The vagina monologues

by Eve Ensler

Paperback, 2001






New York : Villard, 2001.


A poignant and hilarious tour of the last frontier, the ultimate forbidden zone, The vagina monologues is a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery. Hailed as the bible for a new generation of women, it has been performed in cities all across America and at hundreds of college campuses, and has inspired a dynamic grassroots movement--V-Day--to stop violence against women. Witty and irreverent, compassionate and wise, Eve Ensler's Obie Award-winning masterpiece gives voice to real women's deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who reads it will ever look at a woman's body, or think of sex, in quite the same way again.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bragan
This is the book version of Ensler's popular stage show, in which she talks about, well, vaginas. It features some of her own thoughts, a few anatomical facts, and several pieces based on interviews she did with other women, although it seems as if most of those stories are somewhat fictionalized,
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or interpreted, or maybe just paraphrased.

And... OK, first off, I have to say, I very much approve of what Ensler's trying to do with this. Like a lot of girls, I grew up with the distinct sense that my genitalia were something dirty and shameful, or at the very least something embarrassing and taboo, an implicit but fairly clear message that that particular piece of human anatomy should not be named, touched, or even thought about more than strictly necessary. And that ain't right. It especially ain't right in a society in which male genitalia come with associations of pride and power. (And other associations as well, of course, but those are definitely there in a way that they're not for women.) Demystifying women's bodies, making a vagina something that's nice to have and fine to acknowledge having, that's a good thing. Ensler also talks about sexual abuse and rape and genital mutilation, and these are also things that should be acknowledged and talked about and not turned away from. So, in principle, I'm all for this.

In practice, however... I have to say, most of it did very little for me. There weren't really any moments where I felt she tapped into something that I, personally, could relate to, and there's a bit too much mysticism and flowery language and weird metaphor for me. My vagina is not not a seat of power, it's not a fragrant meadow, and it doesn't wear a beret. I just cannot make myself take that sort of thing seriously. I did, somewhat to my surprise, quite like the poem about childbirth. But otherwise... Well, maybe it's better if you actually see it performed live. Or maybe I'm just not the right audience for this, whatever anatomy I happen to be possessed of.
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LibraryThing member donitamblyn
I'm sorry to slam something that has moved as many people as has this collection of monologues. I also hasten to note that I'm frequently out of step with the tastes of general public, so feel free to take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt....

I do NOT, in ANY way, get the merits of this
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book/play! What are we going to read about next -- our anuses? The spaces between our toes? Our tongues? ("My tongue, when it curls -- warmly, trustingly, joyously -- against my hard palate... brings me home to myself....")

This piece of work strikes me as the HUGEST fit of public navel-gazing (except lower down, of course) in the past 30 years -- and when you think about some of the writing we've seen in that time, that's going some. On the other hand, maybe it's the naturally-arising response to the massive cuts in NEA funding in this country:

The 15-year surge of one-man and one-woman monologues in our non-profit theatres is purely due to the fact that there's virtually no money anymore for full stage productions. Costumes, sets, and ensemble casts have given way to a solitary actor standing on stage under a single spot, in black slacks and the obligatory "gem-toned" shirt, possibly using a prop or two as s/he describes some aspect of his/her life to the audience. Many times, this is good theatre -- I don't suggest it's not. My point is that this kind of low overhead allows both the actor and the venue to make a BIT of money out of their efforts, whereas a real play no longer can.

So here's the logical extension: You can't slash overhead more than by offering a monologue, but you CAN raise attendance by making the monologue all about vaginas! Please note this bit of dialogue from "Curb Your Enthusiasm":

[Actress who got the part:] Here's to "The Vagina Monologues"!

[Manager who got her the part:] Here's to the vagina!

Recognizing the deadly forces arrayed against our American dramatists today, I hate not to support them. But my support stops short of reading -- or attending "dramatic" productions of -- irrelevant tripe. Life is just too short.
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LibraryThing member gillis.sarah
I have loved 'The Vagina Monologues' ever since I saw it for the first time a few years ago. Favorite monologues include 'The Flood', 'The Little Coochie-Snorcher That Could', and others. Parts of it make me cringe, parts make me laugh, and all of it is intense. It's better to watch a performance
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than to read it, but the book is still great
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LibraryThing member realbigcat
I'm not sure how many men have read this book or may even admit to it. I was drawn to the book from all the publicity over the play. I never saw the play but I assume it's much better than the book. It's hard to put into words the emotions that the stories tell. This is probably a must read for any
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woman and enlightening for a man as well. It a shame the violence, humiliation and suffering that women have endured and still endure. The stories are touching and empowering. It's not all depressing as there are some funny stories as well. A lot of the book seems to be pointed toward hard-core feminists and lesbians.
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LibraryThing member idranksometea
I've never seen these monologues performed, and quite frankly, I never wanted to.
I started reading this book expecting I-don't-know-what, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's short and very easy to read. I read it in one day and really enjoyed myself while doing so. It felt good to read the word
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'vagina' a thousand time.

