Things have changed a lot since Plato settled down to write The Republic. After all, back then people believed the womb was a living, breathing creature with a mind of its own. But one thing that hasn’t changed? People’s eagerness for no-strings-attached sex. For thousands of years, men and women have wanted to do the deed without having to worry about catching something nasty or ending up with a miniature version of themselves nine months down the road.
Today, we have a range of (scientifically proven) contraceptive methods at our disposal, from the pill to IUDs to latex condoms. In yesteryear, however, our forefathers had to rely on more “inventive” methods, with varying rates of success. Think crocodile dung, weasel testicles, and mercury tablets.
Just be glad we have come a long way since the old days of lemon caps and black cat amulets. Here are some of the strangest ways people have avoided pregnancy and STIs throughout history.
Humans have been using condom-esque contraptions to ward off STIs and accidental pregnancy since at least the time of Rameses and Cleopatra. Back then, the ancient Egyptians donned colored sheaths on their man parts, which had the added benefit of displaying social status – probably helping many a nobleman woo a woman into bed.
There have been various twists on the classic love glove over the centuries, including a silk paper version in China and the exceedingly uncomfortable-sounding animal horn and tortoiseshell versions in Japan. But one of the most popular materials is animal intestine. In Renaissance Europe, butchers would craft condoms from discarded animal bladders and intestines.
Thank god for latex.
When life gives you lemons… Well, actually, it’s probably best you don’t do this.
Women in 18th-century Europe inserted makeshift caps made from half a lemon up their lady bits before sex like it was an old-timey diaphragm. We know this because history’s most notorious womanizer, Venetian ladies’ man Casanova, jotted down his adventures in the bedroom in a series of memoirs. And, yes, that included all things contraception-related.
While it’s certainly not something any modern-day doc would recommend, it was more effective than you might suspect. Lemon juice is a natural spermicide, and some recent studies have suggested it may even help protect against HIV.