From the bedroom to the stage: Women open to share their truth
YoniVerse Monologues,True Stories Told by the Courageous Women Who have Lived Them
I wasn’t going to talk about my Yoni.
Definitely not my pussy.
Saying the word clit was never going to be uttered from these lips.
Not me, not in public.
For the record: my mother called it a Vagina.
We never spoke about “it “ unless there was something wrong, the word itself sounded severe. No one talked about it, not my friends, not my sister, NOT my father. Since no one talked about what was down there, I assumed it was an untouchable place. Surely it didn’t contain magic, provide pleasure, and it was obviously a foreign place that shouldn’t be talked about, let alone visited.
I realize that might sound odd coming from the women who now produces the YoniVerse Monologues, a unique storytelling performance program inspired by the work of Eve Ensler, and showcases true stories about women’s relationship with their sexuality.
The Story of YoniVerse
When I was living in Santa Cruz, a group of cherished girlfriends started a Women’s Group in the Yurt behind my house. We met once a month to share stories about the trials and tribulations of our lives, our relationships. offering empathy and mining the wisdom from our true life experiences. In Santa Cruz they used the word “Yoni” to describe female genitals. (when I looked it up I discovered that Yoni is a Sanskrit word that means a crack between the worlds, or a portal for life to come through). This was the magical word I’d been looking for and it allowed me to begin to speak about the pleasure and pain I was experiencing in my sexual life. I discovered I had shame when sharing about my pain as intensely as when I described my pleasure with my girlfriends, and I wasn’t alone in that.
So many women carry a bundle of shame that shrouds their desire for sex, their lack of experience, their confusion in how to ask for what they want, their desire to be seen, heard, and felt. Shame is like a wet-blanket on our souls convincing us that our pain and our pleasure don’t matter, therefore we don’t matter.
Over the year’s of that woman’s group, within the support system of sisterhood, I watched my friends transform. They ended relationships that didn’t work, initiated artistic projects, found harmony with their partners, and ultimately, together, by sharing our truth with each other, we helped make sense of what was happening in our lives and started picking away at and dissolved the shame and isolation that had once kept us silent.
One night during circle, a dear friend, teacher, and activist shared about genital mutilation that was still being practiced on girls in Africa. I was so disturbed and compelled by the suffering of this story that I spent the next year brainstorming on a way I could take a stand for changing the lives of women beyond my backyard.
I am passionate about storytelling and have been telling stories for the past 15 years in the classroom and producing the Santa Cruz Storytelling Festival. So I stepped forward tentatively with my back pocket full of the best medicine I had to offer, storytelling.
But I couldn’t do it alone.
I asked two of the women in my circle to join forces with me to train women how to write and tell their personal stories and create an empowering performance showcasing women’s stories.
I was convinced that the naked truth would create a healing for the women as well as our community, I wanted to create something to highlight the vulnerable strength women gain from their actual true life experiences.
We put out the call, and 13 women from my community said YES to sharing their stories in a public performance that exposed experiences of both the joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, and highlighted their unfolding relationships with their sensuality and sexuality. To my surprise, they said YES to telling in detail what it meant for them to be in a woman’s body and shared heart breaking experiences so that the audience could witness and potentially awaken to a deeper understanding of the strength and wisdom of the Feminine.
To prepare these women to tell their stories in public, I needed to support them to find their voices and understand how write a captivating story. So for three months we trained in the art of storytelling. As they became more confident and skilled at telling their stories I watched as the shame dissolved and was replaced by beauty, boldness, courage, and strength. The Women were changing their relationship to their own stories while discovering the courage embedded in their very own hearts. They were on their way to delivering medicine to the aching ears of many.
Over the years I have seen again and again inside every woman there is a story just waiting to be told. Finding the courage to tell releases us from past and propels us into a more empowered future.
There are two stories I want to share with you.
