“It’s true! Vagina dentata! Vagina dentata! Vagina dentata!”
Someone on the bus the other day was talking very loudly about a film where the main character had teeth in her vagina. Intrigued, I later discovered on an IMDB search that he was referencing Mitchell Lichtenstein‘s (son of Pop-Artist Roy) 2007 film Teeth. After watching the disturbing movie, it had an interesting effect of combing classic mythology with the modern woman becoming empowered by self-acceptance.
It blurs the lines between the power of female revenge, the idea of women as objects of violence, retribution, and the age-old phenomenon of gynophobia. Toting the tag line that “Every rose has its thorns,” Lichtenstein shows how women can be very scary things indeed.
The story is centered around Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler), who is going through the normal growing pains of adolescence. Like her name represents the promise of a new day, Dawn remains abstinent despite the increasingly inappropriate sexual encounters she is subjected to by her stepbrother, stepfather, and the brutally intrusive gynecologist. Caught somewhere between a horror and a comedy, the hybrid genre adds a surrealistic tone to the realities of rape in America, and modern misogyny.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 60% of sexual assaults in America are not reported to the police. Maybe movies like this will deflate that horrifying statistic, or at least give sexually abused women the power they need to speak out.
The bildungsroman of the film is when Dawn realizes that she has power over the men in her life because she is the potential object for violence. Enshrouded by the veil of “the other” she is able to retaliate because men just don’t understand her, and are too ignorant to ask. Not only that, but she has incisors in her vagina that grind mechanically, involuntarily, at any time that she is penetrated.
As Hélène Cixous wrote in the Laugh of the Medusa (1976), it is the riveting story of two horrifying myths: the Medusa and the abyss. The woman and her mystery. Instead of trying to understand it, men fear it. “The phallologocentric sublation is with us, and it’s militant, regenerating the same old patterns, ” which in this case, is the dogma of castration.
“The toothed vagina appears in the mythology of many and diverse cultures all over the world. In these myths, the story is always the same. The hero must do battle with the woman. The toothed creature can break her power,” Dawn explains.
So it seems like the best thing for a man to do is to try to get to know a girl first. If it’s fear of the unknown, the incalculable, or the general mysterious aura of a woman, it’s a good idea to say “please.”