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by Eve Ensler
Random House Audio, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Feb 15th 2002

The Vagina Monologues

It’s great to be able to hear Eve Ensler perform her well-known work The Vagina Monologues on CD.  For years, she has written plays in which she performs the words of people she has met and talked with, telling their stories for them; but it is this performance on vaginas that has gained her most attention.  She was a wonderful ability to bring alive the voices of the women through their monologues, and listeners will probably want to play their favorite sections to their friends and family again and again.  Or at least, if you are not the type to die of embarrassment at talk of one’s private parts, the use of rude words, and people’s feelings about sex.

I imagine The Vagina Monologues will split its listeners into those who love it, and those who hate it.  It’s easy to see why so many women love it – Ensler talks about ideas and attitudes that rarely get much attention, and she does it with passion and humor.  It’s not clear that there really is much of a taboo about sex these days – it’s all around on TV, movies, and of course the Internet – so I’m not sure that this should be seen as a revolutionary or shocking work.  But it is clearly a woman-positive work, reminiscent of work done by feminists in the 1980s.  I’m thinking of works like Carole Vance’s Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality (RKP, 1984) and a number of similar works that came around that time.  It seems that these days there’s few works in which women discuss sex and eroticism in positive yet critical ways – most of the books on sex that are published these days are forthright manuals about how to get more orgasms and please your partner at the same time or else are tracts advising teenagers to preserve their virginity.  Although some of the monologues echo ideas from radical-feminist writings of the 1970s and 1980s, these are not theoretical arguments, but rather are personal reflections.  They are not against men, and indeed, the use of humor gives them warmth and makes the ideas in the monologues more convincing.  Even those who are wary of the F-word (i.e., feminism) will be able to enjoy The Vagina Monlogues.

One fascinating aspect of these monologues that the CD only hints at is the way that they change over time.  Ensler adds new stories as she hears them, and as she gets reactions from different audiences.  Furthermore, many other women have also performed this work, and presumably they sometimes bring in their own innovations to the work.  So even if you get the CD, you may still want to attend a performance to see how the work is growing.  I imagine that the experience of being in an audience of these monologues could be a powerful one for both men and women, and the studio recording of the CD does not convey anything of that.  But you may well find that listening to the CD with others could be a bonding experience.  Highly recommended. 



Publisher’s web page with RealAudio excerpt from book and interview with author

© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


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