I was born in the 90s, and my approach to and concept of vagina is very liberal and free-loving, so for me it was very interesting to gain perspective on how older generations feel about this subject. I must say I was a little bit saddened by how repressed they were growing up, and hadn't thought about it that way. But things have changed and will forever be changing for the better.

I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone. I think it is a MUST read, for all ages and sexes.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
The book begins with a monologue by Eve Ensler about working toward a world of peace and what it takes to support women and stop violence against them. Following are excellent photographs by Joyce Tenneson that show women who have been involved in the V-Day project, proud, brave, young and old.
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This is an inspiring book.
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LibraryThing member MorgannaKerrie
Quite the book, indeed. A book every woman should have on their shelf.
LibraryThing member ariahfine
As some insight, I considered not posting this book on here, figuring it was maybe taboo. But, having just finished it, I'm quite emboldened to say I read it and you should too, or you should go see the play or go to one of the many performances on valentines day in cities nation wide.

The book
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might make some uncomfortable, but overall I think you'll be moved and feel empowered (both women and men alike). It's a collection of monologues, some poetic, some essays, several facts in-between. The brutal history of oppression will shock you. The stories told in the monologues will likely resonate with women, provide new insight to men.

Definitely a must read or see for everyone. Seriously.
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LibraryThing member TheInvernessie
This is a requirement for my Women's Studies course. I found this text to be....interesting but then very very boarding and loathing of having a vagina.
It was just laden with beatings and rape and the like. It wasn't a fun read (although, I timed myself and it took 45 minutes). I just didn't enjoy
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it, how about that?
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LibraryThing member hahnasay
Wonderful real life stories. Heartfelt, and easy to relate too. Worth reading, you wont regret it.
LibraryThing member katfusion
This was a fantastic and very helpful book! I learned things about women and being a woman that, as a woman, I should've already known but didn't. Now I feel enlightened, empowered, and inspired to share Eve's message with others. I highly recommend this book to everyone, men or women.
LibraryThing member verenka
A very interesting book in my opinion. I'd heard about "the monologues" before and I saw Calista Flockhart talk about it (and perform the WASP moan) on Conan O'Brian. Ever since I wanted to see the play when it's on. And the bad rep doesn't put me off! :-)
LibraryThing member cmlloyd67
This is a series of monologues and ensemble pieces cobbled together by Eve Ensler from various interviews she had with women regarding sex, sexual violence, and vaginas. Each year the script changes, with various updates by Ensler. The updated scripts are for performance only and different than the
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published version. Also they are only available to the groups who are planning on performing the monologues in association with the fight against sexual and domestic violence - against women and girls.
There's some strict rules:

1. These are true stories and the performers should tell/perform them with a certain respect to the actual women who told them.

2. Usually the performance is a staged reading, with little to no direction. The performers do not memorize the script and read it off of index cards.

3. The entire script must be performed and it must be no longer or shorter than 90 minutes.

4. Everyone who wants to be involved should be provided with some role or means of involvement, and this should be a healing experience.

5. The directors/producers of the play should see themselves as activists first and directors second.

6. Only those people who have lived their lives with a vagina (note not necessarily born with one) may perform the roles. Roles are open to transgender women who have a vagina via medical means and women born with one. Men can be involved in other ways but not in performing the roles. (Which makes sense when you read it - the roles are definitely characters with vaginas. It would be odd for someone with a penis to perform these roles, and disrespectful to the actual women whom the roles/monologues are based.)

The monologues are rather moving. It is not a "man-hating" play as has been presumed. It's an informative piece about how our society has dealt with the concept of vagina, women, and violence against women and transgender. And I highly recommend that people of all genders either read it or if they get a chance see a performance.
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LibraryThing member glammonkey
This was a quick one day read that I found snappy and oddly sweet.
LibraryThing member BALE
None of the stories depicted shocked me. This is an unfortunate circumstance of our culture, yesterday and today.

I have not yet seen the play, but hope to soon. I have no doubt it is better then the book. Sometimes, the spoken word, with all its inflections, has more effect (very unusual for me to
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say; usually, I feel it is the book over the movie that effects the true nature of a written piece). Either way, this work has had a positive influence on our culture that can not be disputed... V-Day. What a great thing!

The book itself was written well. I do not care how many times, or ways, people have been made aware of this subject. Until we have world-wide knowledge and prevention in-tact, no words are too many.

To the younger (then I) generation, many of you feel women's liberation, et al, is embarrassing. Whatever the word described, thank the women before us that enable you to think, feel and speak this way. I do not always agree with the form or method used in fighting for continued freedom. I realize that sometimes it takes extremes to get peoples attention. Various approaches also reflect individuality-a good thing. As long as it is for a humane cause, do not discard the work. Evaluate the needs and work to effect change.

