#3. The Witch's Teat
One out of every 18 people is born with an extra nipple, including Chandler Bing, Krusty the Clown, and Zac Efron, whose vestigial nipple grew up to become Justin Bieber. And while these days tertiary nipples are usually either removed or mistaken for moles, during the Middle Ages people thought they had a far more sinister meaning. One that might result in you and your extra boob-nozzle getting burned at the stake.
Back then, men thought that women were walking around just waiting for their chance to make a deal with the devil at any moment, because people tend to look for a dramatic way out when they're subjugated and oppressed all the time. Satan would always leave a sign on a woman's body that proved she had agreed to do his bidding on earth, which included the witch's mark (a mole or birthmark) and the witch's teat (a third nipple). No lightning powers, no bat wings, no pyrokinesis -- just an extra nipple, which, as dumbass medieval people believed, was used to nurse a new little demon friend called a familiar that the devil had given to her (evidently because he was going out of town and didn't want to pay to have the thing boarded).
Now that we think about it, the devil is kind of a dick.
If a woman was accused of being a witch, she would be strip searched, and any supernumerary nipple or mole could be enough proof to convict her, which would often result in her being burned at the stake. Somewhere along the line we came to our senses and realized that third nipples are harmless and witch's tits are a great way of describing how cold it is outside.
#2. Breasts Were Protection
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In our sexualized culture, it's easy to forget that breasts actually serve a biological function beyond selling chicken wings to lonely men. But depending on what time period you lived in, those functions were completely different.
For instance, in the 1300s, Henri de Mondeville, doctor to the king of France, wrote to his royal patient and explained that breasts had three uses, which was odd, considering the king had only asked Henri how his vacation was going. Mondeville declared that the first purpose of breasts being located on women's chests was that the chest was the ideal place for guys to look at them. Clearly, his scientific mind was beyond reproach.
Back then, jump ropes were called "eye gifts."
Mondeville's other two theories about boobs didn't make much more sense. He suggested that boobs' location over the heart kept the organ warm, which strengthened it. Somehow. And large breasts were of particular benefit to women, because they helped to "warm, cover, and strengthen" their chests and stomachs. Having big boobs, Mondeville reasoned, was like wearing a heavy wool sweater and doing constant stomach crunches, because he didn't know nearly as much about anatomy as he believed he did.
By the 1840s, one English doctor theorized that big boobs were ideally beneficial to poor women. Since life below the poverty line was obviously a constant series of drunken brawls, the doctor thought that breasts served as a natural cushion against the beatings their plastered husbands would inevitably give them, or for when women randomly got into bare-knuckle boxing contests with other ladies.
Via Police Gazette
OK, so maybe he had a point there.
#1. The Wandering Womb
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If there is one thing doctors have known for centuries, it is that bitches be crazy. The ancient Greeks figured out why -- women have a uterus, which is something that men lack and therefore must be responsible for the difference in behavior between the genders. They knew the uterus was enormously convenient for growing babies, but what the heck did it do when it wasn't in use?
The Greeks theorized that, when a woman wasn't pregnant, the uterus could actually detach and move around the body like an "erratic animal," roaming throughout the rest of a lady's insides with a mind of its own. Sometimes it would leave the lower abdomen and ricochet around the chest cavity like a pinball, except instead of racking up points for everything it hit, it would just injure vital organs and cause a woman to go slightly insane. This perfectly explained the emotional nature of women in the eyes of the ancient Greeks, because women weren't allowed to contribute to the discussion at the time.
"The issue has been resolved. Now on to our next order of discussion: cooties."
The uterus was also very picky about scents. If something smelled nice, the uterus would dislodge itself and try to get closer to the smell, but if something stank, it would pack up its ovaries and flee to a less-stinky area of the body.
The effects of the wandering womb were called hysteria, and this theory was taught as medical fact well into the Renaissance. Absolutely any medical condition a woman had could fall under the "hysterical" label. Depression? Hysteria. Dizziness? Hysteria. Cramps? Obviously hysteria, because if your pet uterus is trampling through your insides, you are going to feel it.
Even after doctors figured out that no organ could possibly detach and go for a stroll around someone's body, the hysteria label still stuck, and well into the 20th century women were told that any "womanly" ailment was a result of their messed up uterus. Fortunately, by the late 1800s the go-to prescription for hysteria was an orgasm, obtained through a jet of water, a vibrator, or enthusiastic assistance from the doctor himself. Women suddenly got on board with the whole "my uterus made me do it" campaign when the treatment became "electronic masturbating underpants."
"Classic case of hysteria. Looks like the only cure is to show me your boobs and give me a blow job."