All of the stories have been amazing and stay with me, but two stories have taken up residency in exemplifying what can happen when women find their true voice. One was of a young woman who was on a date with a man she really liked, and was raped. She was so convinced no one would believe it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t report it keeping it hidden for years, until it happened again. During our performance she shared the story with her sister and discovered that the same thing had happened to her sister. Together they joined forces and filed charges against one of the perpetrators and he was brought to justice — all before opening night! Another brave woman suffering with terminal rectal cancer joined the program so that her story could be saved and shared with her six -year-old daughter when she’s gone so that she knows her mom was not a victim but a woman who lived for more than just herself. These stories are unique but not uncommon. There are endless stories about the courage and strength it takes to be a woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a force of nature with a Yoni. It is the liberation of these stories that women can find liberation from the circumstances and make meaning from their lives.
While I knew these events would be good for women, it hadn’t occurred to me that they would be healing for men too.
Over half of our audience is Male. I spoke to one Man after the performance who had been married for over 20 years. He said he learned more about his wife during our show than he had all the years of being married, and left with a smile. Another man, a Dad, asked if he could bring his teenage son back the following night so they could share in an experience that would hopefully lead to a deeper conversation about girls. We were really on to something that everyone needed to hear.
Even though I created the YoniVerse Monologues, I never intended to tell my personal story.
Even though I came of age in an era inspired by pioneer’s like Eve Ensler, Nicole Daedone founder of One Taste and Mama Gina who have all brought practical tools to the world so that words like pussy, orgasm, g-spot, clit, and open sexuality were liberating forces and rose the roof on normalizing female pleasure. There was a gap between the potential to feel pleasure and the experience of feeling pleasure. Leaving me and most women I worked with, confused about their sexuality or dissatisfied with their relationships, their partners, and their bodies.
Not seeing ourselves as empowered sexual beings who can ask for what they want and get it.
I was resistant because I was ashamed of my own story.
The bundle of shame I was carrying was about not choosing to have a child NOT following the conventional path of family. My shame was compounded with worry that sharing my journey would negatively impact my fiancée, who was extremely private about his personal life. I was afraid of hurting him, losing his love, and damaging our trust. This threat of loss kept me silent and alone perpetuating my guilt for many years, supporting me to create a realm where I believed something was deeply wrong with me.
So I decided not to tell my story and just direct the show instead. Supporting all the other women who had signed up for this wild ride of transformation.
But three days before opening night, I woke in the middle of the night to a voice that was demanding attention! Without even turning on the light, I opened my journal and began to scribble the story I had told myself over and over again in my darkest nights but was too afraid to say in the light of day. My soul was longing for healing and my personality wasn’t strong enough to stop it.
The next day I paced round and round the Yurt, where my women’s circle devotedly met,
and tried to find the right words to speak to my fiancée. That evening I shared my rough draft with him and asked if he was “ok” with me telling my version or “our” story. He gave me his blessing and said he’d be there opening night to listen too.
The secret I need to reveal was that we had decided not to have a child and were living an unconventional life outside of 2.5 children and a white picket fence. I was carrying a ton of grief and shame coming from a long line of German women who had up to ten children and stayed married -forever. I noticed that even though while performing my story my throat tightened and butterfly’s flew wildly in my belly — in the days and months after, I felt lighter. A layer of rigid shame had loosed and dissolved. I began to feel a sense of confidence return to the steps I took forward in my life.
We simply don’t trust ourselves if we are simultaneously blaming ourselves.
What I’ve heard from the women who have participated in YoniVerse is that women are longing to be seen and heard for all of who they are. Most of us have never been taught how to ask for what we want, how to be touched, aroused, or held. Our generation of women are still learning how to find our voice in a man’s world, let alone explore the power of our Yoni. As a result, as a collective, we have had too many experiences that were either pleasurable when someone told us it shouldn’t be OR painful when we “should” have been feeling good.
When women realize their stories matter, that they matter, it changes their lives. This is power of listening to ourselves then having the courage to share. Because we’re not just speaking up for ourselves, we’re speaking up for our friends, our sisters, and thousands of women around the world who do not have the freedom to speak. Our stories are Universal stories.
It turns out, its not just about saying Pussy or Yoni.
Its about changing the world, one story at a time.
You can learn more about Yoniverse Monlogues here: http://www.yoniversemonologues.com/
Bay area residents come witness the Women of the YoniVerse Monologues 2017…….
Santa Cruz March 17–18, 24–25th, Kuumbwa Jazz Center inhttp://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2770602
Berkeley on April 1st at the Finnish Hall http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2770634