Vagina dentata

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A spiked Venetian chastity belt

Vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) is a folk tale tradition in which a woman's vagina is said to contain teeth, with the associated implication that sexual intercourse might result in injury, emasculation, or castration for the man involved. The topic of "vagina dentata" may also cover a rare medical condition affecting the vagina, in which case it is more accurately termed a vaginal dermoid cyst.

In folklore[edit]

Such folk stories are frequently told as cautionary tales warning of the dangers of unknown women and to discourage rape.[1]

The psychologist Erich Neumann wrote that in one such myth, "...a fish inhabits the vagina of the Terrible Mother; the hero is the man who overcomes the Terrible Mother, breaks the teeth out of her vagina, and so makes her into a woman."[2]

South America[edit]

The legend also appears in the mythology of the Chaco and Guiana tribes of South America. In some versions, the hero leaves one tooth.[3]

North America[edit]

The Ponca and the Otoe tribes tell a story in which Coyote outwits a wicked old woman who placed teeth in the vaginas of her daughter and another young woman she kept prisoner, in order to seduce, kill, and rob young men. Coyote kills the woman and her daughter but marries the other young woman, after knocking out the teeth in her vagina "except for one blunt tooth that was very thrilling when making love".[4]


In Hinduism, the asura Andhaka, son of Shiva and Parvati (but not aware of it), is killed by Shiva when he tries to force the disguised Shiva into surrendering Parvati. Andhaka's son Adi, also an asura, takes the form of Parvati to seduce and kill Shiva with a toothed vagina in order to avenge Andhaka, but is also slain.[5]

Ainu legends[edit]

The Ainu legend is that a sharp-toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman and emasculated two young men on their wedding nights.[6] Consequently, the woman sought help from a blacksmith who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon's teeth.[7][8]

Māori mythology[edit]

In Māori mythology, the trickster Māui tries to grant mankind immortality by reversing the birth process, turning into a worm and crawling into the vagina of Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of night and of death, and out through her mouth while she sleeps. His trick is ruined when a pīwakawaka laughs at the sight of his entry, awakening Hine-nui-te-pō, who bites the worm to death with her obsidian vaginal teeth.[9]

Western Asia[edit]

Arabs from South-Eastern Iran and islands in Strait of Hormuz have a legend about Menmendas, a creature that looks like a beautiful young woman with spikes on her thighs. She walks in the coastal mountains with a small box of jewels and attracts every man on her way. Menmendas goes with an attracted man into an empty house, puts the box of jewels under her head and lies down with her legs spread. If the man understands who this woman is, he can cast a fistful of sand in her eyes and run away with the box. If the man is overcome by lust, the woman cuts him in half with her legs.[10][11][12]


In her book Sexual Personae (1991), Camille Paglia wrote: "The toothed vagina is no sexist hallucination: every penis is made less in every vagina, just as mankind, male and female, is devoured by mother nature."[13]

In his book The Wimp Factor, Stephen J. Ducat expresses a similar view, that these myths express the threat sexual intercourse poses for men who, although entering triumphantly, always leave diminished.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, the vagina of Y.T., a female character, is equipped with a dentata, a device which injects a powerful soporific into whatever penetrates it, in order to prevent rape.
  • The folk tale is the basis for the 2007 American comedy horror film Teeth, written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein.[15] In the film, Jess Weixler plays Dawn O'Keefe, a teenage spokesperson for a Christian abstinence group, who has vagina dentata and employs it to fight back against rape and sexual abuse.[16]
  • The 2024 Off-Broadway musical Teeth was based on the 2007 comedy horror film, with book and music by Anna K. Jacobs and book and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson[17] (the latter of whom wrote the Tony Award–winning musical A Strange Loop). The show features a musical sequence in which the cast's female ensemble transforms into disciples of "Dentata" (a mythological goddess) and castrates the male cast members with their vaginas.[18]
  • In the novel Rivers of London, the Pale Lady is a fae and chimera who possesses vagina dentata, which she uses to kill men with whom she is having intercourse.[19]
  • In the short story "The Weasel Bride" by Tanith Lee, the titular bride possesses vagina dentata, which leads to her death. The short story first appears in The Book of the Dead (1991) part of Lee's The Secret Books Of Paradys series.[20]
  • The comedic and feminist novel Vagina dentata (2019) by Luci van Org features toothed vaginas alongside Germanic mythology.[21]


