Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Hideous Birth Control Methods Through The Ages

Some things aren’t as good as they used to be, but that isn't true of birth control. Some tips from the footnotes of history, used by women (and in some cases, men) far less fortunate than us:

• A pessary made of dried crocodile dung (Ancient Egypt)

• A mixture of olive oil and oil of cedar, placed in the vagina (recommended by Aristotle)

• Bloodletting, as current medical tradition held that sperm was merely blood turned white by the heat humor. The French physician Jacques Ferrand, author of A treatise on lovesickness, recommended that, if moderate bloodletting failed to dampen libido, the man must be bled until he "is ready to fall downe for faintnesse, and losse of blood."

• A sponge soaked in lemon juice and inserted into the vagina (Medieval Europe)

• The woman must hold her breath during coitus, then sit with her knees bent and sneeze to expel semen (Ancient Greece)

• A pessary made of nettle leaves (Elizabethan England)

• A condom made from tortoise shell or horn, which had the added benefit of concealing impotence (Feudal Japan)

• Emetics and diuretics, which reduced the desire for sex or simply made it impossible (Elizabethan England)

• The woman must eat beans on an empty stomach (Ancient Egypt)

• The woman must drink the froth from a camel’s mouth (Ancient Africa)

• The woman must drink sheep urine or rabbit blood (Medieval Europe)

• Inserting tar or elephant dung into the vagina after coitus (11th-century Persia)

• A pessary made from cat testicles (Ancient Greece)

• Half a lemon skin used as a cervical cap (recommended by Casanova)

• A condom made from a goat bladder, to be worn by the man or the woman (Imperial Rome)

• The woman must wear weasel testicles on her thigh or the amputated foot of a live weasel around her neck (Medieval Europe)

• Onion juice applied to the penis before coitus (Ancient Egypt)

• A numbing genital bath of either cold water or a mixture of ginger and vinegar (Elizabethan England)

• In 1920s and 30s New York, the most common form of birth control was coitus interruptus, which doctors worried would cause impotence in men and a hardening of the uterus in women.

• Coitus obstructus: pressing on the forepart of the testicle to block ejaculation (Used in American Utopian societies in the 19th century, and recommended in Sanskrit texts)

• Ancient Greeks and Romans used Silphium, a giant fennel, as a form of medicinal birth control so much that it is now extinct. Greek coins depicted a woman touching the plant with one hand and her genitals with the other. Its seed resembled the stylized heart shape we know today, and may be its inspiration. (Take that, Hallmark.)

• Some women in rural North Carolina still use a traditional oral contraceptive made from Queen Anne’s Lace seeds, which are chopped and put in a glass of water, which is then drunk. Cutting the seeds releases terpenoids, which block progesterone.

• A pessary made of acacia gum, dates, an unidentified plant, fiber, and honey (Ancient Egypt)

• Coca-Cola douches, as Coke was rumored to be an excellent spermicide, and the classic bottle provided a “shake and shoot” applicator (1950s and 60s America)

• In 1971, a study in China found that six percent of women used “having a husband outside the city” as a form of birth control.

Related: "Don't Even Brush Your Teeth": 91 Hangover Cures From 1961

Sarah Marshall has an IUD. Michael Magnes swears by amputated weasel feet.

40 Comments / Post A Comment

GiovanniGF (#224)

I can see how the bloodletting would totally work.

C_Webb (#855)

@GiovanniGF I thought it was kind of progressive that they did it to the men instead of the women.

ladyshiv (#235,544)

@C_Webb Well that's because it doesn't really matter if a woman is too tired to have sex, amiright?

C_Webb (#855)

That explains all those gimpy weasels in medieval art.

katnotcat (#10,431)

@C_Webb I find a live weasel in my underwear is actually the most effective. They're angry little buggers!

zidaane (#373)

In the but (Moche culture Peru)

faience (#206,496)

@zidaane Lots of handjobs in their ceramics too. Also handjobs given to skeletons.

