. . . .AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: “TEETH”, OR VAGINA DENTATA AND RAPE-AXE

I recently viewed the movie Teeth (premeire date January 19, 2007, with a limited opening release on January 19, 2008).

It is a horror-comedy, that not only has bite, but, has a very decidedly feminist twist to it as well.

The film centers aound a young woman, Dawn, who with her family lives in the shadow of a nuclear power plant. Dawn is struggling with her sexual awakening. She joins an abstinence group for teenagers at her school, and puts on the red ring of purity. When she was a child, her brother found out that sticking one’s fingers where they don’t belong can invite painful consequences, but, as a child, Dawn did not yet realize the profound difference her body held. But, when she became a teenager, awakenings in her would soon reveal how very different she was from other girls.

While taking biology classes, Dawn realizes that she has an “adaptation” that makes her body different from other women’s. As a teenager, Dawn decided to maintain her purity until marriage, until two young men, Tobey and Ryan, wanted to have sex with revealed to her that her body harbors a form of protection when she is faced with male violence.

Near the end of the movie, after removing four fingers from a gynecologist’s hand during a Pap exam, and after performing total surgical penectomy on her brother Brad, Dawn has finally come to grips with her unique condition, and at the film’s end is very aware of what she can do to men who make sexual advances against her.

Teeth is great a movie, and it does bring up issues of sex, rape, sexual violence, sexual coercion, as well as the fear of sex itself, but most especially, the fear and vilification of woman’s sexuality.

The film is based on an ancient myth of the vagina that harbors teeth: the vagina dentata (Latin for “toothed vagina.”)

The myth is found in various ancient and contemporary cultures around the world:

“The myth of the vagina dentata, or vagina with teeth, derives from primitive masculine dreads of the “mysteries” of women and sexual union. It evokes castration anxiety, whereby the man fears loss of the penis during intercourse, and more generally it relates to fears of weakness, impotence, or annihilation by incorporation (connected to unconscious notions of “returning to the womb”).
— Stories of the vagina dentata persist in aboriginal myths and legends (Egyptian, Indo-European, Greek, Native American, African), as well as in contemporary narratives, such as vulgar sexist jokes.
— Sublimated expressions of this dread underlie stories of post-coital loss of strength, such as the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, or the deep social resonance of the recent (1993) Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt incident in America.
— Many narratives of “hero vs. monster” also rely on the myth: for instance, Oedipus and the Sphinx, whose mythic structure underlies Benchley’s novel, Jaws.
— Some cultural surgical practices, such as clitoridectomies and other female genital mutilations (including modern episiotomies), also relate to the myth. These practices physically inscribe an assertion of masculine domination that implies a dread of feminine powers.

From a contemporary, feminist, psychoanalytic perspective, Elizabeth Grosz writes:
“The fantasy of the vagina dentata, of the non-human status of woman as android, vampire or animal, the identification of female sexuality as voracious, insatiable, enigmatic, invisible and unknowable, cold, calculating, instrumental, castrator/decapitator of the male, dissimulatress or fake, predatory, engulfing mother, preying on male weakness, are all consequences of the ways in which male orgasm has functioned as the measure and representative of all sexualities and all modes of erotic encounter.”

SOURCE

 

The history of rape in the world has created destruction against women’s bodies and minds. In the last several years in parts of Africa alone, rape has increased horrifically. So brutal have been the numerous rapes against defenseles women that Sonnet Ehlers, a South African woman,  invented a condom protective device to protect women against rapists. After a rape victim came to her clinic and stated “If only I had teeth down there,” Ms. Ehler created the condom, Rape-Axe, which is inserted into a woman’s vagina, and aims to protect her against rape. Per Ms. Ehler’s website:

“I have been accused of all sorts, my all-time favourite though is that I am the inventor of a most medieval device… my response, quite frankly is that a medieval deed deserves a medieval consequence. It’s the twenty first century, man has supposedly evolved into a more civilised being… yet rape statistics are on the rise! Child and infant rape has increased 400% over the last decade!

My second favourite criticism comes from Victoria Kaija, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Uganda. She refers to my invention as a form of ‘enslavement’. Apparently wearing the device, according to Victoria, is a constant reminder, to women, of their vulnerability. My aim with the device is to empower women and promote gender equality. If men can use their bodies – their manhood, as a weapon of attack – well then it’s time for women to do the same! The fear and vulnerability that I saw in the tear-filled eyes of a rape victim is what drove me to begin my action against rape. “If only I had teeth down there,” were the words of this victim, and that was the prompt towards the development of Rape-aXe.”

SOURCE

The device has its detractors, claiming Ms. Ehlers’ invention is “vengeful, horrible, and disgusting” and oppose its sale to the public.

It is like we are going back to the days where women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices … Women would have to wear this every minute of their lives on the off-chance that they would be raped.
—Lisa Vetten (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa)
This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society.
—Charlene Smith

Ms. Ehler responded to the criticisms:  “As with everything in life there will be negative attitudes and I can’t be responsible for people who refuse to educate men and feel the device is medieval,” and responds by calling the Rape-aXe “a medieval device for a medieval deed.”

The device has been compared to the ancient chastity belts of the 15TH Century, but, would not rape itself, as well as other forms of sexual abuse, be considered a nail in the coffin of women’s rights to navigate this world?

Should not the act of rape be continuously challenged and eradicated from women and girl’s lives?

Should not men’s attitude towards rape, domestic violence, and sexual coercion be addressed?

The fact that such a device as Rape-Axe was created is testament to the reality that rape can be a factor in women’s lives no matter where they live, no matter how they dress, walk, or talk; no matter whether they are a virgin, sexually active, a married woman, a little girl of eight, a seventy-year-old woman, or a nun.

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One response to “. . . .AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: “TEETH”, OR VAGINA DENTATA AND RAPE-AXE

  1. Pingback: Every Woman's Dilemma - Susan Brandt Graham PhotographySusan Brandt Graham Photography

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