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'Vagina' Forum Makes Headway

Originally published in:
Taipei Times

Mo Yan-chih

RAISING AWARENESS: The successful debut of Eve Ensler's hit play `Vagina Monologues' has inspired a public discussion on issues of female sexuality

What does the word "vagina" mean to you? Dirty? Shameful? How about charming and beautiful? A forum held yesterday to celebrate the successful debut of an internationally acclaimed play invited people to end violence against women, by loving and respecting a woman's vagina.

Celebrating the successful debut of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler's award-winning play was performed in theaters and on university campuses last month.

The Garden of Hope Foundation and Zonta International held a forum called "Vagina, Valentine, Violence" yesterday.

Famous TV personalities, women's rights advocates and academics joined together to discuss issues ranging from sexuality, sexual abuse and violence, and to promote "V-Day," a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Before the forum, pop star Aya performed a passage from the Vagina Monologues entitled "Because he likes to look at it," which was based on an interview with a woman who comes to love her vagina because her boyfriend loves the way her vagina looks.

"I think it is important for women to love their bodies and become more conscious of themselves. Talking about what is traditionally deemed taboo and a dirty part of the female body in a positive way can be a good start," Aya said after reading the excerpt.

Su Tsu-chung, an English professor at the National Chi Nan University, introduced the play to his students and held a performance on campus, and said that students told him the play had raised their consciousness and understanding of women's bodies by talking about something they are usually ashamed of talking about.

Bih Herng-dar, a member of the gender equality education committee under the ministry of education, said that sex has always been a taboo and something parents never know how to talk about with their kids.

"As a result, our boys turn to pornography for sexual education, and so patriarchal thinking -- which objectifies and belittles women -- ?will continue to thrive in society," said Bih, a professor at National Taiwan University.

Lee Kuang-hui, director of the psychiatry department at Peitou Armed Forces Hospital, lauded the play for examining issues of sexuality from the female perspective and called on all men to respect women's bodies.

"The most important work that can be done to prevent violence and sexual abuse is to educate women what to do in order to prevent rape or harassment," Lee said.

"We also need to raise men's awareness and break some deep-seated myths about rape. When women say no to sex, it means no, and men need to learn to control their sexual impulses and instead choose to respect women and their bodies," he said.

Chief Executive Officer of the foundation Chi Hui-jung said the play provides excellent material on sex education.

"In addition to adding more of the Taiwan experience in the Vagina Monologues, I think it would be wonderful to have the "penis monologue," which would allow men to share their stories and also raise their consciousness about their own bodies," Chi said.

The Vagina Monologues is a collection of personal accounts from various women interviewed by Ensler. From the retelling of a rape experience to tips on masturbation, the monologues address serious issues while attacking conventional, often dated, definitions of sexuality.

The play has made a major impact around the world since it was first staged in New York in 1997, and made its debut in Taiwan last month.

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