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LibraryThing member pictou
I listened to this on tape and enjoyed the dialog, especially the parts that were read as an older woman. I feel like it's more of a performance piece and that the personalization and character wouldn't come across in written word.
LibraryThing member KRaySaulis
People like to critique that which is popular. "Even though it's popular it's not good," they like to say. But here is the thing... it becomes popular for a reason. It broke rules and did so in a way that was accepted by the mainstream. And perhaps one of those rules is one you liked. Perhaps
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you're stuck on what you believe is "good theater" or "good writing." But in the end it is good because it touched people. It is good because it changed people. And this book which I read for the first time this year, and the play which I saw for the first time over ten years ago, are good because they change me. Present tense. The monologues come back to me when I'm having conversations with people or when I am thinking about womanhood or masculinity. They become a part of how I think about myself, my sisters, my wife, my nieces. Eve Ensler did something amazing. And this is one of the most well-known books about women and what it means to be a woman for good reasons.
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LibraryThing member Griffin_Reads
This book does a decent job of sharing stories of the lost, hurt, dejected, and broken; the stories of some women who have been harmed by the patriarchy. I enjoyed the various formats used to connect with the audience. I did think however, that it was mostly white-centered feminism and lacked some
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nuance in regard to transgender rights and intersectionality.
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LibraryThing member Devil_llama
This work created a sensation as it toured the country (and the world) for V-day celebrations. So much talk of vaginas can be offputting for women; my own discomfort raised the question: why do women find it so difficult to talk about their vaginas, when men seem to have no difficulty expounding
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for hours about penises? It is an artistic wake up call - the monologues talk about how women feel about their vaginas, and the message comes through loud and clear that we are not comfortable. It isn't penis envy that shows through these monologues, but rather an ambivalence and uncertainty about what it means to be a woman, about the risks of being a woman in a world designed by (and for) men, and how much we really want to talk about the one thing we don't want to talk about. If that makes no sense...well, read the book.
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LibraryThing member lydia1879
Even though this won't be a book for everyone, I feel like it's a book everyone should read.

If you have a wife or a daughter or someone (non-binary, trans and intersex someones too!) close to you with a particular body part, you should read this book.

If you really like slam poetry and prose, you
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should read this book for its poetic and literary values.

I understand that some people won't like it because of their personal preferences or tastes. And I understand that this piece can often be rude or be confronting or all of the above, but I really thoroughly enjoyed it.

I found it warm and funny and I thought Ensler's writing was really approachable.

I will say that she did touch on and talk about difficult topics like harassment or non-consensual sex and rape, and those could be triggering for some people. However, I might argue that Ensler deals with these topics in a very compassionate way and has created entire foundations for women and is a brilliant advocate.

Apparently The Vagina Monologues have been performed in prisons to prisoners who are soon-to-be-released with very positive results. I'm glad this program has had such an empowering affect on so many.

What else? I loved listening to this as an audiobook! The author performs so brilliantly and adds great texture with her inflections and particularly her accents. I don't agree with everything that she says but I feel like this piece fills a gap in what we consider to be 'taboo'.

I related a lot to this and really enjoyed it, but even if you don't enjoy it I feel like you'll get something out of it anyway. c:
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LibraryThing member LynnB
How did I get to be a senior citizen, and the calendar climb all the way to 2021 before I read this?

This anniversary edition contains the original monologues, some newer monologues written by the author to spotlight specific places or issues and the last quarter of the book is about movements
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against violence directed at women and girls that have been funded partly by profits raised from performing the monologues.

The monologues, like any collection, vary in quality and impact. Most were very strong and easy to relate to. It is easy to understand the shock and the strengthening power of these monologues at the time.....aspects that time, sadly, has only somewhat diminished. This book made me realize the immensity of the divide between wealthy, straight, white women and other women.

The V-Day movement is interesting, but not, in my opinion, worth 1/4 of the book!
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LibraryThing member kohrmanmj
Some passages are stronger/weaker than others. Overall, the collection is a 3 but there are some passages which could be a 5 (and some a 1).
LibraryThing member PiperUp
Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Those that know me know that I never shy away from using the word "vagina".
The monologues are quick & easy to read. I wish there were more monologues that celebrate the vagina with humor & wit.
Sure, the main point is to spread awareness of violence, confusion & shame
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related to the female sex organ but I'd like if it were balanced with more celebration & humor.
The vagina isn't all bad...most of us females have vaginal stories that bring tears of laughter to the listeners eyes.
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LibraryThing member Shahnareads
Excellent read.

I thought it would be a littler weird at first, but it's pretty interesting. I definitely want to read it again sometime. It's been so long.
LibraryThing member wellreadcatlady
So much of the Vagina Monologues is relatable. Most women do not talk about their vaginas enough and what the women in this play were saying I kept agreeing with. We experience so much of the same self consciousnesses and experiences with our bodies, but we keep it hush hush making everyone wonder
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if they are normal. The play is about asking women about their vaginas and they are telling the stories they heard from the interviews, sometimes combining experiences, sometimes pointing out unique experiences. It's very interesting, I wish it was longer and more in depth (I read the actor's editions, I think I'll check out the longer editions).
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Lambda Literary Award (Nominee — Drama — 1998)
Obie Award (1996-1997)




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