Shouldn't It Be "The Vulva Monologues"?

Tue, 04/11/2006 - 23:00
Submitted by Anonymous

Hello Dr. Betty,

First of all, I apologize for taking up your time with what must be a frustratingly common type of query for you. My name is Carla and I am finishing up my Masters at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

I have had some problems finding out the facts behind the politics of your "Bodysex Workshop's" complex inclusion in the "Vagina Monologues" (which is, I believe, still in performance, despite your reservations).

I would therefore very much appreciate it if you could let me know whether you were ever approached to do what Eve Ensler terms a "vagina interview" and whether the original monologue was in any way based on an exchange you had with her. I have read your online article on the matter (indeed, have included an extract in the thesis!), but I want to make sure of the facts before I submit.

Also, what are your feelings about the updated script (after you mentioned your problems with the representation), given that your workshop is still (mis)represented as one centered around the vagina? Do you have strong feelings about the work in general? Thank you so much for your time and help on this, and keep up the good work!

Thank you,

C

Betty Dodson

Dear C,

Yes, I have very strong feelings about calling a woman's sex organ a "vagina." As long as we are vaginas that have babies we're acceptable. But watch out when we want equal sexual pleasure in partnersex by including the clitoris. The misnaming of our sex organs is one effective way of controlling women in the bedroom and boardroom.

To answer your question, the original Vagina Workshop Monologue was not based on an interview with me. Eve and I met for the fist time when the VM's were way off Broadway. After attending the performance, I went backstage to meet Eve with my young film makers who were working on a documentary about my work. That's when I told her she'd left out the clitoris, which she then included in future shows.

At the end of the workshop monologue, Eve always said, "There is a woman who actually runs these workshops. Her name is Betty Dodson." I figured it was her way of thanking me for my contribution to the VM's that I presumed she'd gotten from reading my book "Sex for One."

When Eve read my essay about the VM's on my website, she wrote a letter saying my criticism was very hurtful. She promised me that my name would be removed from all future Vagina Monologues. Many friends groaned, thinking of all of the public recognition I'd lose. But I felt much better after I spoke my mind.

This past February, a mutual friend set up a meeting between Eve and myself in Los Angeles so we could heal our separation. The article describing this is on my website titled, "Bagels with Betty." After Eve and I kissed and made up, I pointed out the fact that she'd never talked to me before writing the workshop monologue. Her memory was quite different. She was convinced she'd interviewed me prior to writing the monologue. We were at an impasse.

Eve did say her mistake had been not to invite me to be on stage at the Madison Square Garden performance. While that would have comforted my ego, it still would not have solved my distaste for the boring, endless, sophomoric repetition of the word "vagina."

I have since found out more about Eve's background. Her essay titled "Disarming the Left" published in the Central Park quarterly journal in 1983 when she was involved in the Nuclear Disarmament Movement shows a woman I totally respect and agree with.

Today, Eve is a powerhouse, a phenomenon when it comes to networking and organizing. I think it would be wonderful if we could work together to create a venue that would include more detailed positive sex information for women and girls.

However, I'm fully aware that the very idea of masturbation and people enjoying independent orgasms threatens every authoritarian religion and government that continues to control people through sexual fear, guilt and repression. We have a lot of work to do.

I'd love to read your thesis when it's finished.

Betty