literary masochism: my vagina, my vagina, me…

I usually refer to To All The Men Who Called Me Disgusting as “my vagina book” out of a lazy tongue and a grown distaste for the title. My opinion on it when I was putting the book together was hazy; I impetuously decided on it once the deadline I (foolishly) set for myself grew dangerously close. While it is eye-catching and the Dave Eggers/early 2000s screamo fan in me loves that it is excessively long, it’s too dramatic; you crack the spine thinking, “Yes, how is she RISE UP against the VICIOUS BRUTES who undermined her POWER as a WOMAN? A QUEEN?” 

….By confirming that I am, in fact, pretty damn gross? 

But I don’t know; I guess that was my point: “You are right, I am disgusting, and I don’t care.” 

I’ve heard quite a few jokes that the book is my “vagina monologues,” a take on a play written by Eve Ensler, based on countless interviews she underwent with women that were later published in book-form. The amateur comedians are not wrong: It is the harrowing tale of what it is like to suffer through life as my vagina, told by me, an asshole. 

Upon finding a copy of The Vagina Monologues at my favorite used bookstore, I snagged it, expecting it to be my book, had it been written by less of an asshole, and not just about one vagina, but a cavalcade of vaginas (attached to lesser assholes than I). 

….I wasn’t right.

At the risk of sounding like a genuine asshole — or a woman with a Glassjaw tattoo who is about to make fun of about 80% of The Vagina Monologues — some of the women featured in this book are fuckin’ weird, dawg. The stuff they say is strange: It’s like a collection of the worst college literary magazine or creative writing class submissions, and I refuse to believe that any of these women actually experienced this shit or ever thought like this in real time, in real life. It is as if the opportunity for a candid interview with a noted feminist brought out the poetic metaphor-demon in them, and I hate poetry and metaphors. 

(I will note, in defense of this book/play and anyone who was involved or touched by it, that it is from the late 90s. If you think women haven’t evolved in over 20 years, well… the Women’s Rights movement had just taken place 20 years before that. Many of those who shared their stories were either already adults at that point, or were venturing into adulthood when the entire concept of Women=Not Property, Nor Shit? Women Can Have Jobs? The Same Jobs As…. Me? You Can’t Be Serious… was still new. Their perception on what it is to have a vagina is warped and it’s not their fault; the claim in the book’s introduction that people often fainted during these performances serves well enough to date it alone. 

This was the same argument I presented when a friend of mine was disgusted by Joyce Carol Oates’ — one of my favorite authors — enthrallment with Kamala Harris being elected vice president. “Kamala is as fucking vile and corrupt as the rest of them. Bad look for  your girl Joyce,” she spat. 

“Dude, Joyce was born in 1938. She lived through all the bullshit. She’s just excited for women. This is a big thing for women. My girl is 80-goddamn-3 years old…. She’s not the enemy.”

I will also note that through The Vagina Monologues and “V-Day,” a “dynamic grassroots movement” that formed through the play/book’s popularity, have raised a fuckload of money for endless charities/programs that support women who are victims/survivors of domestic violence abuse. I cannot knock that or sleep at night knowing I penned a single baleful comment about it, so that is not what I am denouncing: I am making fun of the stupid ass shit some of these women said about their pussies. I do this all the time, everywhere, constantly; if you are a reader of mine and you are shocked, that is your own folly.)

A note from the asshole: Certain essays/memoirs from this book surround topics of assault, trafficking, ritual mutilation, etc.; all of these I either omitted entirely or only mentioned briefly and made certain to keep the details vague. I am a comedic writer and will never post anything that requires a content/trigger warning, for that is a blaring indicator that the topic at hand isn’t funny, and will never be funny. Keep that in mind if you pick up a copy for yourself. 

I was a bit suspicious before I even got to the forward of the book upon reading that it was dedicated to somebody who “rocks [their] vagina”; that sentence just sucks.

Now, the forward, contributed by Gloria Steinman, is just a Sparknotes page of “feminism and women’s history for dummies.” It goes into how many legendy and archaic symbols are based on the anatomy of a vagina, and how even ancient architecture was inspired by it, and how the traditions of many religions revolve around creation/birth, and thus, women, all of which are supported by facts. What makes it funny is that she says that when she visits religious structures, she “walks down the vagina aisle,” which really taints the beautiful symbolism with a scene of a woman covertly meandering into the “feminine hygiene” aisle at Walgreens, trying to appear as if she is truly just browsing the entire store as she discretely tucks a Monistat-7-Day-Kit and Azo’s maximum strength UTI treatment under a bag of potato chips in her basket. 

