The Toothed Vagina: A Myth That Inspired Anti-Rape Stories
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The Toothed Vagina: A Myth That Inspired Anti-Rape Stories

Avatar of Olympia Villagrán

By: Olympia Villagrán

March 27, 2017

What's on The Toothed Vagina: A Myth That Inspired Anti-Rape Stories
Avatar of Olympia Villagrán

By: Olympia Villagrán

March 27, 2017

Aztec myths say that, after being born from the semen and blood of the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl –mankind's creator– a legendary bat known as Quimichpapalotl flew to goddess Xochiquetzal. As she was sleeping, the bat bit the goddess' sexual organs, and from that wound the most beautiful flowers were born. 

toothed vagina bat
Aztecs believed only a bat would able to approach to Xochiquetzal because of her vagina dentata, or toothed vagina, which other goddesses like Tlaltecuhtli and Piøwachuwø also possessed. This culture is not the only one with legends about goddesses with sharp sexual organs. These stories depict how castration anxiety lies in the depths of the human psyche. It was thought that coitus with these goddesses would mutilate the phallus, so, in the case of Aztec myth, only an animal like the bat could face the threatening fangs of Xochiquetzal's vagina. 

The purpose of these myths was to explain and worship the two main embodiments of fertility: the female figure and the earth. There is always a duality present, for instance, the earth goddess, Tlaltecuhtli was a symbol of fertility and destruction. According to the sixteenth century manuscript Histoire du Mexique, this fearsome goddess was "filled in every joint by eyes and mouths with which she bit like a savage beast." Due to her fierceness, mankind's creator, Quetzalcoatl and god of the night sky, Tezcatlipoca, descended from the skies in theform of serpents, seized her by the hands and feet, and pulled her with such force that she was severed in half. From her shoulders down she became the earth, and her head became the heavens. 

Authors like Elizabeth del Río suggest the goddess' dismemberment is a symbol of rape, which is further alluded to in the manuscript: "To compensate the goddess for the harm these gods had done to her, all the other deities went down to console her and ordered that all the fruit necessary for human life come out of her." Despite this, the goddess was said to wail at night, hungry for human hearts and blood to ease the pain inflicted upon her. This myth shows that sexual transgressions against the female gender was something common in Pre-Hispanic cultures, but would not go unpunished.

toothed vagina serpents

Another myth which features vagina dentata in Pre-Hispanic women is the myth of Piøwachuwø. In the year 1982, the Chichonal volcano erupted and shook the whole territory of the Zoque people, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, where Piøwachuwø dwelled. She was a mermaid as beautiful as the landscape and as deadly as a volcano's lava. She would seduce men and castrate them using her vagina's teeth; however, all men longed to be with her regardless of the perils. This erotic and lethal creature dwelled in the lagoon located inside the volcano. One day, she decided to swim to the bottom of the lagoon and reach Tacaná, another sulfurous mount located in the same region. The legend says that the day she began her journey, the earth shook and the ashes of Chichonal fell. 

toothed vagina painting

These kinds of legends created the idea of women as life-givers and devourer of bodies. The image of the vagina dentata became popular and turned into a feminist fiction, where a woman could defend herself through the sharp jaws between her legs. In short, this pre-Hispanic character inspired great anti-rape stories.

toothed vagina codex
Women with vagina dentata have inspired other characters featured in different fictional works. One appears in a passage from Neil Gaiman's bestseller American Gods,  and others appear in the movie Teeth (2007) and the anime series Wicked City. Other works allude to this figure, such as  Carlos Fuente's novel Christopher Unborn, K.W. Jeter's Dr. Addert, and Dan Simmon's collection of short stories: Lovedeath. The myth also has a presence in popular culture. In South Park's episode "Snow Crash" they mention an anti-rape device called "Dentata." 

toothed vagina pop culture

In the pre-Hispanic age, women, specially deities, with a toothed vagina were conceived as beings hungry for men, blood, and semen. They believed these beings would seduce men to ultimately castrate them. These myths served as a warning against sexual encounters with unknown women. 

Codice Magliabechiano
Nowadays, vagina dentata has become an anti-rape weapon that empowers many characters across a wide array of disciplines. It is important to bear in mind that still, several centuries later, women around the world are victims of sexual abuse, and millennial legends like this one have been retold as stories of empowerment.

toothed vagina bats and  goddesses

These Aztec legends help us remember that, although a woman's vagina has no fangs, they can protect themselves by raising their voice and fighting for their rights. 


Some images belong to the "Xochiquetzal" series from Mexican artist Rurru Mipanochia

Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia

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