Mr. B (#10,093)

Did Casanova know how to party or what?

nonvolleyball (#9,329)

@Mr. B that's one of the few premodern methods that seems like it might actually work.

Bittersweet (#765)

@nonvolleyball I dare you to find a modern lady who'd be willing to even consider letting half a lemon anywhere near her lady bits.

nonvolleyball (#9,329)

@Bittersweet just the peel, though? I'd test that out long before I'd douche with Coca-Cola.

zidaane (#373)

In a pinch, a Dr. Scholls heel pad.

CasualElegance (#231,723)


dj pomegranate (#201,598)

"Inserting tar or elephant dung into the vagina after coitus…"

ohmygod. ohmygodohmygod.

C_Webb (#855)

@dj pomegranate You'd think inserting TAR would be a one-time-only "solution."

deepomega (#1,720)

@dj pomegranate Probably you can go digging in La Brea and find some tar-entombed elephant scat. Two birds, one tar!

Mr. B (#10,093)

@deepomega Yeah but you'd have to go to L.A. for that. (Shudder)

SeanP (#4,058)

A PESSARY MADE OF NETTLE LEAVES?! Well, not a lady here, but just the thought of that would put me off sex for a good long while.

katnotcat (#10,431)

Alternatively, read this list out loud to your lover. Problem solved.

ColdFinger (#233,065)

NO WAY! "Shake and shoot?!" What did that look like???

@ColdFinger Oh holy christ, NO!

ladyraptor@twitter (#237,072)

I remember an episode of Carnivale where they did this, so you could find out. I bet it's on youtube.

squeegee beckinhiem (#237,162)

@ColdFinger One of the women on HBO's "Carnivale" does it! She's the traveling stripper(along with her daughters) who does overtime as a prostitute, tho on the show she does it(at the behest of her husband) cause she thinks she may have picked up an STD!

edit–sorry! didnt see it'd already been mentioned!

Lemonnier (#14,611)

Ohhhh, sheep urine.

Faintly Macabre (#235,741)

"Cutting the seeds releases terpenoids, which block progesterone."

I know birth control is free and all, but does this mean I can just drink that bottle of turpenoid I have upstairs? And thereby get rid of junk and…welcome junk?

Charlotte Flax (#234,743)

I know this is nowhere close to being the most baffling or disgusting one, but holding your breath during coitus? How quick of a trigger must those ancient Greek men have been?

Wrenochka@twitter (#236,993)

@Charlotte Flax

Seriously. With most of the items on this list, I just can't imagine the sex being much fun at all.

zidaane (#373)

I once made a poultice for my dogs inflamed ear. I was trying to secure it in there with some ace bandage when she violently objected and shook it off and immediately ate the poultice whole.

The poultice consisted of 6 cloves of garlic and two tea bags with staples all wrapped up with a shred of old t-shirt and secured with a rubber band.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@zidaane I read this as "a poultice of inflamed dog's ear" which would be right at home on this list.

zidaane (#373)

@stuffisthings Don't get the one's from China. They could have lead paint.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Affordable? Have you SEEN what they're charging for camel froth at Whole Foods these days?

ejcsanfran (#489)

I'm sticking with my method that has proved 100% effective: gay sex.

wasn't the lysol douche also popular?

Wrenochka@twitter (#236,993)


Nothing beats lysol:

Vera Knoop (#2,167)

@mynamebackwards The lysol douche, even more horrifyingly, was just for general "hygiene" purposes.

Vera Knoop (#2,167)

If I ate beans on an empty stomach, it's safe to say that I would not be getting pregnant that day.

Psychbucket (#179,624)

Weasel testicles all the way, baby.

Really good list

TallLightHandsome (#237,095)

I can't believe they didn't mention the male chastity device. Granted it's a modern invention, but with thousands upon thousands of men wearing them these days at the bhest of women, you'd think it would at least deserve a mention.

Paddy (#255,061)

I can see why "free love," aka sexual freedom, did not really take off until "the Pill."

Of course, the pagans knew about the menstrual cycle and knew the right days to not get preggo.

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