Why The Vagina Monologues Can Make You a Better Man

Think the Vagina Monologues is just for women? Think again. Dr. Jennifer Gunsaullus explores some of the important ways that men can learn about women, female sexuality and female bodies on VDay


By now you’ve probably heard about The Vagina Monologues, but unless you’ve seen a production of it yourself, you’ve heard more about the controversy and less about the education or empowerment of the play itself. Written by playwright Eve Ensler in the mid-90s, this piece is a bunch of women talking about vaginas and vulvas. And talking about sex, their bodies, relationships, and sexual violence. It’s based on real interviews with real women, making each monologue powerful, and taking the audience through a gamut of emotions around female sexual experiences. Women who are open to exploring this sort of thing typically exit the production feeling powerful and grateful that their experiences finally have a voice. They are excited that these taboo topics are being discussed. The Vagina Monologues is produced by community groups and universities around the world, all raising funds for local women’s nonprofits.

But what about the men? Is there anything in the show for a man?

I’ve been involved with ten productions of this play, as an actor or director. So I’ve cajoled more than my share of men to attend, and have fended off many excuses. Afterwards, my male friends were always shocked with how much they were moved and amused. Sure they were uncomfortable and even confused at times. But definitely not disappointed they attended. If you’re interested in checking out a show, this will help prepare you for the experience.

First, there are always men in the audience, so you will not be alone. The audience will be primarily women, and everyone on stage is a woman. You may not be in situations like this very often, so it could feel uncomfortable or intimidating. Going with friends you can joke with may ease this discomfort.

Second, it is a very emotionally challenging event. You might feel moved to tears, or the women around you might cry. You will laugh—a lot. You’ll get angry, worried, and be amazed at what you likely don’t know about the complexity of women’s sexuality. If raw emotions are hard for you to sit with, and empathy isn’t your strong suit, you might even hate the show, anxiously waiting for it to be over.

So it isn’t for everyone. But of the dozens of men I’ve talked to about the show, I heard only one negative review among all of the other positive ones. I understand that my male friends might be reluctant to share certain aspects of their experience, but what they expressed is very telling. What did these guys get out of the show?

Here’s what they said in their own words:

“I was surprised there’s a lot going on that’s not in the male realm of experience.”

“It was slightly awkward initially, hearing about vaginas that much. But also kind of liberating, as it was such a taboo thing to mention, let alone talk about.”

“[I] didn’t realize how complex women’s relationships with their junk are . . . dudes on the other hand, from age 13 know our junk cold and have no problems discussing it. Stark contrast.”

“It brought awareness to my life as a male that I would have otherwise never considered, and I consider myself to be fairly forward thinking and informed on matters of feminism and women.”

“I’ll be the first to admit women are a mystery, and the VM definitely opened my eyes to struggles I would not have previously been aware of or cared about. I laughed a lot . . . but most of all felt saddened by the event . . . my lack of knowing, and how reflective that is of the world we live in. Saddened by the fact that the Vagina Monologues is necessary and that women have struggled, continue to struggle and are still not given the respect as human beings they deserve.”

“One thing that stands out in my memory is the surprising realization that women in first world countries still face several of the same issues as those in the third world. Especially when it comes to the abuse, violence and the denial of ownership of their own sexuality.”

“It was moving, sad, hopeful, a little uncomfortable, funny.”

Being uncomfortable and vulnerable around sexual topics is not a bad thing, especially if it helps men realize that there’s a lot more to learn and understand. These experiences can deepen the vulnerability of conversations between women and men about sexual topics. Such discomfort can lead to questioning, learning, and growth. Female sexuality is complicated—or beautifully complex, as I like to say.

I’ve read some critiques that The Vagina Monologues is “male-bashing.” My thought is if you’re looking for male-bashing, you’ll find it anywhere that women are speaking out about harm they’ve experienced, especially in the sexual realm. On the other hand, if you’re open to hearing a different perspective that could be uncomfortable and make you look at yourself and the world differently, then you’ll appreciate this experience. I believe talking about it openly is so much better than shameful silence.

I don’t think The Vagina Monologues is a perfect play that accurately depicts all the depths of women’s sexuality around the world. Eve Ensler took the stories that were shared with her and filtered them through her lens as a woman with poetic license. Some of it may be outdated and outrageous, but it does a damn good job of opening a dialogue that is still sorely missing, and opening a space for compassion. As one man explained, “By the end, I felt like a more progressive human being.”

Check out VDay’s website to find a production in your area, from February through April.

(I wrote this article as a Relationship, Love + Sex writer at The Good Men Project.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, Sexologist - Sociologist - Sexuality Speaker - Vagina Warrior!

Shhh…Can You Hear That? Vaginas Are Talking

“If your vagina could talk, what would it say?”

