A man named Percy Skuy, a retired pharmaceutical executive, went on a quest around the world to discover and collect hundreds of different contraceptives from the ancient times up to the present.
His collection contains artifacts, animal testicles, condoms made from animal parts or fabric, rubber condoms, crocodile and elephant dung, spermicide solutions, suppositories, loops, IUD, diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, pills and more.Texts from the Bible with a description that says “spilling the seed” meaning withdrawal, also has its place.
Skuy donated his collection to the Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Initially, the exhibit was a documentation aimed to provide physicians more understanding about contraception and its history. However, the fascinating displays in the museum attracted the interest of the public.
The Skuy Exhibit on the third floor of Dittrick Museum is the world’s largest contraception collection featuring life-threatening, unusually repulsive, folkloric and scientific-based contraception methods.
It tells a fascinating story of man’s unending quest inspired by curiosity, creativity, imagination, scientific knowledge, and even desperation, all in order to delve on the pleasure of sex without the burden.
Here are some of the world’s oddest contraceptives featured in the Skuy Collection:
1. Folklore Displays
With the lack of scientific knowledge, women who lived during the Middle Ages relied on amulets to ward off unwanted pregnancies, like they were some sort of evil spirit. The amulets they wore consisted of mule’s ear wax and the bones of weasel’s testicles tied to their inner thighs. In New Brunswick, Canada, women formulated an alcoholic mixture added with dried beaver testicles to keep them from getting pregnant.
Douching is a practice that started during the ancient times. A woman rinses her vagina with a potent mixture for hygienic purposes and in hopes of killing the sperm before it reaches the Fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy.
In the Skuy Collection, the oldest douche is a mixture of crocodile dung and honey. Egyptians from 4,000 years ago believed the dung’s acidic property could kill the sperm, while honey has an antibacterial property that can kill the germs present in the dung. In India, women also made use of elephant’s dung. Repulsive yet pretty smart, isn’t it?
Jumping to a more recent form of a douche, would you believe that Lysol disinfectant became a top-selling feminine hygiene product in 1930’s throughout the 1960’s? Yes, and although it was obviously dangerous, advertisers lured women by using the tagline “Feminine Hygiene” with the endorsement of well-known women physicians.
Some companies offer cheaper mail order spermicides in the form of tablets, powders, jellies with a whirling spray or a suppository. At present, douching is no longer recognized as a contraception method, because the strong chemicals in the solutions have proven to be harmful, and the method has a high failure rate.
The use of contraceptive sponges became a popular alternative for douching. From the natural sea sponge to the modern rubber sponge, they acted as a barrier and soaked in spermicidal agents, such as soap, detergents, jellies and foam powder. A contraceptive sponge is usually two to three inches wide in diameter, as experts say it should be bigger rather than smaller,which has a higher possibility of leakage.
In 1930, two gynecologists, Kyusaki Ogino from Japan and Hermann Knaus from Austria carefully studied a woman’s ovulation and concluded that there is a “safe period” when a woman can have sex without getting pregnant. The next decade, a doctor from Chicago named Leo J. Latz published pamphlets in America educating people about the “rhythm method” based on the Ogino-Knaus findings. Many believed that the rhythm method was an effective natural way of contraception. Thus, companies began selling charts, wheels, calendars, calculators and even rhythm beads.
The “Rythmeter” designed by a consulting engineer, Gilmore Tilbrook, was one of the most interesting devices for determining the fertile and infertile periods in a woman’s menstrual cycle. However, Tilbrook cautioned women to use the rythmeter only after carefully taking notes on her menstrual cycle for the duration of nine months, since the ovulation period varies from woman to woman.
5. Dalkon Shield
The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine device shaped like a crab. Although it did prevent pregnancy, its use had many ill-effects that made it more harmful than beneficial to women.
The DalkonShield caused septic miscarriages and other types of infections that affected thousands of women. In some cases, the infection caused by the device even led to death.
6. Early Condoms
Back to the times when condoms were not made of latex, people had a shocking way of creating condoms from animal skin and other parts you would not even think possible. During the 1700’s in Europe, slaughterhouse workers styled condoms from lamb intestines. In the late 1800’s, Asians relied on glans condoms that only covered the head of the penis.
The Japanese made glans condoms from tortoise shell while the Chinese made theirs from a lamb’s intestine. Far back in history, Egyptians used condoms made from linen to protect them from diseases. During the civil war, condoms made from animal parts were an option for contraception and protected sex. However, it wasn’t a popular choice because gonorrhea and syphilis were an epidemic that began with the Union forces.
Rubber condoms came to life in mid-1850’s after Charles Goodyear discovered that rubber becomes firm yet elastic when treated with heat and sulfur earlier that century. It was when condoms became popularly known as “rubber.”
7. Dough Boy Kits
During the World War I, the American military viewed the issuing of condoms to their soldiers as a way of encouraging promiscuity, thus the soldiers only received prophylactic kits known as the Dough Boy to protect themselves from venereal disease.
The kit consisted of a syringe used for injecting a “disinfectant” into the urethra with an instruction to wash the whole groin area right after sexual contact.
However, despite the distribution of the kits among American soldiers, the rates of contacting venereal disease reached epidemic levels. This led the military leaders to reconsider issuing condoms. In World War II, the soldiers received both condoms and Dough Boy kits.
The evolution of contraception is an interesting story that all boils down to one thing. When it comes to the pleasure of sex, there is nothing a man will not do; however, most men want to prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. What fun is sex when you have to worry about either of these life-changing situations?
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