Event Title

The Monstrous Mouths of Women

Presenter Information

Bailey Flannery

Mentor 1

Jacqueline Stuhmiller

Location

Union 250

Start Date

27-4-2018 1:20 PM

Description

The vagina dentata, literally meaning “toothed vagina,” is an age-old motif in art and literature. It signifies the fear that women are sexually aggressive rather than passive and submissive, threatening to symbolically castrate men. Scylla and Charybdis in Homer’s The Odyssey are perhaps some of the most iconic representations of the vagina dentata. The former is a six-headed woman-monster who devours Odysseus’ crewmen in her many mouths; the latter is a gaping whirlpool that threatens to suck in the entire ship. These examples from classical literature emphasize that man must navigate the dangerous mouths of the sea, lest they devour him whole—a metaphor for man’s fear and desire of sexually assertive women. The examples of Scylla and Charybdis also reveal that the mouth, although not actually genitalia, is often the site of the vagina dentata, a site of rebellion and power for women. This presentation explores how representations of women’s monstrous mouths have evolved through several readings, beginning with Eve in Genesis. The presentation then examines the more contemporary vagina dentata found in femme fatale starlets whose blood-red mouths ooze sexual desirability and danger, such as Ava Gardner, Angelina Jolie, and Megan Fox. Finally, the presentation discusses the monstrous mouth’s most recent development: the device Rape-Axe, which is a "real life" vagina dentata that prevents unwanted vaginal penetration. The vagina dentata’s transformation from textual symbol, to screen trope, to palpable reality confirms that while the mouths of women have been monstrous throughout Western history, they change with each reappearance to represent evolving, yet interconnected fears of women and their bodily power, fears that are all too present in current depictions and manifestations.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Apr 27th, 1:20 PM

The Monstrous Mouths of Women

Union 250

The vagina dentata, literally meaning “toothed vagina,” is an age-old motif in art and literature. It signifies the fear that women are sexually aggressive rather than passive and submissive, threatening to symbolically castrate men. Scylla and Charybdis in Homer’s The Odyssey are perhaps some of the most iconic representations of the vagina dentata. The former is a six-headed woman-monster who devours Odysseus’ crewmen in her many mouths; the latter is a gaping whirlpool that threatens to suck in the entire ship. These examples from classical literature emphasize that man must navigate the dangerous mouths of the sea, lest they devour him whole—a metaphor for man’s fear and desire of sexually assertive women. The examples of Scylla and Charybdis also reveal that the mouth, although not actually genitalia, is often the site of the vagina dentata, a site of rebellion and power for women. This presentation explores how representations of women’s monstrous mouths have evolved through several readings, beginning with Eve in Genesis. The presentation then examines the more contemporary vagina dentata found in femme fatale starlets whose blood-red mouths ooze sexual desirability and danger, such as Ava Gardner, Angelina Jolie, and Megan Fox. Finally, the presentation discusses the monstrous mouth’s most recent development: the device Rape-Axe, which is a "real life" vagina dentata that prevents unwanted vaginal penetration. The vagina dentata’s transformation from textual symbol, to screen trope, to palpable reality confirms that while the mouths of women have been monstrous throughout Western history, they change with each reappearance to represent evolving, yet interconnected fears of women and their bodily power, fears that are all too present in current depictions and manifestations.