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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Penis Monologue

Roughly halfway through “The Vagina Monologues” I had an uncomfortable experience, a strange sensation of unfamiliarity in the fulsome bundle of flesh and nerves I like to refer to as my basket of joy. I began to realize that possibly I, like many men, take the status of my external genitalia for granted.

Generally, men are very much in touch with their nads; we hoist them, scratch them, handle them, look at them all the time. We debate them, insult them, brag about them, we agonize our mornings away with the eternal question: briefs, boxers, or commando?

Indeed, in a certain sense, us people of the male persuasion define ourselves around our meaty handfuls; we look down at our lunchboxes, center of our bodies, thing that we glorify and protect in every conceivable manner and say, yep, that’s what’s going on. Its all a little out of proportion, seeing as our garden snakes only do two things, one whenever we have to, and the other whenever we can; there’s really not a lot else going on down there, but we make a huge hairy deal out of it anyway.

Not so with women, to judge from the raucous and gleeful Vagina Monologues, performed by a large cast of authentically equipped UMass Boston students. Apparently, the ‘down theres’ of women’s bodies are not nearly as easy to understand and accessible to scrutiny as our own Mr. Floppys.

Listening to the ensemble cast exploring the coochie kingdom with grace and pride gave me the uncomfortable feeling that I had been blind to a fundamental aspect of feminine psychology. I was hearing the stories of a genital awakening that I hadn’t really understood anyone to need. I began to wonder, sitting there with my swingin’ set, if I had never cottoned to the idea that women might have a wish, a need, a compulsion to explore their own sweet peaches. After all, we men have got definite opinions on them which we share at the least opportunity and at the top of our lungs. Why would women feel that some things weren’t being said?

A woman’s equipment does seem to be entirely more complicated. It’s all tucked away in a considerably more attractive and streamlined package than a man’s, and mysterious things come forth, like babies. The marvels of womanhood extend deep into the body and involve every function and aspect of womanhood, but they don’t invite scrutiny, they wait for revelation. Hence the cheerful joy of the cast and audience of women at the Monologues, and my own dim masculine confusion. All around me, women are experiencing the liberating feeling of hearing a woman or a girl say without fear and in loud, carrying voices that their vaginas are worthy of adoration and exploration

Never having attended the “Monologues” before, I had a vague idea that it was a rollicking feminist screed that would crush my grape sized ego as it disparaged my bluff entitlement to my masculine heritage of two eggs and sausage. Instead, to my surprise and vicarious delight, I was neither unwelcome nor welcome at this new breed of hoochie parade. Me and my rocket ship were just not the issue; instead, I had the voyeuristic pleasure of hearing girls and women discuss exactly what they were thinking without any regard for the men who might be listening. Of course, the Monologues are script pieces, not spontaneous, but since they were drawn from real interviews, they have the virtue of honesty built in and obviously the performers bring more to their roles than simple craft. From the impossibly cute incongruity of a young Kelly DiCarli doing a octogenarian from New York to the expressive and dignified performance by Susan Smith, speaking with tenderness and elan about watching the astonishingly gory process of giving birth, a thread of common cause connected the cast to the material.

Once I had gotten used to my fly-on-the-wall status, I began to look around to see what the audience was doing with the material, watching the range of reactions among women was more fascinating by far than cataloguing my own. I discovered the paradox of sitting in a theatre, unsure when to laugh because I was a man, looking at women unsure of when to laugh because they were women. There was a rowdy peanut gallery and a number of people that cried the whole way through.

The “Monologues” have become something of a semi-submerged cult phenomenon, performed with an ever growing frequency every year on or around Valentine’s Day in support of women’s causes and the V-Day organization(www.vday.org) by diverse theatre groups. It’s likely that the experience of hearing a performance so utterly feminine, so totally focused on women and women alone fires this growth and solidarity. I’ll never really know, will I?

About the Contributor
Carl Brooks served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2003-2004