7 of the Craziest Myths About Female Biology of All Time
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Recently we’ve heard some world-class craziness on the subject of that wondrous creation, the female body. The GOP has long frowned upon sex education, and for good reason. A rudimentary understanding of biology would render nonsensical many of its cherished ideas about women’s anatomical functions. Congressman Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin of Missouri follows in the venerable footsteps of those throughout history whose deep-seated fear and suspicion of women has led to the circulation of absurd myths that would be amusing were they not so often deadly.
That Republicans manage to hold onto biological fantasies in the face of modern scientific methods and tools is truly a triumph of ignorance over truth.
Here's a list of some of the most whacked-out ideas that fevered minds have conjured about women’s bodies througout the ages.
1. The Wandering Uterus
What if your uterus suddenly decided to spring from its station in your midsection and take off running wildly around your body?
That’s just what Plato theorized in his famous explanation for the discredited, fantasy diagnosis of “hysteria” that was widely believed to plague women well into the 20th century. In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato, following other Greek writers, describes the uterus as a little animal with a mind of its own that wanders throughout a woman’s body, "blocking passages, obstructing breathing, and causing disease."
The myth of the wandering womb lived on for centuries.
2. The Toothed Vagina
You’re making love to your ladyfriend and suddenly, chomp! Her vagina has eaten your penis.
Various folk legends around the world have carried the idea of the toothed vagina (Latin: vagina dentata). The sharp-toothed orifice hiding in a woman’s nether regions surprises visitors with bites than can cause injury or castration. The fantasy is thought to stem from profound fears of the female as seductress or monster, particularly her bestial nature. A punk metal band from Belgium has taken the Latin term as its name.
The 2007 film Teeth flipped the myth around in a tale of a high school student who discovers a secret weapon against male violation.
3. The Dangerous Clitoris
The clitoris, symbol of women’s pleasure, has raised alarm in many cultures. In the 16th century, Sinistrari, a Roman inquisitor and author of a classic text on demons, warned that women with elongated clitorises could rape men, and he recommended torture for such unholy females. In the 19th century, removal or cauterization of the clitoris was often prescribed by Western doctors as a "cure" for everything from masturbation to " immorality."
The ancient practice of female genital mutilation, the total or partial removal of the genitalia, still affects hundreds of millions of women globally. The practice is justified in some regions by various myths, including the notion that a woman’s clitoris will grow into a penis if it is not cut off, or that a baby will die if it touches the clitoris.
4. Contaminated Menses
A woman’s monthly period scores high for the fear factor in the realm of biological fantasy. Menstruation has been called a punishment from God, a sign of corruption and a deadly poison. Pliny the Elder claimed that a mere look from a menstruating woman will “dim the brightness of mirrors, blunt the edge of steel, and take away the polish from ivory.”
In the Middle Ages, widespread beliefs ranged from the notion that sex with a woman having her period would kill the male or mutilate the semen and produce horribly deformed offspring, to the fear that crops would die in her presence.