Essentially, The Vagina Monologues is about different women and their relationships with their vaginas. It’s creator Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women and asked them questions like, “If your vagina could talk what would it say?” and even “What would it wear?” Of these testimonies some were chosen, blended, or rewritten to represent the differing views between society and women about their “down there’s”. After seeing this performance at Ohio State the other night I felt inspired to investigate my own relationship with my down there.
To me, vagina was never a dirty word, and it certainly didn’t sound like some shameful disease. Although I have always reserved a quiet disdain for the words “pussy” and “cunt” I always thought that vagina sounded beautiful and even exotic, rather than medically necessary. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that I had a vagina until I was forced into sex education in fifth grade. I can still recall our science teacher’s shaky explanation of intercourse. She stood uneasily beside the projector with her left pointer finger and thumb forming an “O” shape while she slowly jabbed her right finger through it. “See class, the penis goes inside the vagina just like this” All of the girls in the class just sat there with a confused look on their faces. I leaned over and whispered into my friend’s ear, “Where’s that hole supposed to be?” she whispered back and said, “The middle one.” We both stuck out our tongues in childish disgust. Until that shocking revelation I believed that all my vagina was, was a chubby, hairless triangle between my legs. I stayed away from my fat little pouch until I was forced to deal with it. I had started my period for the fist time in the eighth grade and it was now time to woman-up and learn how to use a tampon. I sat on the toilet for almost an hour listening to my friends cheering me on and shouting out directions from outside the bathroom, as I tried desperately to understand why that damn thing wouldn’t go up my vagina. It took three hours to figure out that it was because my vagina was not up but back.
I really never understood the concept of hating the look of one’s vagina. A young man had exposed himself to me in the park by my house the fall of my seventh grade year so I knew what a penis looked like, and after seeing how gross they were I thought vaginas might as well be masterpieces. In the story, Because He Liked to Look at it, the character explained that she was so disgusted by the sight of her own vagina that she imagined there was furniture between her legs. Who taught us to hate the aesthetics of our perfectly personalized vaginas? It’s yours, and it’s the only one you’ve got so you should love and honor it.
I was still pondering what my vagina would wear when I was shaken back to reality by the words of the next character. She was a Bosnian woman who had been captured by four soldiers who had raped and tortured her for six days. As she told her gruesome tale I squeezed my legs tightly together as an effort to protect mine from invaders. It was then when the burning started between my legs and I realized that I was mourning for her, and what she had lost. I swallowed hard and shifted uncomfortably in my chair as I listened to her explain that the soldiers raped her with a rifle and that on the sixth day of being raped part of her labia fell off in her hand. Her vagina was destroyed and so then, her heart was as well. This wasn’t even the most horrific rape story I’ve ever heard. Indigenous Guatemalan women raped with machetes as a response to their political upheaval, Women in Eastern Europe who have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution in other countries, and the gang rapes of young girls IN THIS COUNTRY are among the one billion tragic stories of the nameless and voiceless victims of sexual violence.
I know my vagina. I know how she looks, and what she likes, I know how to take care of her. I never feel a disconnection to my vagina, that is of course when I’m alone. When a man comes into the situation that’s when I lose her, abandon her, and hand her over because she no longer belongs to me, she is his. I don’t even notice it’s happening, really. I always enjoy the beginning but then the fear sets in, and it grows and gets loud. It screams inside my head until I start panicking, that is not my partner…he’s in me and I don’t know him…I’m not safe here…I’m not safe…and then I tell him to stop, and he does and it’s over and I’m embarrassed and ashamed and he feels like he did something wrong when he didn’t. I used to block all of this out, but since I finally acknowledged my trauma my thoughts have become more powerful.
That’s the thing about vaginas, they’ll hold inside whatever it is you place in them. That is to say, they will hold shame, pain, and sadness, just as much pleasure or desire. This is why they must be taken care of, respected, and loved. If my vagina could talk she’d say, “STOP, take me on a date, like me and love me before you touch me”, “Don’t call me pussy, I’m no pussy…I’m more powerful than you think!”, and of course, “I am not a whole that was created for your penis, I am my own proud, perfect, separate entity and your bullshit is drying me out like a desert.”