The Vagina Monologues Event Poster  11 x 17" Poster advertising the Saint Mary\'s University Women\'s Centre production of the Vagina Monoglogues, 2012 poster |  graphic design |  feminism |  illustration



by Daniel Foster

NATIONAL REVIEW, 09 February 15

I’d like to take a moment to talk with you about sex.

Particularly, I’d like to relay a bit of news about the vagina.  Ah – that word, surely the most lyric for that lyric organ; I promise I won’t use it again.

I bring it up only because of the bittersweet news out of Mount Holyoke College that its annual performance (the fact that it is performed annually at the College says a lot about the feminist tilt of the College – Abyssum)  of The Vagina Monologues has been canceled because it excludes “trans” women who – strictly speaking – have penises.

“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” explained a member of the school’s theater board in an e-mail captured by the group Campus Reform.  “Gender is a wide and   varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”

Now, I know what you are thinking:  “You promised not to use the V-word again.”  Well, I didn’t use it.  I mentioned it as part of a name, so get off of my jock.

More to the point, here’s this play that was, upon its release, a transgressive, boldly feminist work.  And now, in less than a Bieber’s age, it has become backward.  Chauvinistic even.  What a wonderful reminder that we are all bigots by tomorrow’s standards.  What an elegant display of the PC ouroboros eating itself.

But do you doubt the Monologues will come back, this time with more penises and less conceptual coherence, and that its earnest defenders will declare it braver, bolder, transgressiver?

Way back in 1976, the French theorist Michel Foucault understood that this feeling of breaking free from old oppression is the high that such monologists, tugging at the fetters of the Victorian order, chase.  In his History of Sexuality, Foucault writes, “What sustains our eagerness to speak of sex in terms of repression is doubtless this opportunity to speak out against the powers that be, to utter truths and promise bliss, to link together enlightenment, liberation and manifold pleasures.”  Moreover, this thoroughly modern craving to proselytize on sex  “serves as a support for the ancient form – so familiar and important in the West – of preaching.   A great sexual sermon….has swept through our societies over the last decades; it has chastised the old order, denounced hypocrisy, and praised the rights of the immediate and the real; it has made people dream of a New City.  The Franciscans are called to mind.”

But if Foucalt understood that the evangelizing of sex has substituted for religion in the modern West – that the evangelizers of increasingly transgressive sex are seeking, as it were, a rapturous experience – he also understood how decidedly odd it is that they bleat on, loudly and vulgarly and from every possible perch, about how uptight we all are.  “By what spiral did we come to affirm that sex is negated?  What led us to show, ostentatiously, that sex is something we hide, to say it is something we silence?”  How is it, Foucault might ask, that the endless discussion of every act of Gomorrahism on HBO’s Girls is taken as evidence that we’re a nation of cowards on sex?

The short answer is that it’s about what everything in politics and culture is about:  power.  The sexual revolutions of the Sixties and Seventies promised a leveling of hierarchies, an embrace of copulative pluralism.  But the lure of a sexual “New City” was a false horizon.  Our discourse on sex is not some dialectic heading toward a satisfying…..climax.  As with history full stop, there is no “right side” of sexual history, no such thing as a Free Love.

Instead of a liberation, the sexual revolution was a coup d’etat, and the new boss is only superficially unlike the old one.  To wit, the hooha brouhaha at Mount Holyoke is not some mind-freeing breakout, but a skirmish in a doctrinal war so brutal and byzantine that it makes Moscow in the Twenties look like a dorm-room bull session.  Indeed, the fight between “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” – who think transgenderism is another tool of patriarchy – and the inclusionary faction – who think a woman is as a woman does – has become so pitched that The New Yorker recently published a 4,000-word dispatch from its front lines.  The tone of the piece, by former Nation scribe Michelle Goldberg, is both grave and studiously neutral, as if she were waiting to see whether Franco would take Barcelona.

The new regime has unsurprisingly erected its capital over the ruins of the revolution that birthed it, inside the America university.  There you will find Harvard sponsoring a workshop called “Anal Sex 101” as its deepest minds nod thoughtfully in favor of “affirmative consent” laws so arch that they enjoy support from many religious conservatives.

Foucalt didn’t live long enough to see how far around the bend we’d go, but I doubt he’d be surprised.

Under our new sexual order, every transgression returns as a regulation – thus one Salon writer’s recent reflection on the conditions under which incest should be sanctioned.  And by contrast, every old oppression returns as a fetish.  How else to explain the hegemony achieved by Fifty Shades of Grey in the erotic imaginations of – if the sales slips are to be believed – 100 million people?  Here is a bit of smut about the complete subjugation of a weak woman by a powerful man, rendered innocuous by ritualizing it, bracketing it off as a “kink,” relegating it to whispers in bedrooms.  The patriarchy, with safe words.

