From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"I dreamt last night that I was at a party, in white tie. At that party, I saw a woman come in, and recognized her as an actress in a boulevard theatre, but without being able to put a name to her face. She was draped in a scarf, and I noticed only that she was completely naked when she hopped on the table.... Then she started to dance, and while she was dancing took steps that showed her private parts armed with the most terrible jaws one could imagine, opening and closing, exposing a set of teeth." --Goncourt journals
Vagina dentata is Latin for toothed vagina. The tale is frequently told as a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of casual sex or sex with strange women. The concept is also of importance in classical psychoanalysis, where it is held to relate to the unconscious fears associated with castration anxiety.
The vagina dentata appears in the myths of several cultures, most notably in several North American Indian tribes. Erich Neumann relays one such myth in which “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.”
The myth expresses the threat sexual intercourse poses for men who, although entering triumphantly, always leave diminished.
The vagina dentata has proven a captivating image for many artists and writers, particularly among surrealist or psychoanalytic works. Although the myth is associated with the fear of castration, it is often falsely attributed to Sigmund Freud. Freud never mentions the term in any of his psychoanalytic work and it runs counter to his own ideas about castration. For Freud, the vagina signifies the fear of castration because the young (male) child assumes that women once had a penis that is now absent.
This myth has been popularized recently by its mention in a sequence from Neil Gaiman's bestselling novel American Gods, and by the 2008 film Teeth. The anime Wicked City and Carlos Fuentes' novel Christopher Unborn both feature female characters with vagina dentata, as does K.W. Jeter's novel Dr. Adder. Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash features a device called the Dentata which is an anti-rape device inserted into the vagina.
Anti-rape female condom
In 2005, inventor Sonette Ehlers introduced The Rapex, an anti-rape female condom which can be inserted into the vaginal canal like a diaphragm. The product is lined with microscopic barbs which attach to a rapist's penis and which must be surgically removed. In an article about the Rapex, Ehlers stated that she was inspired to invent the device after meeting a victim who told her, "If only I had teeth down there."