A lot of us would rather not think about sex prior to the advent of birth control pills and latex condoms. However, the truth of the matter is that birth control, the first medicine to ever be created for healthy people, wasn’t available on the market until the early 1960s.
And condoms? Well, until about the second half of the 20th century, guys would’ve been well schooled about how to wrap their junk in animal membranes or chemically treated linen before a one night tryst. So, ladies and gents, the next time you go on a rant about having to take your pill at the same time every single day, or mock your friend for grabbing a fistful of free condoms from Planned Parenthood, think of all the way more ridiculous methods people used to practice to prevent pregnancy.
Not only is this the most bizarre, but also the most deadly. Ancient civilizations were absolutely fascinated with this mysterious metal, particularly ancient Chinese society. The method was used widely by Chinese prostitutes, who drank strange mercury filled concoctions intended to prevent pregnancy. Well, the Chinese were onto something, because it did in fact prevent pregnancy, all while killing your organs, causing brain damage and, eternal rest.
9. Weasel Testicles
In Medieval times, staving off babies led to some creative birth control methods. Like weasel testicles, for example. Legend has it that if a woman tied a pair of weasel testicles to her inner thigh, right before intercourse, the animal’s testicles would magically prevent pregnancy. Also, if your medieval man was interested in getting in on the fun, he could wear the bone of a dead weasel around his neck! Together, the combined sorcery of weasel balls and bones made pregnancy pretty much impossible. Not.
8. Crocodile Dung
For this contraceptive creation we travel to Ancient Egypt, where pessaries, or objects and concoctions inserted into the vagina to block sperm, were all the rage. See, the Egyptians actually created the concept for the modern day diaphragm, which is still a widely popular contraceptive still used today. The only difference? Theirs was made out of crocodile dung, honey, and sodium carbonate. What’s interesting is that crocodile dung is slightly alkaline, similar to spermicides, so it might’ve actually worked.
7. Coca Cola
Coca Cola has been used to soothe upset stomachs, reduce nausea and even clean dirty pots. But did you know that it was also used as a contraceptive? In the 1950s, before the pill and latex condoms, doctors believed that the carbonic acid in Coca-Cola could be used to kill sperm. Their theory: the sugar would explode sperm cells and the carbonation of the drink would force the liquid into the vagina. The verdict: it became a popular after-sex douche. Women would shake up a bottle of coke, insert it, and let the soda work its magic.
6. Beaver Testicles and Alcohol
In the 16th century, Canadians, like the Medievals, sought to harness the power of animal testicles in their search for the best contraceptive. However, instead of tying them to your inner thighs or wearing them around your neck (silly Medievals), the Canadians though it’d be more effective to make it into a drink. Beaver Testicle Moonshine was incredibly popular, and very very strong. First, beaver balls were ground up into a powder. Then, they’d add it to grain alcohol, let it ferment and hand off a mug to their wives and lady friends. Salute!
5. Blacksmith Water
By far the most interesting (and dangerous) method on this list, the ancient Greeks were known to hold dearly to the idea that drinking the water a blacksmith used to cool his materials in, would keep you from getting pregnant. Unfortunately, just like the ancient Chinese prostitutes, many women suffered from neurological problems, nausea, kidney failure, seizures, coma, and yes, death. Newsflash: blacksmith water is teeming with lead! What’s even more bizarre is the practice of being in the presence of lead to prevent pregnancy lasted through the first World War, where women volunteered to work in factories with lead just to keep them sterile. In all honesty, I’d probably just have the kid. Just sayin.’
By the early 1700s, women realized that magical animal testicles, mercury and crocodile feces had no place near their dear lady parts. Instead, they set out to scour the produce section in search of less smelly and deadly birth control options. Alas, they discovered the lemon. At first, women wold soak sponges in lemon juice before inserting them into the vagina; the idea being that the citric acid in the lemon would act as a spermicide. Later on, women discovered that you could actually use a lemon half as a diaphragm and, as a bonus, different shaped lemons meant that every woman could find one that was perfect for her.
3. Animal Intestines
Before latex condoms were invented, wrapping your penis in animal intestines were the only way to get your rocks off without procreating. One of the oldest condoms in modern history was said to be made from a pig intestine soaked in warm milk. Ancient cultures in China and Japan would also use lamb intestines that covered just the head of the penis. What did they use before this nifty creation, you ask? Tortoise shells and animal horns. Ouch…
History’s earliest feel good drug, opium, was decidedly the contraception of choice for the people of ancient Sumatra. Women would use the pod of the plant like a diaphragm during intercourse. Alternatively, they’d also insert the opium plant’s flowers into their vaginas, which were believed to have the same effects as smoking it. Hey, baby gravy blocker and a good time!
1. Squat and Sneeze
Squats may be all the rage if you’re trying to build a better looking bum by summer, but if you wanted to get down with that special someone in ancient Greece, without makin’ a baby, physician Soranus had the perfect solution for you: squat and sneeze. It’s fairly straight forward: after intercourse a woman would squat and sneeze to prevent sperm from entering her uterus. It’s totally farfetched, but this is coming from the guy that recommended jumping backwards seven times after intercourse to dislodge sperm and encouraging women to hold their breath during sex to keep from getting pregnant. Weird.
Afieya Kipp is a freelance writer, editor and artist from the East Coast.