Book Review: The Vagina Monologues

Author: Eve Ensler

Foreword by: Gloria Steinem

Publisher: Virago Press

Reviewed by: Faith Oneya

Eve Ensler’s book delivers a thorough exploration of the vagina straight from the eyes of the seven year old girl to those of the seventy-something year old woman, from the heterosexuals’ perspective to the lesbian’s perspective, all in a bid to seemingly drive one message home: That the female sexuality should be celebrated in all its complexity and mystery.

The vagina monologues are  about  sex, loverapemenstruationfemale genital mutilationmasturbationbirth, orgasms and everything else that a vagina is capable of being about. The author delves right into it from the onset. From sweet stories -Like the 72 year old woman who had never seen her vagina, had never touched herself with conscious intention…who cried after she finally found her clitoris(after much therapy) to horrendous stories of vaginas raped , vaginas mutilated.

Questions that deliver the vagina monologues are asked cleverly through the use of projective techniques which begin to let the reader know how different women of different ages relate to their vaginas. If you are a woman, fancy answering questions like these about your vagina: “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?” OR “If your vagina could talk, what would it say?”

Some of the monologues include;

  • I Was Twelve, My Mother Slapped Me: a chorus describing many young women’s and girls’ first menstrual period.
  • My Angry Vagina, in which a woman humorously rants about injustices wrought against the vagina, such as tamponsdouches, and the tools used by OB/GYNs.
  • My Vagina Was My Village, a monologue compiled from the testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps.
  • The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, in which a woman recalls memories of traumatic sexual experiences in her childhood and a self-described “positive healing” sexual experience in her adolescent years with an older woman. In the original version, she is 13, but later versions would change her age to 16. It also originally included the line, “If it was rape, it was a good rape.” This particular skit has sparked numerous controversies and criticisms due to its content (see below).
  • Reclaiming Cunt, a piece narrated by a woman who illustrates that the word “cunt” itself is a lovely word despite its disconcerting connotations.
  • The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy, in which a sex worker for women discusses the intriguing details of her career and her love of giving women pleasure. In several performances it often comes at the end of the play, literally climaxing with a vocal demonstration of a “triple orgasm.”
  • Because He Liked to Look At It, in which a woman describes how she had thought her vagina was ugly and had been embarrassed to even think about it, but changed her mind because of a sexual experience with a man named Bob who liked to spend hours looking at it.
  • I Was There In The Room, a monologue in which Eve Ensler describes the birth of her granddaughter.

(Source for above:

Eve injects parts of the book with doses of “vagina facts”. A particularly interesting fact is that in 1593, an investigative lawyer who was covering the trial of a witch discovered the clitoris for the first time and identified it as “a devil’s teat and a proof of the witch’s guilt”!

There is a shortcoming in the book that cannot fail to be mentioned. This is the excessive effort and pages (well over 50) out of 185 pages dedicated to justify the existence of the V-Monologues movement, as if it needed any in the first place given its immense world-wide success. At some point, the book starts to read like an NGO report to donors! With e-mails and letters (which look like they were printed verbatim) from beneficiaries of the movement appearing one after the other. One feels a little shortchanged given that the rest of the book is of intimate sharing from women worldwide. A better deal would have been if the ‘justification bit ‘came as an appendix, way after the vagina monologues are completed.

Note: Vagina monologues inspired a grassroots movement: V-Day-to stop violence against women.

Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

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