The Vagina Monologues – Sex or Violence?
A marker for a profligate notion of academic freedom incompatible with Notre Dame’s claimed Catholic identity
At Notre Dame, our illusions of being a “family,” parietals and rules against pre-marital intercourse seem to erase from our consciousness issues of sexuality. (Kamaria Porter, The Observer)
While students finally decided not to continue the annual performances of The Vagina Monologues or the homosexual/lesbian film festival, the approval by the administration of these events stands as a marker for a profligate notion of academic freedom incompatible with the school’s claimed Catholic identity. This is why:
The play opens with a monologue ambiguously entitled “Hair.” The first sentence establishes, however, that it is not a barber talking: “You cannot love a vagina unless you love hair,” the speaker declares. To establish her thesis, she proceeds to relate how she and her husband had a falling out about whether she should shave her vagina. She didn’t want to, because “[w] hen he made love to me, my vagina felt the way a beard must feel.” But when he then had an affair, she got him back by letting him shave her vagina. That turned out to be no sacrifice, for when she “could feel his spiky sharpness sticking into me, my naked puffy vagina,” she “realized then that hair is there for a reason.”
The play then moves on through short monologues telling a good deal more about vaginas – what they would wear if dressed (e.g., mink, jeans, bikinis), what they would say if they could talk (“lick me, too hard, where’s Brian” and the like), how they smell (“clammy,” “unbearable”), how it “floods down there” “right through my panties” in a clutch with “Andy” – and segues into an episode about a group of women in a “Vagina Workshop.” The narrator ends her course of study, which is described in considerable detail, with this:
“Then I just slid into my vagina….I was all warm and pulsing and ready and young and alive. And then, without looking, with my eyes still closed, I put my finger on what had suddenly become me. There was a little quivering at first, which urged me to stay. Then the quivering became a quake, an eruption, the layers dividing and subdividing as I lay there thrashing about on my little blue mat.”
The next chapter moves back into heterosexual territory with the story of Bob, a new acquaintance of the narrator, who was a “connoisseur” of vaginas – “the way they felt, the way they tasted, the way they smelled, but most of all the way they looked.” And so we learn of his vagina-gazing for so long that the narrator “began to get wet and turned on” and all the rest, which we leave to the text of the play.
There follow more and varied commentaries on vaginas, which are “supposed to be loose and wide” and stimulated with a “French tickler” in soft underwear. That, the narrator says, would result in women “coming all day long, coming in the supermarket, coming on the subway.” By way of counterpoint, there’s a narrator who assails an unidentified “army of people thinking up ways to torture my poor-ass vagina, to undermine my pussy” even though it’s “supposed to smell like pussy” and “doesn’t need to be cleaned up.” The proper celebratory attitude is shown by one narrator whose only lines consist of a sort of cheerleading pivoting on the word “cunt.” Thus, “C, C, Ca, Ca, cavern, cackle, cute, come, closed” and so on. And on.
The last portion of the play includes three substantial and especially revelatory monologues. In the first, a 16 year-old girl tells of how she lost her virginity to a 24 year-old woman in an alcohol-fueled evening. Saying, “Your vagina, untouched by man, smells so nice, so fresh,” she “does everything to me and my coochi-snorcher” so that “wow I’m so hot, so wild.” Then the woman tries a conversion: “She makes me play with myself in front of her and she teaches me all the different ways to give myself pleasure so I’ll never need to rely on a man.”
The second and third monologues are by two more lesbians, one a dominatrix-for-hire. The dominatrix, who made what some might think an unusual switch from tax law, developed a new specialty: making women moan by “finding this place inside them” and employing a battery of imaginative techniques, all of which she shares with the audience. The second narrator, as part of her description of the joys of lesbian sex, tells of “having sex with a woman” who’s “inside me” while “I’m inside her”:
“Fucking myself together with her. There are four fingers inside me; two are hers, two are mine. We know about vaginas. We touch them. We lick them. We play with them. We tease them. We notice when the clitoris swells. I like to play with the rim of the vagina, with fingers, knuckles, toes, tongue. I like to enter it slowly, slowly entering, then thrusting three fingers inside. There’s other openings; there’s the mouth. While I have a free hand, there’s fingers in her mouth, fingers in her vagina, both going, all going all at once, her mouth sucking my fingers, her vagina sucking my fingers. Both sucking, both wet….She can enter me. I can experience my own wetness, let her glide her fingers into me, her fingers into my mouth, my vagina, the same. I pull her hand out of my cunt. I rub my wetness against her knee so she knows. I slide my wetness down her leg until my face is between her thighs. My tongue’s in her clitoris. My tongue replaces my fingers. My mouth enters her vagina.”
These then, are the sort of slatternly roles played and shockingly crude lines that were spoken by young Notre Dame on a Notre Dame stage each V-Day. There are, to be sure, some passages relating to violence against women, which is hailed by apologists as the play’s main theme. To be specific, we note the following: 13 lines about a 16th century witchcraft trial; 14 lines about 19th century surgical procedures to halt womens’ masturbation (with one 20th century case); nine lines about a punch in the groin of a girl by a 10-year old; 15 lines about a rape of a girl by her father’s friend; and ten lines about the ending of the “tradition of genital cutting” in some places in Africa and the faking of the practice by one of the “chief ‘cutters’” — for a total of 151 lines in this 124 page play. To be sure, some pages are not full; and we might have missed some pertinent pages inadvertently. Still, the general proportions are clear and striking. Erase the passages celebrating homosexual, heterosexual, and autoerotic sex and the female sexual organ and there is no play left.