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Captivus by Lucia Marcucci (b. 1933) (Source - academia.edu)

Captivus by Lucia Marcucci (b. 1933) (Source – academia.edu)

The Italian visual and concrete poetry movement of the 1970s, reacted against mass consumerism and exploitation of women, especially in advertising. The above painting by Lucia Marcucci titled “Captivus” is a powerful punning image. It shows the genitals of the artist’s own body superimposed by a small erect penis. This particular penis is just iconic. It carries the self-important Latin inscription, “hic habitat felicitas” meaning “here dwells happiness”. Yet, the dripping word captivus in the above image remind us of blood, and of the more extreme and equally mythical male nightmare “vagina dentata” meaning “the vagina with teeth”.

The idea of a penis getting stuck in a vagina might bring to mind the film Teeth released in 2007. It is an absurd horror film about a young abstinent teenager, a stranger to her own body. She discovers she has a physical advantage when she becomes the object of male violence. Her vagina has teeth — described in folk tales as vagina dentata.

Click on this image to see the trailer of Teeth.

Click on this image to see the trailer of the film “Teeth”.

During sexual intercourse it is normal for the muscles of a woman’s vagina to clamp on to the penis of her partner. There are rare instances when the vaginal muscles, exert an unusual firmer grip on the penis. In this condition, withdrawing the penis from the vagina, even after the man loses his erection, becomes impossible. This condition known as “penis captivus” occurs more often in animals than it does in humans. We often see animals, particularly dogs, stuck together after sex.

“When the penis is within the vagina, it becomes increasingly engorged,” Dr. John Dean, clinical director of gender and sexual medicine for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust in southwest England, recently told BBC Health Check. He further said:

“The muscles of the woman’s pelvic floor contract rhythmically at orgasm. While those muscles contract, the penis becomes stuck and further engorged within [the vagina] until the muscles relax. Blood can flow out of the penis again, the penis starts to go down after orgasm, and the man can withdraw.”

Though many medical authorities pass penis captivus off as a mild occurrence, there have been reports of more severe cases, but the occurrence is rare.

Iwan Bloch, in his 1908 book The Sexual Life of our Time, recounted a case of penis captivus. In a quiet corner of the docks in Bremen, Germany, a woman experienced an “involuntary spasm” during sexual intercourse with her lover, a dock labourer. Her vagina trapped her lover’s cock and the couple could not separate. A great crowd gathered and watched until the couple was taken to a hospital. After administering Chloroform to the woman, her vaginal muscles relaxed, and they were freed.

In an article published in the British Medical Journal in 1979, Dr. F. Kräupl Taylor reviewed the literature on penis captivus. He concluded:

“almost all the cases mentioned in medical publications and in textbooks are based on hearsay and rumour, two papers published by nineteenth-century German gynaecologists — Scanzoni (1870) and Hildebrandt (1872) — who had personally dealt with cases of the condition leave no doubt about the reality of this unusual symptom”, which, however, “is so rare that it is often regarded nowadays as no more than a prurient myth”.

(Read my article “Penis Captivus: Part 1 – From Ancient times to the 19th Century“.)

Finding no later reports with proper authentication, Kräupl Taylor surmised:

“[Penis captivus] does not seem to have occurred in the past 100 years or so. If there had been, during that time, a case of penis captivus that needed medical intervention or admission to hospital it would have been eagerly reported in a medical journal with as much detail and evidence as possible.”

A few months later, Dr. Brendan Musgrave published a brief letter in the British Medical Journal in response to Dr. Kräupl Taylor’s article. He recalled that in 1947 when he was a houseman at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital he had seen a case of this rare condition. Here is the letter as published in BMJ with a footnote penned by the editor:

British Medical Journal
5 January 1980
Penis Captivus Has Occurred

Sir, — In reply to Dr. F. Kraupl Taylor’s article on penis captivus (20 October, p 977), which was recently brought to my attention, there can be no doubt but that I have seen a case of this seemingly rare condition.

The year was 1947 and the case occurred when I was a houseman at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital. I can distinctly remember the ambulance drawing up and two young people, a honeymoon couple I believe, being carried on a single stretcher into the casualty department. An anaesthetic was given to the female and they were discharged later the same morning.

In view of the number of letters that have recently been written on this subject I rang my old friend Dr. S. W. Wolfe, who is now in general practice in Bridgwater, and who was the other houseman at the hospital at the time. He confirmed my story, his exact words being, “I remember it well.”

BRENDAN MUSGRAVE
London NW4 4AY

*** Although the correspondence on this subject was closed we are making an exception for this one letter as it reports personal experience of a case.– Ed, BMJ.

A medical journal report published in 1884 has been often cited as a case of penis captivus by those unaware that it was a hoax, even in the 20th century. Read my article “Penis Captivus: Part 2 – The Great Medical Hoax“.

In 1975, Dottoressa Moor wrote her memoir “An Impossible Woman: The Memories of Dottoressa Moor of Capri” (ed. Greene, 1975). She recounts how she was once urgently called to the Hotel Eden-Paradiso in Anacapri, Italy.

“And there I found a young German girl, in the bathtub in a pool of blood. She begged me to do what I could to help her as she was bleeding to death from a tear in the vagina”.

The girl had been having sex with a man and her vagina had clamped tightly around his swollen penis. In freeing his penis, the man had inflicted a bleeding tear and a deep wound. He had then fled.

After Moor had stopped the bleeding, she and a colleague she had summoned stitched the girl up. Dottoressa Moor adds, “These cases are not as rare as you think.”

Dottoressa Moor also mentioned, though only as hearsay,  a case of penis captivus in Lucerne, Switzerland.  It involved a Swiss girl during the war. It resulted in “dreadful injuries” when the man panicked: “they had got stuck inside each other. It needed two or three doctors to help to undo them.”

In 2012, a case of penis captivus that occurred in Kenya, was videographed and is known as the “2012 Kenyan incident”. Read my article “Magun, the Legendary African Curse!” and see the video.

Recently, in Nigeria, the hotel staff found the lifeless bodies of a man and a woman stuck together due to penis captivus. The woman was still in her ‘Hijab’. A packet of sex-enhancement tablet, Viagra, was lying beside the dead couple. Read my article “Magun, the Legendary African Curse!“.

Writer and director Simonee Chichester created the following short film titled “Captivus”. It is an unfortunate, but unnervingly possible situation of a love triangle complicated by penis captivus. Hannah walks in to discover her girlfriend Kate and her ex-husband are bound to each other by penis captivus.
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← Previous: Penis Captivus: Part 2 – The Great Medical Hoax 

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