The Vagina Dialogues

What does it take to be an ally to women?

“It’s 10 o’clock. Have you made a vagina happy today?”

The flyers plastered each bulletin board around campus, naked porn stars with their legs contorted, breasts and vaginas barely covered by the show time and a not so subtle announcement for our upcoming student-led performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” on V-Day. It was my idea to be daring with our advertisements, to be controversial. I cut out money shots of women directly from a dirty magazine, pasted them to another sheet, and Xeroxed them into a more female-friendly territory. If we used porn stars’ likenesses for a feminist event, we weren’t objectifying them, right?

Like the “Vagina Monologues” themselves, our group would use shock value to lure people in. Alternately, it gave me an excuse to buy a copy of Hustler without incurring the wrath of my then-girlfriend, who was a jealous and aggressive Women’s Studies major and had criticized my pornography habits more than once.

In my first year at university, my ex and I co-organized “The Vagina Monologues”. My leadership position with the event reinforced my feelings of masculinity and dominance. I was surrounded by vaginas, but always detached from them. I suppose I felt that my involvement excused my arrogance. The lingerie I wore onstage during our performance was boxers and a ribbed tank top. The majority of girls performing, on the other hand, had all bought their costumes from a local sex boutique. For the weeks before and following the performance, I wore a shirt that said “I support your vagina.”

We baked vagina-shaped cookies, decorating the lips and clits with candy beads and icing. We decorated a chair to look like a puffy vulva. I loved talking about vaginas. Often I made sexist jokes out of it.

If your vagina could talk, what would it say?

“You like that, don’t you?”

If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?

“A strap-on.”

In the time between first rehearsals and the curtain call, I had been physically intimate with four of the girls in our show. I enjoyed the chase, and some cocky part of me thought that my involvement in the play—in a leadership position—gave me free reign over the vaginas involved in the play. As if by playing feminism as an act and paying my pro-woman dues, I was entitled to as much “pussy” as I wanted. Even as I championed women’s rights by fundraising, I whittled those good deeds away with my hypocrisy.

No wonder so many women are pissed off at men. How was this not objectification, to say I love vaginas? Not women, not women and their vaginas, just vaginas. The saddest part is that this all happened only three years ago. Reflecting on that point in my life is difficult because I’m forced to admit several uncomfortable facts.

One, that I hated my body. I was born with a vagina that, in my opinion, didn’t belong to me. I thought of vaginas as one physical characteristic of a woman, so on a man a vagina was out of place. I willfully ignored my own vagina while targeting others.

Two, that while I love the women in my life, I am also terrified of them. Writer and activist Kate Millett once talked about the notion of “fucking as conquest”, men using sex to affirm their masculinity, to feel powerful. The more I could objectify women, the more I could separate myself from them.

Three, that I took unfair advantage of the slightest touch of power. As a college freshman, I had few ways to control other people. “The Vagina Monologues” was my first taste of control, and I abused it.

Today, I do not support vaginas. I support the women and men who are attached to them.

 

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Image credit: doberes/Flickr

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About Markus Beyer

Markus Beyer is an undergraduate student at UNC-Asheville, where he is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies. He grew up in a military family and has never lived in the same city for more than four consecutive years.
Markus is also a compulsive journal writer.
The Good Men Project is Mark’s first venture into internet writing.

Comments

  1. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Start by calling it a vulva.

    • But it wasn’t “The Vulva Monologues.”

      • Hank Vandenburgh says:

        Yes, and that was either consciously or unconsciously ideological. Seventies feminists wouldn’t have let it go by. The idea (powered I think by a sort of Nietzschean ressentiment) is to make the vulva less available for sex as part of sex-negative third wave feminism- which, I’d argue, is sex-negative in spite of embracing fetishes that stand-in for real sex. It’s sort of Lysistratan. We’re doing away with real sex (vulva) until we get more stuff, and probably not bringing it back then, either. So pathetic (victimzed) vagina, instead.

        The vulva is powerful. It sticks out, and has at least three erectile organs for pleasure.

        • Markus Beyer says:

          I agree that first-wave feminists probably despise Ensler’s use of “vagina” as substitute for “vulva” since it names only one instead of several parts that make up the female reproductive system. However, I decided to use “vagina” in place of “vulva” since it is the language used in Ensler’s work and in general discourse, and it does capture the objectification that I and others have subjected women and their vulvae to.

          Eve Ensler does include one monologue in the series called “The Vulva Club”, which explains how vulva is a more accurate term for what we usually call vagina.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I was thinking the same thing. The women in the suits are dressed as vulva, not like vaginas. Though, to be fair, it is very hard to dress as a space.

      As one radical feminist put it, this is some degree of progress, but once we as a society can have The Clitoris Monologues we’ll be making some real difference….

  2. I love vulvas. But that doesn’t mean I ONLY love vulvas. I love cake too but doesn’t mean I don’t like roast, pasta, etc. You can love body parts without objectifying, as long as you still love the women who are the whole.

  3. Markus – thanks for hitting on something important. That fine line between loving women and objectifying them. I like your self-reflective open and honest piece!

    And I don’t mind the word vagina! I wish guys would say that more then other euphemisms. It’s funny that people feel silly calling our sex organs by their actual name but feel comfortable calling them all these other euphemisms. Both men and women do that.

    • Euphemizing genitals like that only lowers the level of discourse. If people call them what they are, then maybe the taboo surrounding them and maybe, just maybe, the world will be a better place.

  4. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Vaginas are castrated vulvas. Read Germane Greer. The Female Eunuch. It’s been downhill for feminism ever since.

  5. I’m gonna go out on a limb and ask a reeeallly stupid question. Markus What if those same women who you feel you took advantage of were also taking advantage of you? Cuz I fail to see the purpose of all this selflagllating.

  6. Markus Beyer says:

    No matter who is taking objectifying who, it’s unacceptable. There’s a way to enjoy body parts as just that, parts of a whole, and not separate entities. At the time I hadn’t yet realized that.

    • The people who expound on the evils of Objectification Sounds waaay too similar to the people deriding the evils of “original sin” for my taste.

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