The fruit of the sexual revolution is not “anything goes,” but a new contrivance of sexual codes every bit as complex and constrictive as the finest Victorian corset.

And it is these New Victorians who are now in charge.

Gird your loins.


Most Catholic Colleges Hosting ‘V-Monologues’ in 2015 Are Jesuit Institutions



At least eight Catholic colleges and universities will be hosting performances of The Vagina Monologues or have student groups putting on the play in 2015, The Cardinal Newman Society has discovered. This year, six out of the eight Catholic higher education institutions with connections to the play are affiliated with the Jesuits.

The Monologues has been criticized by several bishops for its positive portrayal of distorted human sexuality and promotion of immoral behaviors, such as lesbian sexual activity and masturbation. Bishop John D’Arcy, the late bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, called the play “an affront to human dignity.” Bishop Earl Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing described it as “anti-woman, reducing her God-given genius and dignity to a bizarre emphasis on one physical aspect of her person.”

In one particularly offensive Monologues scene, the molestation and rape of a teenage girl by an adult woman is described as the girl’s “salvation” which raised her into “a kind of heaven.”

The Cardinal Newman Society has monitored performances of the Monologues on Catholic campuses for several years. The number of Catholic institutions performing the Monologues was at an all-time high of 32 in 2003, but has since decreased significantly. At least eight Catholic colleges and universities are hosting or have recognized student groups that will be putting on performances of the Monologues this year.

Many of the Catholic institutions performing the Monologues this year, the majority of which are Jesuit-affiliated, justified the occasion by linking the performances with the laudable causes of supporting women’s shelters or organizations dedicated to ending violence against women. However, Bishop Boyea wrote that, while this may be the case, “this theatrical event actually embraces the dismissive outlook on women that leads to violence and exploitation of our sisters in Christ,” thereby making it an inappropriate way to fundraise at any Catholic institution.

A spokesperson for student affairs at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., confirmed to the Newman Society that the Monologues would be performed under the women and gender studies department. The student stage manager for the Monologues also told the Newman Society that the three scheduled performances would be in the Cushing 001 auditorium from February 5-7. Last year, Boston College theology professor Dr. John McDargh reportedly described the Monologues as “profoundly spiritual and a touchstone for understanding what the Christian tradition may mean when it deploys the language of ‘Grace’,” despite the demeaning nature of the play.

College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., verified two performances of the Monologues set to take place in the Hogan Ballroom from February 9-10.

DePaul University in Chicago, Ill., confirmed that the Monologues will be performed in the student center with three showings from February 13-15. The event was advertised as the 16th annual performance of the Monologues at DePaul. It is also being sponsored by the Women’s Center, the Theatre School, the DePaul Activities Board, and the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, according to the event poster.

Take Back the Night, an official student organization of Georgetown University, will present five performances of the Monologues from February 12-15, according to a University announcement. The event will be held at the Davis Performing Arts Center on campus. The Monologues is “produced, directed and performed completely by Georgetown women,” the event description states.

Loyola University Chicago will host two performances of the Monologues from February 13-14 in the Mundelein Auditorium, communication manager Megan Troppito told the Newman Society. A representative for the University’s women’s studies and gender studies program confirmed that the V-Day Club is hosting the event with sponsorship from the Student Activity Fund.

Una, a feminist student organization officially recognized by Saint Louis University, is hosting two performances of the Monologues from February 19-20 at Sheldon Concert Hall, an off-campus location one block north, according to the event page. Proceeds will reportedly support a V-Day Campaign.

The Pigott Auditorium—which serves as a performing arts center for Seattle University—confirmed to the Newman Society that March 13 has been reserved for a Monologues performance. A student Facebook page indicates that auditions took place last November and also confirms the weekend of March 13 for the performance.

A media representative of Villanova University in Villanova, Penn., confirmed to the Newman Society that the Monologues will be performed as a gender and women’s studies event on February 24 in Driscoll Auditorium. The play is being touted for “div[ing] into the mystery, humor, pain, power, wisdom, outrage and excitement buried in women’s experiences,” according to the University webpage.

Additionally, the Women’s Resource Center at Saint Mary’s College of California, which has frequently performed the Monologues, announced that it would be “taking a year off” from the Monologues “to perform a more inclusive, equally riveting piece that maintains the spirit of V-Day” on February 13 in the Soda Activity Center. The piece to be performed, A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer, is edited by Monologues author Eve Ensler and purportedly features voices of all “genders” and “sexualities,” despite Catholic teaching on human sexual identity.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas