The miracle of childbirth is fairly straightforward: The baby is forced out of a screaming woman's nether parts in a moment of bloody, agonizing ... beauty? But when it comes to just how the baby got in there in the first place, people throughout history and around the world have come up with some really creative theories. We like to think we've got a pretty good handle on how it works at this point (it has something to do with a stork and a turkey baster, right?), but to be honest, we'd have paid way more attention in sex ed class if they'd told us that ...
#6. Men Get Head-Pregnant First
Here's what they'll teach you about the birds and the bees if you're taking a sex ed class in Malaysia:
Before a baby can be born, a man has to get pregnant. Nobody knows exactly how this happens, but through some mysterious force that we're going to call invisible facehuggers, an itty bitty proto-baby is implanted directly into his brain. There, the baby marinates for a while, soaking up all of its father's forces of reason and rationality -- because they figure all that stuff couldn't possibly come from the mother.
"No offense -- we just kind of agree with first act Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets."
Over the course of the next 40 days, the brain-baby migrates from its father's head to his chest to his belly to ... well, you know where this is headed. Once the baby has reached its father's junk, there's a period of a little more than a week where he's a loose cannon, ready to shoot a tiny baby into any willing female companion. This is when the sexy happens, and the baby takes a ride through its father's dong and into its mother's body, just like that tunnel in Space Mountain.
You'll note that the male pregnancy ends with an orgasm, while the female pregnancy ends with hours of labor. This proves that life isn't fair, and class is now dismissed.
"This is BULLSHIT!"
So Why Do They Believe It?
If we're going to look at these weird-ass beliefs from various cultures around the world, we should take a moment to figure out why anyone believes them. After all, most weird beliefs exist because, well, they work.
In this case, it solves a problem that the actual scientific understanding of pregnancy brings: that the responsibility for a pregnancy is on the woman alone. Women have to take prenatal vitamins, avoid alcohol, eat responsibly, give up smoking ... while guys could squirt and bolt, and it wouldn't affect the baby one bit. Physically, anyway. Whereas the Malay belief says to the man, "You also carried this baby for over a month."
And after so long, it just doesn't fit back in. So no refunds.
The man is said to even have cravings during his part of the pregnancy, just as his wife does after he passes the baby to her. And after his 40 days are through, he's still involved in the fetus' well-being -- he's not just moral support, but actually part of the pregnancy. Malay pregnancy rituals require just as much fastidious behavior from the man as from the woman. That's right: There's no wham, bam, thank you ma'am in Malay pregnancies. Instead, it's baby-making as a team effort. It's almost sweet, in a bizarre brain-baby sort of way.
#5. Men Father Babies in Their Dreams
If you thought it was awkward when your parents first explained the concept of a wet dream, just put yourself in the shoes of the Tiwi people of northern Australia. For them, nocturnal emissions didn't result in sticky sheets so much as they did in screaming mouths to feed.
You see, the Tiwi believed in something called the Dreaming, a sort of parallel world where one could travel through the three planes of existence -- unborn, living, and dead. Accessed both during sleeping dreams and in waking visions, this world was home to ancestral spirits, and children existed in the Dreaming before they were born in life. Specifically, children came into being when they were "dreamed" by their father, crawled all up inside their mother's vagina, and camped out for a nine-month sleepover in an egg inside of her.
"No, it's not insomnia. I've just been awake for almost a week because I hate kids. "
Now, the Tiwi didn't completely miss the intercourse-baby connection. Tiwi women, at least, were well aware that sex with a man was part of baby-making -- but while the guy who did the horizontal tango "helped" make the baby, that didn't necessarily mean he was the father. That's because while sex might have jump-started the pregnancy, the kid wouldn't exist if it hadn't been dreamed up -- and it was always a woman's husband who did that dreaming. No matter whom she'd been banging, when a woman got pregnant, her husband was the father. Under the Tiwi understanding of conception, Maury Povich is a scientific impossibility.
Now, you might be wondering how they explained single mothers, and for that the Tiwi had a simple answer: There were no single women. Tiwi women married very early -- in fact, they were often promised in marriage before they were even born. Every Tiwi woman was perpetually married, so her kids always had a father.
"You take a nap, we'll take your wife out. And in the morning: baby!"
So Why Do They Believe It?
For Tiwi women, being married from birth probably wasn't super awesome, at least not on its own. But here's the thing: Since the Tiwis saw intercourse as irrelevant to paternity, female extramarital sex was completely accepted. After all, no matter how many guys you'd been screwing around with, your child was still legitimate. And while they didn't get to pick their husbands, women did get to pick their lovers -- and they didn't catch any flak for it, lose any social status, or have to cope with violent jealousy.
But in the midst of this orgiastic free-for-all, every baby was also born into a stable family unit: Its mother and its "father" were married for life. Turns out if you believe in dream-babies, you wind up with a society of stable nuclear families and free love, man.
"You can't tell me what to do! You're not my dream dad!"
#4. Babies Are Built Bit by Bit, by Constant Humping
As any teenage boy can tell you, you can't get pregnant from having sex just once. But your average horny teenager's got nothing on Papua New Guinean cultures like the Huli and the Arapesh, because they firmly believed that babies were the product of repeated intercourse. Repeated a lot. They didn't even know it was possible for a single sweaty night to lead to a baby -- they thought it took way more work than that.
"Just 20 more minutes -- the ritual is almost complete!"
For the most part, Huli and Arapesh beliefs were pretty close to being biologically accurate. They understood that sex led to pregnancy, and that babies were the result of man-juice meeting up with something inside the woman's body. So far, so good. The trouble was, they figured infants were actually constructed bit by bit out of sperm and menstrual blood. The man's sperm built the child's skin and bones, while the woman's blood took care of the internal bits. To be honest, Papua New Guinean pregnancies are just a bit too similar to Hellraiser for our comfort.
"The box. You opened it. I came."
Now, if you figure that your average newborn is somewhere around 7 pounds -- and even if you figure that the woman takes care of the internal half -- holy shit that's still a lot of raw building materials for the man to provide. Clearly one night of bangin' isn't going to even come close to cutting it -- instead, these cultures believed that you had to have sex pretty much as often as the man could manage until you had squished together a healthy, viable sperm-and-blood baby.
The Arapesh themselves weren't necessarily all that happy about this situation. They said that there were two kinds of sex: the fun kind, and the kind you had when you wanted to get pregnant. Baby-making was an awful lot of work -- no matter how tired you were, or how not in the mood, you still had to get down to business. And they didn't even have candles and Marvin Gaye to help them out.
"Get up, pussy, you have work to do. Dick work."
So Why Do They Believe It?
This one is obvious. Despite all of those health class lessons about how just one sex act can get a woman pregnant (and it totally can), in general the odds aren't that heavily in favor of a less fertile couple that wants kids. Maybe the guy has lazy sperm, you just don't know. So if you really want to keep the tribe going (and happen to live in a culture where things like fertility tests are some kind of sci-fi sorcery), nonstop humping actually isn't all that crazy of a strategy.