Warning:The following contains adult (in this case, collegiate) language, along with gratuitous references to male and female genitalia.
College administrators have been enthusiastic supporters Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues and schools across the nation celebrate “V-Day” (short for Vagina Day) every year. But when the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island rained on the celebrations of V-Day by inaugurating Penis Day and staging a satire called The Penis Monologues, the official reaction was horror. Two participating students, Monique Stuart and Andy Mainiero, have just received sharp letters of reprimand and have been placed on probation by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The costume of the P-Day “mascot”–a friendly looking “penis” named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.
The P-Day satirists are the first to admit that their initiative is tasteless and crude. But they rightly point out that V-Day is far more extreme. They are shocked that the administration has come down hard on their good-natured spoof, when all along it has been completely accommodating to the in-your-face vulgarity of the vagina activists.
V-Day has now replaced Valentine’s Day on more than 500 college campuses (including Catholic ones). The high point of the day is a performance of Ensler’s raunchy play, which consists of various women talking in graphic, and I mean graphic, terms about their intimate anatomy. The play is poisonously anti-male. Its only romantic scene, if you can call it that, takes place when a 24-year-old woman seduces a young girl (in the original version she was 13 years old, but in a more recent version is played as a 16-year-old.) The woman invites the girl into her car, takes her to her house, plies her with vodka, and seduces her. What might seem like a scene from a public-service kidnapping-prevention video shown to schoolchildren becomes, in Ensler’s play “a kind of heaven.”
The week before V-Day, the Roger Williams campus was plastered with flyers emblazoned with slogans such as “My Vagina is Flirty” and “My Vagina is Huggable.” There was a widely publicized “orgasm workshop.” On the day of the play, the V-warriors sold lollipops in the in the shape of–-guess what? Last year, the student union was flooded with questionnaires asking unsuspecting students questions like “What does your Vagina smell like?” None of this offended the administration or elicited any reprimands, probations, or confiscations.
The campus conservatives artfully (in the college sense of “artful”) mimicked the V-Day campaign. They papered the school with flyers that said, “My penis is majestic” and “My penis is hilarious.” The caption on one handout read, “My Penis is studious.” It showed Testaclese reclining on a couch reading Michael Barone’s Hard America, Soft America.
“Testaclese” tipped the scales when he approached the university Provost, Edward J. Kavanagh, outside the student union. Apparently taking him/it for a giant mushroom, Provost Kavanagh cheerfully greeted him. But when Testaclese presented him with an honorary award as a campus “Penis Warrior,” the stunned official realized that it was no mushroom. After this incident, which was recorded on videotape, the promoters of P-Day were ordered to cease circulating their flyers and to keep Testaclese off campus grounds. Mindful of how school officers had never once protested any of the antics of Vagina warriors, the P-warriors did not comply. The Testaclese costume was then confiscated and formal charges followed.
It is easy to understand why school officials would not want a six-foot phallus wandering around campus; nor why they would ask students not to paper the college with posters describing all the things it likes to do. But that is just the sort of thing the vagina warriors have been doing, year after year, on hundreds of campuses. In fact, P-Day at Roger Williams was mild by comparison. Wesleyan College hosted a “C***” workshop; Penn State held a “C***”-fest. At Arizona State, students displayed a 40-foot inflatable plastic vagina. It was not confiscated and no one was ever threatened with probation.
Unhappily, P-Day may be the only effective means of countering V-Day with all its c-fests, graphic lollipops, intrusive questionnaires, outsized effigies of vaginas and its thematic anti-male play. The prospect of public readings from P-Monologues on campuses around the country just might be the reductio ad absurdum that could drive the vagina warriors to the bargaining table. The student activists opposed to V-Day will gladly cancel P-Day the moment the V-warriors abandon their vagina–fests.
But for the short term, college administrators should brace themselves. The rebels at Roger Williams are talking about a Free Testaclese Fund. And word is spreading to other campuses. P-Day and Testaclese will be back next year. And not just in Rhode Island.
–Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the co-author of One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Undermines Self-Reliance, just out from St. Martin’s Press.