My parents never gave me the sex talk. I distinctly remember witnessing the infamous car scene in Titanic through the gaps between my mother’s fingers, straining to hear the unintelligible noises escaping from the TV. Fifth grade puberty videos introduced an impressionable 10-year-old to one of the most horrifying things about female development: the tampon. Middle school health class was my awakening to horrifying realities of puberty and adolescence. Sex, emotions, and their many complications were things I never wanted to address in front of my peers, especially those who loved crude humor. So naturally, I became the brunt of their accusations of naivete. Since then, discussions about sexuality, especially female sexuality, have become more sophisticated and have been contextualized in college hookup cultures. Despite all of this, there seems to be a muted quality to many of the conversations I have been a part of about women and sex, that there is deeper desire to not offend rather than to educate. That is, until I went to see The Vagina Monologues.
For those who don’t know, The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler that gathers a diverse and engaging group of women to deliver their testimonies about, essentially, what it means to have a vagina. The spectrum of personalities includes characters such as a transgender woman, a vagina workshop participant, a woman who witnessed her daughter giving birth, and a Bosnian rape survivor. Boston College’s production was outlandishly hilarious and devastatingly beautiful, tapping into the deep well of human emotions through effusive storytelling and exaggerated moaning. Throughout the performance, I felt an unabashed pride for being female—not that I was ever ashamed of it before, but I felt celebrated throughout this performance. Through my perceptions, I could only imagine the wonderful things that this pride could do for all women at BC, showing them to never feel the need to be embarrassed for being their unapologetic selves.
The Vagina Monologues dug out all the awkwardness, beauty, tragedies, instances of self-love, and hairy moments of womanhood and shoved them in my face that evening. There was no “feel free to step outside if this makes you feel uncomfortable,” no disclaimer before orgasmic moans erupted from the stage. The production showed that the truth is uncomfortable, but in order to learn anything, one must learn how to not only bear the discomfort, but to embrace it. BC has wonderful groups on campus to address women’s issues—however, there is a sense of coddling that permeates the messages they express. The rawness of emotions and truth gets trapped behind a barrier, constructed with the objective of protecting the teller and the listener from each other—the teller from the listener’s judgment and the listener from the truth’s abrasiveness.
In order for the fear of offending to disappear into the background of women’s issues, we can all learn a thing or two from The Vagina Monologues. First off, humor can be the foreplay of any awkward conversation. When used to engage others rather than to shrug off our true feelings, or to draw laughter rather than to be wielded as a weapon, wittiness creates sizable dents in the invisible barriers within conversations. Humor breaches into the realm of storytelling, the real stuff that makes us who we are. Some narratives are long, some short, some gentle, and some wild, but they all strive for some sort of climax, the point of true understanding. It is the pursuit of “the lesson learned” that reveals the depth of experience and character within an individual. And finally, when the individual grasps insight from the truth, he or she experiences a feeling that is nearly orgasmic. No judgment and no pretense. If conversations about sensitive issues at BC could be carried out with the golden ratio of lightheartedness, story weaving, and enlightenment, we would all arrive at countless realities together.
I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I purchased the tickets for The Vagina Monologues, but I left with a new appreciation for vaginas and the testimonies of their owners. For me, watching the performance was more than just watching a work of art unfold before my eyes. It was a proclamation against the oppression that women face in today’s society. It was a statement of ownership of one’s body.
In the span of the performance, I laughed until it hurt, and then I kept laughing, I fell in love with the exceptional acting and the wonderful storytelling, and I empathized with characters that were so different from me. All fear and shame paled as the mystified and misunderstood facts of life materialized in the consciousnesses of all the audience members. The implication was that these weren’t just stories, but they were lived experiences and that each woman’s experience was just as unique and worthwhile as the next.
I realized that these sorts of open conversations are the ones that are necessary for discussing sensitive issues regarding sexuality at BC. Women on college campuses are at a high risk of feeling embarrassment about their own bodies from their peers, resulting in lower body confidence or feeling “slut-shamed.” Rumors and accusations spread like norovirus, infecting their minds with misguided ideas of ugliness and inadequacy. Especially in today’s age, as sexual assaults plague campuses, such open conversations are necessary to put an end to the silent suffering by allowing men and women alike to celebrate female strength and beauty. Honest dialogue would allow students at BC and on other college campuses, to open themselves to vulnerability but find strength in the support provided by their peers.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor