23 Sep / 2018

Birds, Bees and Bitter Apples: Ancient Birth Control

How have people through history thought of and approached reproduction and family planning? Would you trust their birth control methods or consider it another case of the fallacy of ancient wisdom? Join our co-hosts, Eric Slyter and Jordan Watney, as they explore the history of documented birth control methods in ancient Egypt and the evolution of reproductive theory from antiquity to modern history. How do the solutions they devised fit into the context of the culture and their understanding of how conception worked; were their ideas a result of causation or correlation? Why was crocodile dung so significant in ancient Egypt? What does modern science indicate about how effective their methods likely were?


Join us as we examine how people’s overall ideas on how reproduction worked changed as technology developed and in what ways that impacted cultural and social approaches to reproduction and birth control. Before the advent of modern understanding, how was contraception approached in ancient Egypt according to the Kahun medical papyrus and what role- if any- did the deity Seth play in their approach? How did they believe their vaginal suppositories and fumigation techniques worked? And, as technology became more sophisticated, in what way did that lead to the theory of preformationism? How did they mix up sperm and gonorrheal puss?


From a homunculus to the anti-masturbation craze, crocodile poo to bitter apples, this episode has a lot of early methods of birth control which may make you feel the “terror of the womb”. Before you get to the end of the episode, you might decide some of these methods involve too much of a good thing and you’re glad for more regulation. So sit down and watch out for wandering wombs while you listen to this new Horrific History Podcast episode through one of your favorite podcast services (iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and more). Just remember, no squeam allowed! Join us again in two weeks when we’ll discuss religious relics!


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Some of our favorite resources from this week’s episode:


Horrific History Podcast


Commercial break music by Dead but Dreaming.

Slideshow photo credit: nickstone333 Cuban Crocodile at Colchester Zoo via photopin (license)

Blog image credit: Drawing of a “habitual masturbator,” from the 1847 book The Silent Friend. Public Domain

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