Please also note: I've never read or seen The Vagina Monologues, so my impressions are solely from hearsay.}
Now, I've never read The Vagina Monologues, but my friends are very fond of it. From their descriptions of it, TVM empowers women by airing out, bluntly, with no apologies, issues of abuse, sexuality, and body image which are neglected because of the discomfort of the subject--perhaps even because it opens up the chance for females to think autonomously. I'm not so naive to believe that sexism has been eliminated from the face of the earth. The beauty of TVM is that it shows women that, far from something to be ashamed of, their sexuality is something to be celebrated. I whole-heartedly agree.
Despite this, I have a niggling sense of reservation about The Vagina Monlogues and the (I've no doubt) noble movement behind it. Curious as to where this doubt was coming from in myself, I thought about it for a while. I think I've come to a conclusion, and I'd like to share it with you. The reason I am uncomfortable with female sexuality as it is taught to be viewed in TVM, is this.
The "I" Factor
It seems to me that this kind of sexuality is heavily dependent on the "I." Self-love and self-respect are necessary, praiseworthy. But too much of a good thing becomes poisonous. It bleeds over into (clinical term) narcissism, a god-like complex in which one views oneself as the center of reality, as a litmus test by which everything is governed.
I'm thinking of the attitude that often says
"As long as I'm not hurting anyone, it's okay."
"This is good for me/I like this/this is easy, therefore it is good for me."
"All that matters is that I am happy."
As opposed to the attitude that says
"Is this good for my children, my spouse?"
"Is this good for the environment?"
"Is this good, not only for my immediate needs, but for the long term well-being of my soul, my health, and my happiness?"
Perhaps our American attitude has a lot to do with this over-autonomy. We won't be bossed around, dammit, and you can take your outrageous tea taxes with you! (Shakes fist.) I'm not trying to say that the human person isn't a creation of astounding rationale and a dignity that is inherent, regardless of race, culture, creed, religion, mental capacity, disability, age, class, and location.
I mean the simple yet beautiful doctrine of the Beatitudes. The last shall come first. The first shall come last.
You must lose yourself in order to find it.
Love as Dialogue
There is more than one way to masturbate. One, obviously, is the literal-sexual way. Another is to act in such a way, conduct oneself in such a way, as to please oneself, and only oneself.
Sexuality, I believe, is a profound and far from shameful thing, specifically designed to reach its fullness in another. Post-modernism has taught us that to be dependent on another in such a way is degrading, even dangerous. I'm not talking about co-dependency here. Of course, a person who sees no worth in herself other than what another sees of her needs much healing. I mean believing in something--God, a divinity, an abstract philosophy--that proclaims that one's worth is inherent, a reality outside of the thing that it is attached to. The nun and the prostitute are equals.
This is truly the most liberating philosophy I have ever encountered. Because nothing I do can possibly diminish my value.
I am just that great. And so are you.
But then, nothing beats discovering oneself through the eyes of utter love.
I will draw from my own experiences for example. I've never had more self-esteem than when I was with my boyfriend, now husband. He sees beauty in me unconditionally. It was both surprising and liberating for me, that nothing I can do can expand on or diminish this simple fact. I am beautiful.
If any sense of ugliness lingered, motherhood distinguished it. This little human being, who is so, so wonderful in his own right, views me as the sun, the moon, and the stars. This won't last. He'll grow up to know that I'm not perfect. But you know what? He'll still love me. By virtue of being me. By the simple reality of being "mama." Wow. Makes me want to be the person he sees in me, to become a person truly deserving of such devotion.
I know I have value, but I don't need a mirror to prove it. The mirror is in the eyes of my loved ones, and those few individuals who are blessed enough to see things as they really are . . . "saints and poets, maybe."
I see this self-respect heroically demonstrated by women all over the world. I've known Muslim women who are passionately feminist. They lock out every chance for a man to objectify them. They cherish their beauty, and hide it close like a precious jewel, because they know it belongs to someone else. I know a woman who, when cat-called from across the parking lot, confronted the man and demanded that he treat her with the same respect he would a fellow man. This same woman, I'm sure, has never felt the need to look at her vagina.
This is the sense of empowerment, self-love, and dignity that I would wish for the women who love The Vagina Monlogues, for all women. That they could behold them as I do, as God does: as things so utterly beautiful that self-love bends back on itself and ricochets in every direction; ordered not toward the self but others; because they love themselves enough to know that loving themselves is not a closed-ended objective.
It magnifies, toward infinity, so that we become mirrors to each other, content to reflect, over and over again, ad infinitum, in the dialogue of love.
Like, The Agape Dialogues. <3
Feminists for Life--empowering women so that they don't have to "choose"
Verily Magazine--positive fashion and feel-good beauty
Bad Catholic--profound insights into the nature of love and beauty; funny, too