Eve mentions in her introduction that she felt “strangely protective of these stories,” which first confirmed my theory that I am a certified asshole: While I often summarize TAT…. as being a “book about vaginas, including but not limited to my own,” all other vaginas were featured solely for me to shame them, but no worse, no less than my own…. Surely, the men were served a much colder plate… 

I don’t know, but maybe it’s because I barely even thought about my own pussy before I started writing my book; meanwhile, the first real page of The Vagina Monologues begins with: “I bet you’re worried. I was worried. That’s why I began this piece. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them. I worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas —  a community, a culture of vaginas.” 

(In fact, I am fairly certain my overall thought when putting TAT… together was, “Girl, your vagina needs to be…. Left the fuck alone. Fumigated, bitch. Sent to rehab, maybe. You’re both a goddamn mess,” and then I didn’t think about it ever again because that’s how I handle most serious problems that appear to require serious, professional intervention. I ain’t got the time!) 

She then lists the various nicknames for pussies that she has heard over the years, most of which left me wondering, who? What? When? Where? Why? (I initially planned to use them in replace of “vagina” throughout this essay because reading this has tremendously exhausted me of the word and there’s nothing like a decorative noun to make an already ridiculous dissertation all the more absurd, but I fear many of them have racist undertones and I am enough of a problem already; my margin for error is slim.)  

I’ll leave you with one: PAJAMA?

The first recounted story is from a woman whose husband preferred that she shaved her puss. She did not like shaving her pubes, for many valid reasons that most find this to be a grueling task: itch, razor burn, nicks, etc. (Also, you don’t realize how much your goddamn pussy/ass crack sweats when it’s bald, but something about this sad lady gave me the vibe that she would rather have her tongue cut out than admit that her holes do anything except emanate a mist of rose-scented fragrance every couple of hours.) 

Fed up, she quit shaving; her husband had an affair and blamed it on her hairy puss. Lol. 

Like any other person who is scrambling to find any fix for their (inexorably doomed) marriage besides throwing the whole thing away, she went to a therapist, who more or less said, “You don’t want to shave, so you don’t want to please him. If you want to please him, you have to shave.” When she proceeded to ask her (HER! this therapist was a WOMAN!) for insight as to possible reasons why personal grooming is such a deal-breaker for her husband, she told her to stop asking questions and start shaving…. So she did, and her husband still fucked around on her. Him and the goddamn therapist can both get the guillotine.

Now, we arrive at where Eve asks women various dumb fuckin’ questions that aren’t liberating and don’t do anything for the greater good of womankind, and then list their dumb fuckin’ replies. The first is, “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?” Most of the responses were things that your 44-year-old, newly-divorced aunt would wear to a drag brunch and make a fool out of herself because places that host drag brunches have yet to realize that pitchers of Mimosas are dangerous. 

(My answer? Something like a bra to hold up my left labia, far longer than the right, and not for men, but for me. Y’all remember the story from TAT… where I got the droopy side stuck in a goddamn cardboard tampon applicator? I’m still not over it.) 

Next question: “If your vagina could talk, what would it say, in two words?”

Well — like me — my vagina ain’t gonna be able to get her point across in two words, so we will go with, “You didn’t wipe your ass very well, dude.” Everyone else’s responses were about 90% horny, 10% sad. “Think again” is relatable; “Oh, God,” is golden, as long as it is sad as an agonized groan and not a sensual moan; “Where’s Brian?” hit home!!!

A Jewish woman from Queens who said she hasn’t bothered with her pussy since 1953 (relatable) found these questions just as frivolous and juvenile, but any hilarity of her ripping into the interviewer is despoiled by the fact that this woman VEHEMENTLY HATES her own pussy her because of a traumatizing incident with a boy when she was a teen. They were necking, heavy petting, canoodling — whatever vague shit they did in the 50s — and she got wet and gushy, like, bring a bucket and a mop type ready for some fuckin’. While most men I know would probably rub the shit all over their face like its my nighttime moisturizer they didn’t know cost $80 a tub, he didn’t like it: Albeit she claimed to not remember smelling anything at all, he was disgusted that it had gotten all over his car seat, insisted it reeked like “sour milk,” denounced her as a “stinky, weird girl,” and forced her to wipe it up with her brand new dress. 

Now, I wasn’t there — I cannot comment on exactly what leaked out of her puss, or its consistency or odor — but GUILLOTINE. That rotten motherfucker probably reincarnated as Ben Shapiro, or the sad bitch who posted a picture of underwear she claimed to have worn all day on Twitter for the only reason I can assume being that she had exhausted all other options of garnering attention from men on the Internet and was delusional and hateful enough to think bragging about not having discharge or skidmarks might land her a date.

Next, we arrive at The Glorious Period: “I interviewed many women about menstruation. There was a choral thing that began to occur, a kind of wild collective song. Women echoed each other. I let the voices bleed into one another. I got lost in the bleeding.” 

Somewhere between when that sentence was laid on paper and the invention of the diva cup had to be where people started looking at white feminists with a suspicious eye.

In recollecting when multiple women first got their periods, one was afraid to tell her mother and hid her used pads in plastic bags in the attic. When her mom found them, she stuck them to her mattress. GUILLOTINE. One girl’s mom slapped her when she told her she had started. GUILLOTINE, but thank God most of that heinous generation have already croaked.

After this, we fuckin’ finally get to a memoir from a woman who wasn’t pitifully insular and abused solely for being born in a wretched time and instead, just fucking WEIRD. It is her recount of her experience at one of V-Day’s “vagina workshops,” a touring seminar that encouraged women to get more comfortable with their own bodies; based on this her testimony, I have a feeling she was a star, model pupil. I already knew I was going to hate this and her when it began with “my vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell, opening and closing, closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scene delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.” 

No, it isn’t, and no one says shit like that except male fiction writers, and everyone hates when male fiction writers start talking about pussies. Apparently, she did not always think this; she claimed that she used to think of her vagina as some sort of fucking vacuous black hole in space, which is also not true; she never thought that and I don’t know why this poetic asshole is lying; she learned it in the workshop, where they make you gaze at your own pussy in a mirror before morphing you into a male fiction writer. She said such an exploration of her own body made her feel like an astronomer, but we all know it didn’t. 

Despite saying that her own pussy reminded her of a gutted fish (???), she claimed the view was better than the Grand Canyon, pretty much admitted to attending the workshop solely because she was horny, and then, we arrived at the moment she “had dreaded and feared and secretly longed for… locating [her] clitoris.” 

Apparently, part of the workshop’s curriculum is diddling your skiddle ‘til everyone who bought a ticket busts a good nut, which she had not done in a while. Even after her fuckin’ Appolo 15 mission and fileting of the finest wild-caught salmon, she still believed she did not have a clitoris, but admitted to avoiding ever checking because she chalked having a clit up to be “consumerist and mainstream,” and this is when I was about to give up, my friends, because this was truly the worst shit I had ever read, and if V-Day financially compensated this moron for her story, I just KNOW she spent it all on retail-priced Xanax, but what do we do in literary masochism?

We press on; we take a deep breath and wade through the shit; we scribble five full pages of notes because we are absolutely going to try to drink any memory of this garbage away later. 

(Except with Salad Days, but dude was a pederast. I couldn’t make it.)

The woman who ran the workshop came over because she was probably making a scene. (I want to imagine that she had to hold her breath before doing so, not because there were naked pussies wagging everywhere — pussies don’t fuckin stink — but everything about the narrator suggests that she absolutely reeks of goddamn patchouli.) 

“I’ve lost my clitoris. It’s gone. I shouldn’t have worn it swimming,” she told her. 

(I’m telling y’all… I was just in an emotional affair with a married man who occasionally liked to pair a few Xanax bars with two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and a couple of gin shots, and he has said that EXACT SAME THING to me before. I know what I’m talking about!)

The workshop leader laughed; I was laughing, too, but because I am an original asshole, so I laughed even harder when she told her that the narrator did not lose her clitoris — she could not lose her clitoris — but not because that’s GODDAMN IMPOSSIBLE, but because “[her clit] was [her], the essence of [her]… [she] didn’t have to find it… [she] had to be it… be it… be [her] clitoris… be [her] clitoris…” and that was enough for her to have some explosive, dramatic, sobbing, obnoxiously showy, patchouli-scented orgasm in front of a bunch of strangers on one of those little mats that you had for naptime in kindergarten. Good for her, I guess.

We are introduced to another lady who likes to use too many stupid fucking metaphors for the negative mental affects of inculcated misogyny; she thought her vagina was ugly, so when she was getting fucked, she had to think about furniture, instead… like, that he was fucking an Ikea bookshelf instead of her. She did not actually think this because no one actually thinks this, so I am not going to further explain why.

Eventually, she meets Bob by chance, who she rips apart entirely in his introductory paragraph, making him out to be one of the most bland men on the planet, but here is the kicker: Bob loved vaginas, and he liked to eat him some pussy, thus, rendering Bob a decent guy in my eyes. (20+ years later, and I still wish more men were like Bob.) 

When they first fucked, Bob said he wanted to “see” her vagina; a slightly bold request from an alleged mayonnaise man, but I once had someone ask if they could pee in my butthole, and not as a joke. The narrator is shy and hesitant, insisting that it’s just a plain ol’ desk from Amazon Basics (she actually says “you’ve seen a red leather couch before” ???), but Bob wants to make sure he knows exactly where he needs to flick his tongue before he dives in! (Men: Be like Bob!!!!!)

Bob apparently “gasped and smiled and stared and groaned” upon gazing at her puss. This is when I would assume that I had either a dingleberry, a cluster of warts, a tooth growing where it shouldn’t, or residual TP crumbs; I would’ve died.

“You’re so beautiful,” Bob said. “You’re elegant and deep and innocent and wild.” 

(Nevermind, men: Don’t be like Bob. Don’t say this shit. I’m going to laugh and then have to apologize later, but I won’t mean my apology and it won’t make you any less upset and you’ll bring it up again during every argument and I will laugh every time.)

As it turns out, fuck Bob: Like every other man, he never even ate her out…. He just…. stared… at her pussy… for an entire fucking hour… 

Hahahahahahahaahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhaha

Anyway, Eve goes on to tell us about when she saw a photo in a newspaper of women who had just been returned from a rape camp in Bosnia. “Their faces revealed shock and despair,” unlike the mosquito bites and sunburn that typically adorns one’s face upon returning from a pleasant two weeks at their preferred summer camp, “but more disturbing was a sense that something sweet, something pure, had been forever destroyed in each of their lives,” much like when someone is trapped in a fucking RAPE CAMP. The events recounted in the following interview with a victim of one of these camps are, as you probably assume, atrocious, and I will refrain from summarizing them for obvious reasons. 

“My Angry Vagina” is the next essay, which is a funny title — I should’ve totally pilfered it for my own book. The writer brutally attacks the concept of “feminine hygiene” and the excessive products marketed towards women, such as douches and scented sprays, that notoriously do more harm than good. She deplores thongs (same), how tampons are dry and hurt to put in/remove (true), and how degrading the standard processes for gynecologist exams are (goddamn right… especially when you already know you have Chlamydia…. trust me). Though we have all heard no less than 700 versions of her exact argument in the 20+ years since this book’s publication, I agree with The Angry Vagina, albeit her demanding and assertive pus make my rather lax and unargumentative one feel a bit intimidated and like she needs to yell more often.

I will admit that I groaned upon reading the title “The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could” and had to pause for a cigarette break before diving in, but I wish I had waited on the smoke: A black woman suffered countless acts of heinous sexual abuse at the hands of men — many of which were her family members — before she was even 10-years-old, and wasn’t able to associate sex with anything besides despair until she met an older woman, a much older woman, when she was only 16. Her memories listed begin in 1965, when she was 5; have we started treating black women any better in the past 50 years?

No.

One thing this book really excels at is making sure there is plenty of garbage nonsense from insufferable buffons in between the powerful stories of women who’ve actually suffered colossally at the hands of the demented men and women in positions of power over them (GUILLOTINE, GUILLOTINE, GUILLOTINE), which brings us to our next story: A woman who claims to be obsessed with naming things. 

It all started as a child, when she collected frog memorabilia and named one “Froggie Doodle Mashy Pie.” After trudging through Froggy Doogle Mashy Pie’s two fucking dedicated paragraphs, I began to wonder what any of this fucking crap had to do with vulvas — the theme for this section of the book — but then she starts talking about how she also named her body parts. She couldn’t think of a good one for her pussy until her babysitter said, “Oh, that’s your ‘Itsy Bitsy.’”

While stripping that poor stuffed frog of its dignity with a title of FROGGY DOODLE MASHY PIE was totally acceptable, she was on the fence about Itsy Bitsy, but eventually, it stuck, all the way up until adulthood. During her first night sleeping with her husband (who surely had to be at least slightly aware that this bitch was goddamn neurotic beforehand), she warned him that “Itsy Bitsy was a little shy.” 

