This blog is a place for Notre Dame students and others to share their thoughts on Father Jenkins' forthcoming policy on academic freedom and Catholic identity at Our Lady's University.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'Monologues' Not Compatible With Goals

Observer - Viewpoint
Brian MacMichael
February 6, 2006
"I think all sides can agree that the preeminent goals of stopping violence against women and helping victimized women to heal need to be taken seriously and strongly promoted. The Catholic stance is overwhelmingly in favor of this agenda.

However, the means by which the 'Monologues' attempts to achieve these goals suffers from an incredibly dangerous flaw - it helps to fuel and perpetuate a masculine view of women as sexual objects rather than as dignified persons to be equally respected and protected. It does so by portraying the female performers precisely as sexual things whose personhood can be equated with their vaginas. I understand that many women feel that the play is a form of art that enables a cathartic emotional release on the part of women who have been victimized and need to find a sense of security and community. Nonetheless, the manner in which this is achieved only serves to entrench participants even further within a culture of sexual commodity.

Why do you suppose so many men attend the 'Monologues?' None of them, I would imagine, are seeking the healing from the play that many female viewers desire to receive. And I would wager that a relatively small number of the men attend solely out of deep feelings of empathy for the plight of victimized women. Rather, I am willing to assert - and plenty of my male friends agree - that many, many guys are attracted to the "Monologues" for its patently risque nature. The play may not be intended as pornographic or heteroerotic, but a voyeuristic male mentality can be aroused by even the most innocent or artistic immodesty, not to mention graphic sexual descriptions and depictions."
(Read More)

Below, Mr. MacMichael responds to criticisms, such as this February 8 letter from 2002 Notre Dame V-Day organizer Kerry Walsh:

Perhaps should have better clarified that not all men go with the intention of being aroused (I do not believe that they do) or that men who are in attendance will necessarily become more disposed to treat women as objects. I do, however, maintain that - like it or not - the risque content of the play does appeal to men's passions and only encourages the male mentality to think of women in a purely sexual/bodily manner. Perhaps, as a woman, you do not fully understand how male sexuality operates, but I can assure you that glorifying sex organs alone is not how to make a man respect you as a person. And yes, it is wrong that men have this reaction and ideally they would be able to go to such a performance and still treat women with respect. But in reality, most men need to have a sense of the sacredness of the total female person renewed within themselves, if they are to overcome a deep-seated sexual drive that urges them to claim the female body as a possession.

I know it's not the same thing, but I can try to relate this to a guy who finds himself alone with a gorgeous woman who is wearing nothing but suggestive lingerie - is it out of the ordinary for him to experience urges that are not entirely platonic? Obviously, no men are going to become completely irrational during a performance of the Monologues and feel the need to find immediate sexual release (at least, I hope not); but the nature of the content will at least partially appeal to the male sex drive from an angle men are susceptible to. When men are looking at Maxim or read sexually graphic literature, one cannot say that they should be doing such things "maturely," because they really should not be doing it at all - simple exposure to it is often enough to ignite their passions at least somewhat, which is why even the most chaste and pure men look away.

7:02 AM


Blogger Paul said...

The use of eros as a weapon of revenge is the fundamental problem with the Vagina Monologues, leaving aside the sexual confusion and vulgarity of the content itself.

Many people consume erotic experiences without regard to context because they have not had a clear teaching on the proper and deranged forms of eros. The derangement of eros is what the Vagina Monologues is all about, which would in itself be a valid object of study, if the conclusions reached by the play were not in themselves pernicious.

4:13 PM  

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