In rare instances, dermoid cysts (a type of tumor) may grow in the vagina. Dermoid cysts are formed from the outer layers of embryonic skin cells. These cells are able to mature into many different types of tissues, and these cysts are able to form anywhere the skin is or where the skin folds inwards to become another organ, such as in the ear or the vagina. However, when dermoid cysts occur in the vagina, they are covered by a layer of normal vaginal tissue and therefore appear as a lump, not as recognizable teeth.[22][23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rankin, Lissa (2010). What's Up Down There?: Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. St. Martin's Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-312-64436-9. Retrieved 2012-02-11.
  2. ^ Neumann, Erich; translated by Ralph Manheim (1955). The Great Mother. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 168.
  3. ^ Leach, Maria (1972). "vagina dentata". Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. entry by Erminie W. Voegelin. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. p. 1152. ISBN 0-308-40090-9.
  4. ^ Erdoes, Richard (1984). American Indian Myths and Legends. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 283. ISBN 0-394-74018-1.
  5. ^ O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger (1981). Śiva: The Erotic Ascetic. London & New York: Oxford University Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-19-520250-3. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Kanamara Matsuri 2014: What You Should Know About Japan's Penis Festival (NSFW PHOTOS)". HuffPost. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  7. ^ Chamberlain, B. H. "The Island of Women". Aino Folk-Tales, 1888. pp. vii, 37.
  8. ^ "Travel: Kawasaki - Heads up". Metropolis. Archived from the original on 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  9. ^ Biggs, Bruce Grandison (1966). McLintock, A. H. (ed.). Maori Myths and Traditions. Wellington: Government Printer. p. 448. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  10. ^ Gholam-Hossein Sa'edi (1977). Одержимые ветрами (Engrossed by winds). Издательство «Наука». p. 82. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  11. ^ Yu. E. Berezkin, E. N. Duvakin. "World mythology and folklore: thematic classification and areal distribution of motifs" (analytical catalogue). F9A. Зубастое лоно (Toothed womb).
  12. ^ Leyla Mehrnama, Zar-Rituale in der arabisch-persischen Inselwelt Archived 2021-10-10 at the Wayback Machine, p. 124. Wien, 2012.
  13. ^ Paglia, Camille (1991). Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. NY: Vintage. p. 47. ISBN 9780679735793.
  14. ^ Ducat, Stephen J. (2004). The Wimp Factor. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 115–149. ISBN 978-0807043455.
  15. ^ Holden, Stephen (2008-01-18). "Things They Don't Teach in Any Dental School". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  16. ^ Kale, Sirin (22 June 2017). "'Teeth' Is the Feminist Horror Classic That Men Tried to Sabotage". Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  17. ^ "Teeth". Playwrights Horizons. Retrieved April 11, 2024.
  18. ^ Piepenburg, Erik (March 4, 2024). "Bringing 'Teeth,' a Feminist Awakening with a Lethal Bite, to the Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Aaronovitch, Ben (2011). Rivers of London. TAG (first printed by Gollancz). pp. 381–382. ISBN 978-0-575-09758-2.
  20. ^ Lee, Tanith (1991). The Book of the Death. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press.
  21. ^ "Bestseller-Autorin und Sängerin Luci van Org". Saarbrücker Zeitung (in German). 12 February 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  22. ^ Siu, S.-S. N.; Tam, W.-H.; To, K.-F.; Yuen, P.-M. (2003-04-01). "Is vaginal dermoid cyst a rare occurrence or a misnomer? A case report and review of the literature". Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 21 (4): 404–406. doi:10.1002/uog.97. ISSN 0960-7692. PMID 12704753. S2CID 32296673.
  23. ^ Coco, Claudio; Manno, Alberto; Mattana, Claudio; Verbo, Alessandro; Sermoneta, Daniel; Franceschini, Gianluca; De Gaetano, Annamaria; Larocca, Luigi Maria; Petito, Luigi (2008-08-01). "Congenital tumors of the retrorectal space in the adult: report of two cases and review of the literature". Tumori. 94 (4): 602–607. doi:10.1177/030089160809400428. ISSN 0300-8916. PMID 18822703. S2CID 29999001.
  24. ^ Young, R. H. (1993-12-01). "New and unusual aspects of ovarian germ cell tumors". The American Journal of Surgical Pathology. 17 (12): 1210–1224. doi:10.1097/00000478-199312000-00002. ISSN 0147-5185. PMID 7694512. S2CID 7025584.

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