This is one of several questions posed by Eve Ensler in her award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues. I think it speaks to the personality of a woman’s sexuality, and offers the opportunity for many women to explore this verbally for the first time. Based on my work, here is what some vaginas want to say:

“Warm me up. Sometimes I may be hot and heavy right away, but other times it takes awhile to get the blood flowing down there. My arousal isn’t always immediate, but it doesn’t mean I’m not interested. I just need you to prime my pump, both physically and emotionally.”

“Slow down! Pounding is good sometimes, but it gets old in the long run, and I feel like a porn actress. When we are in synch with each other, the natural ebbs and flows of intercourse are perfect.”

“Surprise me. You may have found something that seems to work, but this can change over time, and even just day to day! Please don’t let your need to feel good about knowing how to please me get in the way of continual gentle exploration. From the labia and clitoris, to the vaginal opening and G-spot area, and the rest of my erogenous zones, there is a lot of me to discover.”

If you’d like to hear from more vaginas, ranging from hysterically funny to heart wrenching, come see the play The Vagina Monologues. I will be performing in two benefit performances at the La Jolla Playhouse on March 18. Buy your tickets for the 2pm show HERE and the 7pm show HERE.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

(This blog was originally posted to Pacific San Diego Magazine's Blogger Series.)

Why I'm Involved with The Vagina Monologues for the 9th Time

This Thursday I will be performing one of the monologues in San Diego's production of Eve Ensler's play "The Vagina Monologues".

I am far from a new-comer to this performance piece. I first acted in a production of this back in 2002 at the State University of New York at Albany. Since then I have acted several more times, twice taught a semester course about the play at CSU San Marcos, and directed it four times. I have many of the monologues memorized. I know the places where the audience will laugh, and what works and what doesn't.

Why do I keep coming back?

Being involved with this play has many layers, all very powerful. The first is the experience of bonding with other women in the cast and crew. We are saying words that women are not supposed to say publicly. We meet for long rehearsals, everyone going through their own process of healing or discovery around their sexuality. Being in the cast of The Vagina Monologues has repeatedly been one of the most supportive women environments I've experienced.

The next layer is the unique experience we provide for the audience. Women feel validated and understood for the first time. Men glean greater insights into the complexity of women's sexuality. The audience is allowed to laugh publicly at taboo topics. They join our team of breaking the deafening silence around women's shame, embarrassment, and sexual assault.

The third layer is the fund-raising. The majority of the proceeds benefit local nonprofits for raising awareness around sexual violence and halting domestic violence. And a small portion of the funds are directed back to the VDay foundation's spotlight group of women, a group somewhere in the world who needs assistance and financial support. Not only are we taking a stand in our local community for women's safety and education, but we are also part of the global movement for the well-being of women.

It's a lot of time and energy each time I'm involved with The Vagina Monologues. But I keep coming back for more. It's a way that I get to practice what I preach, push my boundaries, support other women, and act my heart out. In vaginas we trust :)

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego

The Vagina Monologues in San Diego 2011

In Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues," you will laugh, cry, reflect, and connect. It is one of the most powerful sexual experiences you can have...in a public place :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011
North Park’s Birch Theater in San Diego
Reception at 6:30pm
Performance at 7:30pm

Imagine a world …
… where little 12 year old girls can go to school instead of being sold to sex slavery
… where women are empowered about their bodies instead of ashamed
… where rape and domestic violence no longer exist.

It is possible. And this is our opportunity to make a difference.

The Vagina Monologues are coming to San Diego, and Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus will be in the performance! This performance will benefit four wonderful organizations that work to stop sexual violence and care for its victims.

There are over 11,000 Vagina Monologues plays being put on this season alone to raise money to stop sexual violence. Sixteen stories about women’s experiences that evoke laughter, pain, frustration, sadness, fear and excitement. This is a movement that creates transformational experiences for both the actors and the audience. It’s a way for us all to get behind a cause that changes lives.

We would love a packed house to share in our mutual respect and appreciation of the vagina! You can purchase tickets here:

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego

The Vagina Monologues

Have you seen "The Vagina Monologues"? In this session of "In the Den With Dr. Jenn," Dr. Jenn talks about her favorite subject, vaginas... and interviews women and men about the subject.

What is the World Record for the most female orgasms in one sitting?

San Diego Street Talk - If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?

"Vagina Warrior" honor at CSU San Marcos

A few days ago I received a call from a former student of mine at CSU San Marcos, Sarah Leonard, telling me that she and the women involved with The Vagina Monologues production were honoring me as one of their "Vagina Warriors" this year.

What is a Vagina Warrior? The term was coined by Eve Ensler and refers to "a vagina friendly person of any gender identification who embodies the spirit of equality and empowerment, and assists in the battle to end violence against women."

And the really cool part? Sarah created an art installation in honor of my work as a Vagina Warrior: vulva ornaments I made with a class a few years ago, a funky hat, and red feather boa -- PERFECT!

For information about attending CSU San Marcos' performances this weekend, visit: http://events.vday.org/2011/college/California_State_University,_San_Mar...

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego