Readers, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I'm a freshman guy. As a resident of the bottom floor of the BC food chain I found myself in a bit of a peculiar predicament this past Saturday night. I was sitting in the nosebleed seats of the very same stark auditorium in the basement of Cushing where I spend over two hours of my week loathing every second of Calculus. However, instead of trying to make sense of limits, I was listening to stories about something just as foreign: vaginas.
The Vagina Monologues are nothing new. Over 18 years ago, playwright Eve Ensler wrote the Monologues after having discussions with over 200 real women about their vaginas. She asked them questions, like "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" or "If you vagina could dress itself, what would it wear?" The answers were just as interesting, hilarious and telling as you might imagine.
When Ensler asked these women--200 women with very different ages, races and backgrounds--these questions back in 1996, their reactions ranged from shock and embarrassment to excitement and hysterical laughter. But to quote the play, "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 their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one’s ever asked them before."
Sex, their bodies, relationships and sexual violence are just a few of the topics broached in the monologues. At one point, the entire audience was yelling a C word that rhymes with bunt in an effort to reclaim it from its depths in taboo. At another, a woman tells us about her earth-shattering first orgasm just a few minutes before another woman recounts her story of horrible, graphic rape.
The monologues are eclectic and they don't sugar coat anything for those in the audience with delicate sensibilities; that is part of what makes the play so uniquely amazing. As a man sitting in the audience, I realized I was being exposed to an entire spectrum of pleasure and pain that I was completely unable to experience or understand entirely. While it was undisputedly interesting, the experience was also incredibly humbling.
For a lot of the male population, their relationship with their "junk" is rather straightforward. From puberty onward, many men know what's going on down there like the back of their hand, and really don't have a lot of problems discussing it. This is not nearly everyone of course, but I am just one writer, speaking from experience.
Women on the other hand have a very complex relationship with their vaginas and for many men, understanding that stark contrast is not something that comes naturally. Why would it? We have no way of understanding that realm of experience because we simply just don't have vaginas.
However, just because we don't have vaginas does not mean we can't begin to understand that relationship.
Men should not pretend that this relationship does not concern them and turn a blind eye to it as so many have in the past. As men, women matter to us. We date them, marry them, work with them, are born from them, love them, and live with them; and as women, vaginas matter to you.
Does that not mean that we, as men, should be concerned with them as well? Some critiques have said the monologues are "male-bashing," however issues in these monologues directly effect the lives of men everywhere and many of them even stem from the ignorance of men.
While no, most men are not vile rapists or inconsiderate lovers, these monologues are about real issues, and real problems, some of which were caused by real men. Beginning to understand these issues can be the first step to better relationships with women in all aspects of our lives.
The Vagina Monologues are not just empowering women, they're empowering men to be better, as well. They start a conversation about our culture, and begin an understanding of each other that is long over-due.
At the Monologues, I was uncomfortable, but that discomfort was so much better than the shameful silence it replaced. It was because of that discomfort that I could laugh along with every woman in that full basement about problems I had never experienced, and it is because of that discomfort that I believe I am now a better man.