue mat ..."). Ensler is, at the very least, egalitarian in achieving her mission. She treats such subjects as lesbian sex, birth, rape and child abuse with equal candor and respect. Whether her evenhanded treatment of such conflicting subjects shortchanges both is a matter best left to sex researchers and therapists. -- Salon

Library Journal
Having been performed in 20 cities and on 200 campuses, the Obie Award-winning Vagina Monologues is here updated with testimonials and three new monoogs. Necessary Targets, which concerns violence against women during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has already played with all-star casts on Broadway and in Sarajevo. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

by Gloria Steinem

I come from the "down there" generation. That is, those were the words-spoken rarely and in a hushed voice-that the women in my family used to refer to all female genitalia, internal or external.
It wasn't that they were ignorant of terms like vagina, labia, vulva, or clitoris. On the contrary, they were trained to be teachers and probably had more access to information than most.
It wasn't even that they were unliberated, or "straitlaced," as they would have put it. One grandmother earned money from her strict Protestant church by ghostwriting sermons-of which she didn't believe a word-and then earned more by betting it on horse races. The other was a suffragist, educator, and even an early political candidate, all to the alarm of many in her Jewish community. As for my own mother, she had been a pioneer newspaper reporter years before I was born, and continued to take pride in bringing up her two daughters in a more enlightened way than she had been raised. I don't remember her using any of the slang words that made the female body seem dirty or shameful, and I'm grateful for that. As you'll see in these pages, many daughters grew up with a greater burden.
Nonetheless, I didn't hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function other than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it-and what it would be used to justify?) Thus, whether I was learning to talk, to spell, or to take care of my own body; I was told the name of each of its amazing parts except in one unmentionable area. This left me unprotected against the shaming words and dirty jokes of the school yard and, later, against the popular belief that men, whether as lovers or physicians, knew more about women's bodies than women did.
I first glimpsed the spirit of self-knowledge and freedom that you will find in these pages when I lived in India for a couple of years after college. In Hindu temples and shrines I saw the lingam, an abstract male genital symbol, but I also saw the yoni, a female genital symbol, for the first time: a flowerlike shape, triangle, or double-pointed oval. I was told that thousands of years ago, this symbol had been worshiped as more powerful than its male counterpart, a belief that carried over into Tantrism, whose central tenet is man's inability to reach spiritual fulfillment except through sexual and emotional union with woman's superior spiritual energy. It was a belief so deep and wide that even some of the woman-excluding, monotheistic religions that came later retained it in their traditions, although such beliefs were (and still are) marginalized or denied as heresies by mainstream religious leaders.
For example: Gnostic Christians worshiped Sophia as the female Holy Spirit and considered Mary Magdalene the wisest of Christ's disciples; Tantric Buddhism still teaches that Buddhahood resides in the vulva; the Sufi mystics of Islam believe that fana, or rapture, can be reached only through Fravahi, the female spirit; the Shekina of Jewish mysticism is a version of Shakti, the female soul of God; and even the Catholic church included forms of Mary worship that focused more on the Mother than on the Son. In many countries of Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world where gods are still depicted in female as well as in male forms, altars feature the Jewel in the Lotus and other representations of the Lingam-in-the-yoni. In India, the Hindu goddesses Durga and Kali are embodiments of the yoni powers of birth and death, creation and destruction.
Still, India and yoni worship seemed a long way from American attitudes about women's bodies when I came home. Even the sexual revolution of the 1960s only made more women sexually available to more men. The "no" of the 1950s was just replaced with a constant, eager "yes." It was not until the feminist activism of the 1970s that there began to be alternatives to everything from patriarchal religions to Freud (the distance from A to B), from the double standard of patriarchal/political/religious control over women's bodies as the means of reproduction.
Those early years of discovery are symbolized for me by such sense memories as walking through Judy Chicago's Woman House in Los Angeles, where each room was created by a different woman artist, and where I discovered female symbolism in my own culture for the first time. (For example, the shape we call a heart-whose symmetry resembles the vulva far more than the asymmetry of the organ that shares its name-is probably a residual female genital symbol. It was reduced from power to romance by centuries of male dominance.) Or sitting in a New York coffee shop with Betty Dodson (you will meet her in these pages), trying to act cool while she electrified eavesdroppers with her cheerful explanation of masturbation as a liberating force. Or coming back to Ms. magazine to find, among the always humorous signs on its bulletin board: IT'S 10 O'CLOCK AT NIGHT-DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CLITORIS IS?

