A look at contraception gone awry
By Tom Huddleston, Jr.
Generation after generation has sought to explore a few monumental phenomenons: How we copulate, but not procreate, or if you prefer, knock boots without knocking-up, or clean the carpet without making a few dust bunnies. Better yet, do “The Humpty Dance” without planting one in her Digital Underground.
And, in the scramble that has ensued in order to provide answers, well, let’s just say that mistakes have been made.
From pulling out to wrapping up, the safest ways to get down have been elusive, and attempts have been misguided. While the modern-day condom is a popular and effective choice, its ancient antecedents offered a bit less in the way of comfort and convenience.
Makeshift condoms have been prevalent throughout history, with materials ranging from leather sheaths to animal horns and tortoise shells (no wonder the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles learned karate). The 2006 Women’s Health Care Journal article, “The History of Contraception: Oldies Are Not Always Goodies,” claims that the earliest condoms were fashioned from animal organs, including sheep intestines.
The article also notes that a 12,000-year old, French cave drawing depicts a man suiting up with some sort of condom for intercourse (his favored brand of intestine is left to the imagination).
This massacre of animals for pregnancy prevention continued throughout history. Ancient Egyptians used a mixture of crocodile feces and honey as a spermicide that coated the inside of a woman’s vagina, while other cultures did the same with elephant poo. Once inside, the concoction supposedly killed off any sperm that dared cross its path.
But before someone gets all “Crocodile Dungdee” on us, we should mention that the method has been out of favor for at least a few thousand years.
For some reason, though, the idea of gutting a sheep or stalking a crocodile all in the name of safe sex, makes complaining about late-night rubber-runs to the convenience store seem a bit lame.
Another method that’s seen various incarnations is douching, or “post-coital flushing” in this context. This basically entails flushing out the vagina after sex to remove any sperm with plans to make themselves at home — so much for squatters’ rights.
And, as recently as the 1960s and ’70s, myths circulated that Coca-Cola could be used for an effective post-deed douching on account of its carbonation, and the fact that sperm prefer Pepsi.
However, the douching method is actually known to aid pregnancy at times by shooting sperm farther into the vaginal canal like some sort of reproductive riptide. In other words, keep the soda above the waist.
More on some of these methods, and many others, can be found at the History of Contraception Museum in Cleveland, OH. The collection, gathered by retired pharmaceutical executive Percy Skuy, includes scores of IUD’s, cervical caps and other identifiable forms of birth control.
More distinct examples include elephant dung, candy wrappers, and earwax from a mule, which was worn as part of an amulet during the Middle Ages to ward off reproductive spirits.
In a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Stephanie Simon, Skuy talked about the difficulty he experienced in locating contraceptive artifacts.
“There’s really no motivation to save an old contraceptive,” he said.
One example of a contraceptive that no one in their right mind would ever want to try comes from our industrious neighbor to the north — Canada — where women in certain indigenous tribes are, apparently, still known to drink a tea made from beaver testicles to prevent pregnancy — further proof that you should never accept a drink from a Canadian.
So, there it is. It would be nearly impossible to catalog every unique, yet well-intentioned, attempt at contraception in history. These interesting past forays, though, prove that man’s capacity for creative thought in times of need knows no bounds.
Of course, this trend will likely continue into the future. Wherever you find a willing woman, a man figuring out how to have repercussion-free sex with her will not be far away.
You’re welcome, ladies.
Photo courtesy of everythingunderthesky.blogspot.com
Tom Huddleston, Jr. is a regular web contributor of Jerk Explains it All.