We are no longer drifting Left. The polls tell us we are hurtling hard-left on class warfare rhetoric and its handmaiden, gender demagoguery. Meanwhile, networks and pundits are in a frenzy to tut-tut over Donald Trump’s jock-strap bravado.
You want locker room talk? Forget Trump. His old-style cisgender crudity is as outdated as a codpiece. On a bus that fateful day 11 years back, he did not know that “pussy” was not getting grabbed any more. No, the grabbing had been going the other way for a full decade by then.
Dirty talk acquired cultural cachet some 20 years ago when it wrapped itself in the banner of female empowerment. Eve Ensler updated a seamy genre with “The Vagina Monologues” and got a Tony Award for it. Her vulgarity won an Obie for Off-Broadway excellence in 1996 and subsequently earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Ensler repackaged soft-core discourse and marketed it as an achievement for women’s voices. Girly smut emerged as a tool to combat violence against women. A supposed kick in the groin to misogynistic oppression, “The Monologues” were hailed in the New York Times as a significant piece of political theatre. The format consisted of a series of soliloquys, each with its own thematic caption. A few samples: “Reclaiming Cunt”; “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy”; “My Angry Vagina”; and my very favorite: “The Little Coochie Snorker That Could.”
Trump’s attention was directed to grown women. Ensler, by contrast, was not above making copy out of an interview with a six-year-old girl. She asked the child to describe her vagina—sight and smell—and to tell what it might say if it could talk. (Simply explaining that makes me wince more than anything on the Trump tapes.)
Ensler acquired standing as a feminist heroine with a desire to bring “a culture of vaginas” into the light: “. . . to speak of them out loud, to speak of their hunger and pain and loneliness and humour, to make them visible.” Her eulogizing runs along anthropomorphized lines like this: “The heart is capable of sacrifice. So is the vagina.”
The Vaginas Are Still Talking
But this is old news now, yes? No, unhappily, it is not. “The Monologues” endure. Each year brings a new version, addressing the latest issue on which vaginas have something to say. (2004 featured an all-transgender cast, each chattering vagina played by an altered male. Ventriloquism sells.) Ensler’s magnum opus remains a staple in popular productions by amateur actors in local colleges and community centers.
Anywhere that men gather is a mission territory for evangelists of the vagina. This past May, after a run in several women’s prisons, it was time to bring the act to two men’s prisons. Quartz, an online venture of Atlantic Media, publisher of The Atlantic, covered the event at Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City. The article opens:
‘My vagina is angry!’ a woman’s voice loudly echoed through a large gym at a minimum security prison in Queens, New York. Minutes later, the gasping and moaning of an imitated orgasm filled the space, accompanied by the loud, uncomfortable laughter and knee slapping of the men in the audience.
To prepare inmates to re-enter society, the productions all-female cast, including two former female prisoners, held forth on sexual pleasure and sexual violence:
They heard detailed descriptions of the female anatomy, of visiting the gynecologist’s office, and of being abused.
The men laughed, throwing their heads back when they heard actors unabashedly spitting out descriptions of vaginas: ‘New Jersey twat,’ ‘split knish,’ ‘poonani,’ or when they saw them mime examining their private parts in a mirror. They shook their heads in disbelief when hearing about genital mutilation of young girls. Every once in a while a guard’s walkie-talkie would go off, reminding everyone of their place.
Smut in service to a good cause is fine with the great and the good. All the handwringing and shrieks of distaste over Trump’s swaggering has nothing to do with the sorry content of his bluff. It is simply a minesweeper to clear a path for the looming obscenity of another Clinton presidency.