‘Vagina Monologues’ celebrate female sexuality

Last Friday, the Women’s Collective performed its second annual rendition of the Vagina Monologues. Eve Ensler’s original Vagina Monologues premiered in 1996 and since then has become an iconic success, as adaptations and additions to the original set of monologues have been produced. Various female students auditioned for the roles, delivering monologues ranging from humorous encounters with OB/GYNs to more serious personal accounts of rape.

Despite the breadth of topics covered, the overall message of the Vagina Monologues is clear: Even as today’s culture and media dictate that women should avoid their sexuality, the Vagina Monologues challenges this stigma, urging women to explore and embrace their sexuality and quite frankly, to love their vaginas.

The performance debuted at 8 p.m. in Paresky Auditorium and ran through the weekend. The tickets consisted of signature red bands, and proceeds from ticket sales were donated to benefit the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield, which seeks to help battered women in the Berkshire region. The play began with a personable introduction to the actresses, each delivering their own intentions and motivations for participating. Some spoke about how the Vagina Monologues is especially relevant given the importance of female voters in the 2012 presidential election. Various actresses cleverly disguised as viewers, left the audience and joined their fellows on stage, furthering the intimate atmosphere. They addressed the question of how they would dress their own vaginas from bikinis to red gowns, each a metaphor for the women’s own characterizations of their vagina.

The series of monologues began with an account of the sexual encounters of an elderly woman, who was played by Paige Peterkin ’16. Dressed in a robe and wearing glasses, Peterkin hobbled onto the stage assuming the role of a 72-year-old who had never had an orgasm. Earlier in life, a bad sexual encounter with a man who was disgusted by her sexual arousal inhibited her true desires. Lucky for this elderly woman, she later realized that men are hardly needed for sexual satisfaction, which added a touch of humor to the segment.

Soon after, Shenai Williams ’13 took the stage, proclaiming that her vagina was angry. It was furious at the uncomfortable things women are forced to shove up vaginas and the array of products to mask the smell. As though she were the original writer, Shenai professed what her vagina actually wanted, not what society says it should do or smell like.

The performance presented a far more serious character in Chienfa Wong ’16 who began her monologue playing a Bosnian woman who was raped by soldiers. The terror of the incident was made a reality by Wong’s intonation and voice, which accurately and soulfully portrayed the sadness and despair that gang rape brings to any victim.

On a similar note, Ashley Ray-Harris ’13 recounted the tale of a girl who was sexually molested by her father’s friend and how her father consequently shot the man. Despite the trauma of that incident, the girl grew up to have a wonderful sexual experience with an older woman.

Next, exploring the theme of transgender men, Emily Nuckols ’15 related the story of a woman who had a sexual encounter with a transgender male – in other words, a perfectly masculine man who just has a vagina. At first apprehensive to the idea of caressing a man’s vagina, the character was astonished at how sexually aroused he soon made her, proclaiming it the “manliest vagina” she had ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

The Vagina Monologues concluded with the actresses moaning in unison. Members of the cast who had slipped into the audience joined those on the stage, releasing the most sexually liberating moans they could possibly give – members of the audience were evidently unsure of how to react, laughing or giggling. Although awkward for much of the audience, it is that awkwardness that the performance seeks to address.

Female sexuality, whether it is love of one’s vagina, new experiences with men or women or simply pleasing oneself, should be relished. All of the female students who performed the monologues did an excellent job, no less than what Ensler herself would have wanted, but the actresses mentioned above were the ones who left the strongest impressions on the viewing experience.

The Vagina Monologues reminds the viewer that, luckily, the College is a place that fervently supports and nurtures the feminist movement in its students.