By the time feminists were putting CUNT POWER! on buttons and T-shirts as a way of reclaiming that devalued word, I could recognize the restoration of an ancient power. After all, the Indo-European word cunt was derived from the goddess K ali's title of Kunda or Cunti, and shares the same root as kin and country.
These last three decades of feminism were also marked by a deep anger as the truth of violence against the female body was revealed, whether it took the form of rape, childhood sexual abuse, anti-lesbian violence, physical abuse of women, sexual harassment, terrorism against reproductive freedom, or the international crime of female genital mutilation. Women's sanity was saved by bringing these hidden experiences into the open, naming them, and turning our rage into positive action to reduce and heal violence. Part of the tidal wave of creativity that has resulted from this energy of truth telling is this play and book.

When I first went to see Eve Ensler perform the intimate narratives in these pages-gathered from more than two hundred interviews and then turned into poetry for the theater-I thought: I already know this: it's the journey of truth telling we've been on for the past three decades. And it is. Women have entrusted her with their most intimate experiences, from sex to birthing, from the undeclared war against women to the new freedom of love between women. On every page, there is the power of saying the unsayable-as there is in the behind-the-scenes story of the book itself. One publisher paid an advance for it, then, on sober second thought, allowed Eve Ensler to keep the money if she would take the book and its v-word elsewhere. (Thank Villard for publishing all of women's words-even in the title.)
But the value of The Vagina Monologues goes beyond purging a past full of negative attitudes. It offers a personal, grounded-in-the-body way of moving toward the future. I think readers, men as well as women, may emerge from these pages not only feeling more free within themselves-and about each other-but with alternatives to the old patriarchal dualism of feminine/masculine, body/ mind, and sexual/spiritual that is rooted in the division of our physical selves into "the part we talk about" and "the part we don't."
If a book with vagina in the title still seems a long way from such questions of philosophy and politics, I offer one more of my belated discoveries.
In the 1970s, while researching in the Library of Congress, I found an obscure history of religious architecture that assumed a fact as if it were common knowledge: the traditional design of most patriarchal buildings of worship imitates the female body. Thus, there is an outer and inner entrance, labia majora and labia minora; a central vaginal aisle toward the altar; two curved ovarian structures on either side; and then in the sacred center, the altar or womb, where the miracle takes place-where males give birth.
Though this comparison was new to me, it struck home like a rock down a well. Of course, I thought. The central ceremony of patriarchal religions is one in which men take over the yoni-power of creation by giving birth symbolically. No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin-because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth-fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life. No wonder the male priesthood tries to keep women away from the altar, just as women are kept away from control of our own powers of reproduction. Symbolic or real, it's all devoted to controlling the power that resides in the female body.
Since then, I've never felt the same estrangement when entering a patriarchal religious structure. Instead, I walk down the vaginal aisle, plotting to take back the altar with priests-female as well as male-who would not disparage female sexuality, to universalize the male-only myths of Creation, to multiply spiritual words and symbols, and to restore the spirit of God in all living things.
If overthrowing some five thousand years of patriarchy seems like a big order, just focus on celebrating each self-respecting step along the way.
I thought of this while watching little girls drawing hearts in their notebooks, even dotting their i's with hearts, and I wondered: Were they magnetized by this primordial shape because it was so like their own bodies? I thought of it again while listening to a group of twenty or so diverse nine- to sixteen-year-old girls as they decided to come up with a collective word that included everything-vagina, labia, clitoris. After much discussion, "power bundle" was their favorite. More important, the discussion was carried on with shouts and laughter. I thought: What a long and blessed way from a hushed "down there."
I wish my own foremothers had known their bodies were sacred. With the help of outrageous voices and honest words like those in this book, I believe the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of the future will heal their selves-and mend the world.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Eve Ensler's Obie Award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues, currently enjoying a sold-out run at Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre and playing in theaters all over the world, initiated V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women. Ensler's performance of The Vagina Monologues will be seen on HBO in 2001. Her play Necessary Targets has had benefit performances on Broadway, at the National Theater in Sarajevo, and at the Kennedy Center, and will open in New York this year. Other plays include Lemonade, The Depot, Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man, Extraordinary Measures, Ladies, and Scooncat. She is working on a new book and play, The Good Body. Ensler received a 1999 Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting. She lives in New York City with her partner, Ariel Orr Jordan.