He played along because he wanted to smash, as men are wont to do; I once had one voraciously declare his polyamorous days to be over because his dick was rock hard and two inches away from my vagina and lying is far less uncomfortable than blue balls.

The idiot man married the weirdo and her Itsy Bitsy, but one night, Itsy Bitsy wasn’t having it; they were worried something happened to her…. Where had Itsy Bitsy gone? 

(I am going to kill myself.)

She confided in her friend Theresa — who she makes certain to note had “recently been spending all her time in a new women’s group,” and was maybe one of out three people in this entire book who aren’t out of their goddamn minds — about this problem. 

Theresa, like me, and probably you, said, more or less: “Girl, how old are you again? That’s your fucking vulva. Get the fuck out of my face with that weird ass shit. Itsy Bitsy? The hell is wrong with you and your husband? ” 

Clearly, a number of things, because this man agrees to speak to her vagina again, not by her deadname, but by Vulva. It works, they fuck, and the description of their coitus is embarrassing enough to make me think these people probably are probably still alive and running an Instagram account for their Baby Yoda doll.

The next question Eve asked the group of women: “What does a vagina smell like?” 

Now this is up my alley!

Wet garbage — LOL. God — melodramatic. Water — love, the rapper Plies. Depth — maybe yours, but this muddy water ain’t deep. Depends — as in the disposable underwear brand, or the vague, dismissive, unsure response? Chalice essence — what the fuck is this? Paloma Picasso — what does the grapefruit Margarita have to do with Picasso? Earthy meat and musk — I hope no one actually said this. Somewhere between fish and lilacs — because your dumbass gets bacterial vaginosis when you buy that scented vag spray! A sponge — alright. Cheese — ….alright….

The short piece about reclaiming the word cunt is probably the only time I’ve seen that word written more than in the lyric book for Glassjaw’s first album. Admirable, really… 

“The Woman Who Loved To Make Vaginas Happy”: While I desperately hoped this would be a short biography on my best friend Sophia, hope is a prison. 

I am very happy for the narrator, a confident dominatrix who isn’t afraid to moan; moaning makes me a bit uncomfortable, personally. I am not a fan of my voice, though I don’t think anyone is, and have recently taken to incoherently mumbling, which I fear marks a final stage in my devolution into my alcoholic father. Perhaps my vulnerability regarding expressing sexual pleasure is why I think most of the women mentioned in this book are all goddamn bumbling lunatics? Either way, this lady, however a badass, still says some stupid shit, such as: 

  1. “It became kind of a passion [making other women moan]. Discovering the key, unlocking the vagina’s mouth, unlocking this voice, this wild song.” That sounds like something Brett Michaels would have said on Rock Of Love
  2. I still don’t understand how or why, but in between her talking about pleasing women, there is mention of a salad topped with balsamic vinegar dressing. Is that an innuendo? I’ve never heard that one before.
  3. She has a vast repertoire of peculiar names for the ways in which she makes women moan, such as: 
    1. The “semi religious moan,” which she describes as… a muslim chanting sound? I don’t think that’s OK to say?
    2. A “YODELING MOAN?” Don’t do that in my bedroom. I will put your ass out.
    3. A “baby moan”… which is, you guessed it… a “googie googie goo” sound…
    4. “Doggy moan.” BIG NOPE.
    5. “Uninhibited militant bisexual moan.” I don’t know what that is, but I think it is how my best friend Sophia got trapped in a terribly unhealthy marriage. 
    6. The “surprise triple orgasm moan.” Look, I don’t think that exists, which may serve as further proof as to why I am so negative. I’m humble enough to admit that.

….And lastly: If the failing state of the world isn’t enough to convince you to not reproduce, then the poem about the perils a vagina goes through during childbirth should do it; not only because it is unimaginably gut-wrenching, but what if you go through all of that, only for your child to grow up and write something like this?

“I was there later when I just turned and faced 

her vagina.

I stood and let myself see

her all spread, completely exposed

mutilated, swollen, and torn, 

bleeding all over the doctor’s hands

who was calmly sewing her there.”

…Is that Suicide Silence lyrics?

(The rest of the book is all submitted reviews/testimonies of people’s experiences at V-Day, which again, I refuse to denounce with a clear conscience; it raised a supreme amount of money for suffering women, and I was just glad this shit was over, as you probably are too.)