A spiked Venetian chastity belt.

Vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) describes a folk tale 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 folkloreEdit

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

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."[2]

South AmericaEdit

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]


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.[4]

Ainu and Shinto legendsEdit

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.[5] Consequently, the woman sought help from a blacksmith who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon's teeth.[6][7]

The legendary iron phallus is considered to be enshrined at the Kanayama Shinto Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan, and there the popular Festival of the Steel Phallus (かなまら祭り) is held each spring.[8][9][10][11] Also, prostitutes once considered that praying at that shrine protected them against sexually transmitted diseases.[12]

Māori mythologyEdit

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 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 him to death with her obsidian vaginal teeth.[citation needed]

Metaphorical usageEdit

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 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.[15][16][17]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Kanamara Matsuri 2014: What You Should Know About Japan's Penis Festival (NSFW PHOTOS)". huffingtonpost.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  6. ^ Chamberlain, B. H. "The Island of Women". Aino Folk-Tales, 1888. pp. vii, 37.
  7. ^ "Metropolis - Japan Travel: Kawasaki - Heads up". Archived from the original on 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  8. ^ "Dammit, we missed The Festival of the Steel Phallus in Japan this weekend - Cosmopolitan". cosmopolitan.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  9. ^ Dominique Mosbergen (2014-04-07). "Japan's Annual Penis Festival Is As Phallic As You'd Expect (PHOTOS)". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  10. ^ Times LIVE. "Japanese festival celebrates the penis - Times LIVE". timeslive.co.za. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  11. ^ "BBC - Travel - Slideshow - Ten events not to miss in April". Archived from the original on 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  12. ^ "Kanamara Matsuri: When Does Japan's Penis Festival Start? (NSFW PHOTOS)". huffingtonpost.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  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. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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. ISSN 0300-8916. PMID 18822703.
  17. ^ 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.

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