In The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler publicly probes the often taboo subject of women's sexuality and health. But Ensler, who has devoted her life to writing, performing and fighting on behalf of the female body, has always felt disconnected from her own. "For years I have been trying to find my way back to my body, and to the Earth," she writes in her new memoir In the Body of the World, adding that until recently she occupied her body "more as a visitor than as an inhabitant." It took a battle with stage IV uterine cancer in 2010 at the age of 57 for her to feel at home. Ensler tells her story to Moment managing editor Sarah Breger.
What do you mean when you say that you have been "outside your body" your whole life?
I left my body at a very young age due to trauma, having been violated by my father. This hunger and search to get back into my body has driven my life to this day. Many of us live in this dissociated state.
You write that you have now finally "landed in your body." What do you mean by that?
Before, when I was outside my body, I had no awareness when I was tired, when I was hungry; I didn't know my limits. My body was essentially a machine, and I didn't treat it well. Now I'm in it and determining what happens when I'm tired. I feel like I'm living in it. I don't feel like a car, I feel like a body. And I think because I'm living inside, it has made me much more porous and much more open to what's happening around me.
The chapters of your book are broken up into what you call "scans," a play on the CT scans you underwent while being treated for cancer. Why did you choose to divide the book in that way?
For me, CT scans are so metaphorical. What the computer does is take individual shots and make them appear as one, and that is what storytelling does. You add up these fractured images, and at the end the story becomes one. I was hoping this is what my book would do.
You write about having "rape cancer" and "growing a trauma baby." How are trauma and cancer related?
One of the things that hit me when I got sick and found out it was in my uterus was that there was this big ball of yarn inside of me that was...