By Joseph Salazar.
I’m what the LGBTQ community calls a “Gold-Star Gay”. In other words, I’ve never been in any sort of romantic situation with a woman. Practically speaking, this means my experience with female anatomy is limited. Furthermore, I’ve never learned about vaginas in school. The Vagina Monologues, performed by students at UMKC on Thursday, March 7, was a very positive learning experience.
Before watching the performance, the vagina was, to me, a very mysterious place. Largely, this was because I was almost totally uneducated about female anatomy. However, in another respect, the vagina was mysterious simply because it was different than the anatomy I am used to seeing. Unlike a penis, the vagina is an internal organ. With a penis, what you see is what you get. Vaginas, as one performer put it, have layers upon layers upon layers. And when you have no idea what those layers entail, it’s terrifying.
After watching the performance, I can now say I know a little bit more about what those layers entail. I know what a clitoris is (and that it’s the only organ part of the human body that is designed purely to produce pleasure). Unfortunately, I still have no idea what a labia is. And I’m still unsure as to what a clitoris looks like. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
The most interesting thing about watching The Vagina Monologues was learning about how some straight men feel about vaginas. The monologue that sticks out most to me is the monologue in which an older woman from New York talks about her first kiss—it details how a woman’s first kiss goes wrong when she starts “flooding” unexpectedly. For the woman in the play, the young man’s negative reaction to her physiological response to his kiss is devastating. She closes up her vagina for good. My thoughts on hearing this sad, yet humorously performed story were full of questions, “Don’t straight men like vaginas? Don’t straight men like sex? Do straight men prefer artificial lube to the real deal?” To be brutally honest, the flooding is what I had always envied about women—for gays, preparing for sex can be an hours-long ordeal; women may come ready to perform.
Another aspect of the monologues that really startled me was how many of the characters revealed they had never seen their own vagina. The monologues being my first impression about women and female anatomy may have created the inaccurate impression in my mind that this is a common phenomenon. Even if it is nowhere near common, however, the play forced me to think about why any woman would never see her own vagina. I was shocked to hear characters express feelings of disgust about their own bodies in a heart-wrenching, shocking, and thought-provoking manner. In my mind, I contrasted this experience of women to the experience of men in a locker room, where the penis is celebrated as the physical manifestation of one’s masculinity and, in turn, worthiness.
In the end, The Vagina Monologues did not leave me with near as many answers as it did questions. In that respect, the performance was a success—the performance got me to think about things I had previously been totally unaware about, namely, the sometimes negative way women and straight men feel about vaginas. I want to know more about why women and straight men feel the way they do about vaginas. The shocking statistics offered by the performers about female genital mutilation and other forms of sexual and physical violence also made me more interested in learning about the ways in which I can do more to end violence against women. I feel more enlightened about women’s issues and how female anatomy relates to those issues than before the performance; the performance was a very rewarding experience.