10 Ancient Misconceptions about the Female Body That Are Totally Absurd
The Wandering Womb
The well-known Greek physician Hippocrates had many misconceptions about women and their bodies. He believed a woman's body "craved warmth" and so without male attention, the uterus would get restless and wander around the body. Hippocrates also believes that an excess of "male activities" would also cause the womb to wander. This wandering uterus was thought to be the cause of many female illnesses.
Breasts Were Protection
The Royal Physician Henri De Mondeville claimed that breasts not only strengthened the heart, but that they also served as weight to increase a woman's abdominal strength. Another English physician stated that larger breasts enabled women to more easily bear the blows of their drunken husbands.
Virgins Restore Youth
This myth about virgins began in ancient times but really took off during the 17th and 18th centuries. The myth claimed that the act of sleeping with a virgin girl (without any sexual contact) kept an old man from getting older, essentially by raising his testosterone levels. In practice, it was called Shunamistism and has been practiced by many different cultures.
Menstruation Was Meant to Expel Harmful Blood
During ancient times, many people believed that menstruation was a way for the body to expel toxic, harmful blood. They believed that the blood was poisonous and would contaminate anything it touched. Ancient men were warned against impregnating a woman while she was menstruating because the blood would deform the baby.
Lack of Sex Caused Madness
Ancient physicians believed that if a woman didn't have sex frequently her "semen" would back up and cause "female hysteria." Sex was often prescribed as a treatment for women who had symptoms such as faintness, nervousness, irritability, and loss of appetite. In more extreme cases, these women were institutionalized and forced to undergo a hysterectomy. Today female hysteria is no longer recognized as a legitimate illness.
The Existence of Vaginal Teeth
The "Vagina dentata" or "toothed vagina" was a folk tale that was told as a cautionary tale to discourage rape. It first originated in Ancient Rome and South America. Supposedly, some women had full sets of teeth in their vaginas, and they used these teeth to castrate the men who used them or otherwise made them angry. In rare instances, dermoid cysts can form and are able to mature into teeth. These cysts can form anywhere on the skin, including the vagina.
The Female Penis
The ancient Greeks thought that women who had unusually large clitorises could use them as penises. This belief was so widely accepted that it carried over into the 19th and early 20th centuries. They called it the "female penis." One of the more avid believers of this theory was the Italian inquisitor Ludovico Sinistrari, a priest and author who specialized in demonology and sexual sins.
Women Were Deformed Men
Aristotle makes an appearance on this list again because he firmly believed that a woman was nothing more than a deformed man. He thought that men became women due to the lack of heat needed to form a male body. He used this theory to justify his belief that women were and always would be inferior to men.
Maternal Impression Affected Children in the Womb
In some ancient cultures, the great minds of the time thought that a mother's imagination would undoubtedly influence the behavior and growth of her unborn child. If a child was somehow abnormal, the mother's overactive imagination must have caused it. The myth of Mary Toft, who allegedly gave birth to a litter of rabbits because she had a vivid dream about eating the small creatures, stems from this belief.
Rape Victims Could Not Get Pregnant
Those familiar with Galen's theories know that he strongly believed a pregnancy could only occur if both parties were willing participants in sexual intercourse. According to Galen, if a woman was aroused during sex, her body released a seed that the man's sperm would fertilize. If she was not having a good time, she could not get pregnant.