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Vagina Monologues 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the bluntness with which this book is written. The author makes no attempt to hide the beautiful material discussed within. Such a great step forward in ending FGM and stopping violence for all women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wouldnt let me open the stupid thing
SS17 More than 1 year ago
Great Book. All the women should read this book and learn to respect their gender.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eve Ensler¿s The Vagina Monologues is an interesting read. It delves into a relatively secret matter that is not discussed openly. It is written and organized well enough to make it a quick and captivating read. Once you pick up the book, you will not be able to put it down. Yes, that applies to guys as well because even though we are not willing to admit it, we have a natural curiosity for the ¿down there.¿ This book gives a small but very powerful glimpse into what the world of vaginas holds. In order to do this, Ensler has to illustrate what a vagina is like using only words. She gives first-hand accounts of questions that she asked people on the streets, short stories that are more second-hand diary accounts, and finally vagina facts. While she seems to capture the true nature and thoughts about vaginas perfectly with some of the accounts, she misses the mark a few times as well. The direct questions, sometimes a little disturbing, add to the book as a whole and show the diversity of women and what they feel they are like. The vagina facts are interesting and well placed throughout the book, I do not know if I would have enjoyed reading the book or not without them. It would definitely have been a little drier and more condensed in terms of its femininity. And finally, we come to the second-hand accounts. These accounts were very eye opening and hold nothing back when it comes to women and how they feel or act. And when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. This is not necessarily a good thing, however, because sometimes Ensler came off more as a pro-lesbian rather than just a strong feminist. Some of the entries are far more important than others and the book could have portrayed Ensler¿s message without a few of them. For instance, the entry about rape being used as a tool of warfare is extremely relevant in our world and should be given more thought. On the other side there is the monologue where the little girl and the grown woman make love. Now, the whole book is thought provoking, but that passage was a little more than that it was disturbing. I do not think that the overall message of the book would have been lost if that one had been left out. The Vagina Monologues should be recommended to all who are willing to embrace it with an open mind. It is definitely not for everyone and should not be approached as such. But if you are looking for a good feminist book that gives interesting insight on what women think about their vaginas then look no further!
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿If your Vagina got dressed what would it wear?¿ A beret. A leather Jacket. Silk Stockings. A Pink Boa. A Male Tuxedo. Jeans¿. 'Ensler, 2001, p.15' This short excerpt from the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler is just one of the many passages demonstrating the controversial material in the book. Many of the monologues in the book contain material which one would not normally expect to read or talk about every day. It is a shocking book. For the subject of a woman¿s vagina is not commonly talked about and is rarely brought up in conversation. However, should it be? The book is drawing attention to the idea that women need to be aware of their vaginas, really get to know them, and understand them. This may seem odd however, Eve really does a great job throughout the monologues to explain how valuable the vagina is to the woman. The Vagina Monologues, usually performed as a play, is truly shocking and attention getting in book form as well as when presented in the play style. It takes one through different stories of woman¿s vaginas and what they think about them. It includes monologues of what women think their vaginas will wear, smell like, or say. It interviews many different women ranging from females who have been abused, assaulted, and ones who have normal sex lives. Eve Ensler, the author, is lesbian and she talks about how she came to that realization and grew into the person she is today. She tells of her mission and goal which she is trying to achieve through these monologues. Eve shows women that they need to be aware of themselves through their vaginas and truly find themselves in this way. Through Eve Ensler¿s activism and drive from the book she has instigated V-day. V-day is a college initiative which encourages college women around the nation to fight violence against woman and girls. This Global initiative creates awareness about the woman who have suffered from rape, incest, genital mutilation, and any other sexual assault against them. Through her book and initiative Eve Ensler has drawn awareness from the populace. I would highly recommend this book although controversial and shocking at times, it is truly moving. It makes females and males think about what needs to be changed in how women need to be viewed and treated in our world today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this one, another one I'd been wanting to read for awhile, so I was quite pleased to find it at the thrift store, (I found Sedaris' there too) I loved this, I really did, some parts made me laugh, others made me want to cry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Words and thoughts once taboo are now mainstream due in large part to 'The Vagina Monologues,' a funny, moving exploration of women's thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears by the dynamic Eve Ensler. Released to coincide with February's V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls, the audio version brings Ensler's words to wise and witty life once more. Of course, no one is better suited to read these words than the author herself. Winner of the Obie Award for this play, Ensler is also the author of other plays including Lemonade, The Depot, and Necessary Targets, which has had benefit performances on Broadway, at the National Theatre in Sarajevo, and at the Kennedy Center. Hailed throughout the world Ensler's uninhibited masterpiece has become a rallying cry for women. Listen, laugh, and learn.
Chancie More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable, amusing, funny, heartfelt, but lacking depth in most of the stories. I enjoyed it, but I don't feel like the changed person I thought I'd feel like after reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's black font on black background...
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