Written by Sara Pascoe


Women Vs Sharks

Statistics on shark deaths made Sara Pascoe wonder if sharks were sexist bellends.

Illustration by Louise Boulter

Illustration by Louise Boulter

‘Vagina Dentata’ is a fun thing to say, or shout out on a bus, but it’s even more interesting to think about. It’s an ancient myth of a woman whose genitals contain teeth and has been ascribed by psychologists as indicative of male fear of castration. But let’s just enjoy it as an image.

Personally, I am toothless down there (don’t forget to check yourself using a hand mirror with one foot on a chair) but I think there’d be great advantages to having two sets of jaws: it might be incredibly empowering and anybody who touched you inappropriately on the backside would lose a couple of fingers.

And then a couple of months ago I read a newspaper headline:




Of course my self esteem immediately plummeted: why am I not tasty to sharks? Is it because of my cellulite or emotional insecurity or other gender stereotypes? “Sharks are sexist bastards!” I shouted to everybody on the beach and they ignored me because they knew it already. I wished I was dead BUT HOW with no shark to eat me? Instead I got out, dried off and headed for the library.

There I learned that women and sharks have something in common: squalene. It’s a lubricant in our vagina and is also present in sharks’ livers. So maybe they don’t eat us because they think our vaginas are baby sharks swimming around (especially if you have vagina dentata). This heartening thought gave me the strength to read the rest of the article.

It recorded the results of a 30 year study by scientists in Australia, ending in statistics that showed 89 per cent of those killed by sharks were men.

There’s no arguing with that. Male people are just far better at shark-death than female people. Of course they get paid more than us in every single employment role – it’s danger money. But what about that 11 per cent: the women eaten by sharks? They must have had very mannish haircuts or hairy arms and the shark got confused and regretted it afterwards with the bitter taste of lady in its mouth.

I cried myself to sleep, my salty tears a cruel reminder of the ocean I would be very unlikely to die in. And then, A DREAM: a ghost dolphin spoke to me, repeating over and over ‘check the stats on gender representation in surfers…surfers…surfers’. Could it be true? That sharks didn’t prefer men, but that there are just more of them to be found in the depth of ocean that sharks live in?

YUP. Everything checks out, 85 to 90 per cent of surfers are male, which directly correlates to the death figures. It turns out sharks are equal opportunities diners, eating whomever they find marinating themselves in sea water. So get yourself down to the coast, swim out as far as you can and into the open jaws of equality.

And let us never believe anything we read ever again (unless it’s instructions for how to grow genital teeth).

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Written by Sara Pascoe

Comedian and actor. I have won QI and Pointless.