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.
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.
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
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.
From the Publisher
"Women have entrusted Eve with their most intimate experiences, from sex to birthing. . . . I think readers, men as well as women, will emerge from these pages feeling more free within themselves—and about each other." —Gloria Steinem
"Eve Ensler is the Pied Piper. She is leading women and the world to a different consciousness of the essence of women." —Gillian Anderson
"I feel my life has changed. You don't just hook up with Eve, you become part of her crusade. There's a corps of us who are Eve's army." —Glenn Close
"The monologues are part of Eve Ensler's crusade to wipe out the shame and embarrassment that many women still associate with their bodies or their sexuality. . . . They are both a celebration of women's sexuality and a condemnation of its violation."
—The New York Times
"Spellbinding, funny, and almost unbearably moving. . . . Written with a bluntness that is nevertheless intensely lyrical, it is both a work of art and an incisive piece of cultural history, a poem and a polemic, a performance and a balm and a benediction." —Variety
"Frank, humorous and moving . . . a compelling rhapsody of the female essence. Ultimately, Ensler achieves something extraordinary." —Chicago Tribune
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
I bet you're worried. I was worried. That's why I began this piece. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them. I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas-a community, a culture of
vaginas. There's so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them-like the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there.
In the first place, it's not so easy even to find your vagina. Women go weeks, months, sometimes years without looking at it. I interviewed a high-powered businesswoman who told me she was too busy; she didn't have the time. Looking at your vagina, she said, is a full day's work. You have to get down there on your back in front of a mirror that's standing on its own, full-length preferred. You've got to get in the perfect position, with the perfect light, which then is shadowed somehow by the mirror and the angle you're at. You get all twisted up. You're arching your head up, killing your back. You're exhausted by then. She said she didn't have the time for that. She was busy.
So I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues. I talked with over two hundred women. I talked to older women, young women, married women, single women, lesbians, college professors, actors, corporate professionals, sex workers, African American women, Hispanic women, Asian American women, Native American
women, Caucasian women, Jewish women. At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn't stop them. Women secretly love to talk about theirvaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one's ever asked them before.
Let's just start with the word "vagina." It sounds like an infection at best, maybe a medical instrument: "Hurry, Nurse, bring me the vagina." "Vagina." "Vagina." Doesn't matter how many times you say it, it never sounds like a word you want to say. It's a totally ridiculous, completely
unsexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct-"Darling, could you stroke my vagina?"-you kill the act right there.
I'm worried about vaginas, what we call them and don't call them.
In Great Neck, they call it a pussycat. A woman there told me that her mother used to tell her, "Don't wear panties underneath your pajamas, dear; you need to air out your pussycat." In Westchester they called it a pooki, in New Jersey a twat. There's "powderbox," "derrière," a "poochi," a
"poopi," a "peepe," a "poopelu," a "poonani," a "pal" and a "piche," "toadie," "dee dee," "nishi," "dignity," "monkey box," "coochi snorcher," "cooter," "labbe," "Gladys Siegelman," "VA," "wee wee," "horsespot," "nappy dugout," "mongo," a "pajama," "fannyboo," "mushmellow," a "ghoulie,"
"possible," "tamale," "tottita," "Connie," a "Mimi" in Miami, "split knish" in Philadelphia, and "schmende" in the Bronx. I am worried about vaginas.
Some of the monologues are close to verbatim interviews, some are composite interviews, and with some I just began with the seed of an interview and had a good time. This monologue is pretty much the way I heard it. Its subject, however, came up in every interview, and often it was fraught. The subject being
You cannot love a vagina unless you love hair. Many people do not love hair. My first and only husband hated hair. He said it was cluttered and dirty. He made me shave my vagina. It looked puffy and exposed and like a little girl. This excited him. When he made love to me, my vagina felt the way a beard must feel. It felt good to rub it, and painful. Like scratching a mosquito bite. It felt like it was on fire. There were screaming red bumps. I refused to shave it again. Then my husband had an affair. When we went to marital therapy, he said he screwed around because I wouldn't
please him sexually. I wouldn't shave my vagina. The therapist had a thick German accent and gasped between sentences to show her empathy. She asked me why I didn't want to please my husband. I told her I thought it was weird. I felt little when my hair was gone down there, and I couldn't help talking in a baby voice, and the skin got irritated and even calamine lotion wouldn't help it. She told me marriage was a compromise. I asked her if shaving my vagina would stop him from screwing around. I asked her if she'd had many cases like this before. She said that questions diluted the process. I needed to jump in. She was sure it was a good beginning.
This time, when we got home, he got to shave my vagina. It was like a therapy bonus prize. He clipped it a few times, and there was a little blood in the bathtub. He didn't even notice it, 'cause he was so happy shaving me. Then, later, when my husband was pressing against me, I could feel his spiky sharpness sticking into me, my naked puffy vagina. There was no protection. There was no fluff.
I realized then that hair is there for a reason-it's the leaf around the flower, the lawn around the house. You have to love hair in order to love the vagina. You can't pick the parts you want. And besides, my husband never stopped screwing around.
I asked all the women I interviewed the same questions and then I picked my favorite answers. Although I must tell you, I've never heard an answer I didn't love. I asked women:
"If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?"
A leather jacket.
A pink boa.
A male tuxedo.
An evening gown.
See-through black underwear.
A taffeta ball gown.
Something machine washable.
Costume eye mask.
Purple velvet pajamas.
A red bow.
Ermine and pearls.
A large hat full of flowers.
A leopard hat.
A silk kimono.
An electrical shock device to keep unwanted strangers away.
Lace and combat boots.
Purple feathers and twigs and shells.
From the Audio CD (Unabridged) edition.