The three most terrifying things in the world are werewolves, clowns and unplanned pregnancy. Humanity has known this since time began and as such has endeavored to make sure the last one of these would happen as infrequently as possible.
When you combined extreme motivation, human ingenuity and the fact that most people are stupid, you wound up with contraception methods that will blow your mind. Or at least leave you feeling a little weird down there.
In the Dark Ages in Europe, things were dark for a reason, not the least of which was that, with the lights on, a typical man might wonder why his girlfriend had weasel balls strapped to her leg.
The reason is obvious to anyone with a degree in Magickery or Weasel Ballogy, as any magician at the time would tell you that the weasel balls would prevent pregnancy. Through the power of magick, you see. Yes, being a magician during the Dark Ages pretty much gave you a blank check.
We may not be magicians and our amateur dabbling in gynecology has been less than revealing, but we're pretty sure this method is aces since we don't know many men who would be able to perform sexually after seeing a pair of innocent, severed balls hanging from his mate as decoration.
Ancient Egyptians were a crafty lot, what with those pyramids and that cool dance and mummies and all. It's no surprise then that they were some of the first people to cook up a method of birth control that actually worked. They had figured out that you could stop the pregnancy if you had some kind of, uh, blockage there.
Still, these were ancient times and there was an unspoken agreement that everything they did had to be horrible in some way. Thus, they made their sperm barriers out of honey and crocodile shit. Seriously, look it up. We wouldn't lie to you.
Who exactly was the first to try this, and what their logic was, is lost to history. We know one thing though: When they finally invent a time machine, the first thing we're doing is going back to find out.
In the 16th century, Canadians agreed that the testicles of small furry animals were key to pregnancy prevention. They were far more advanced than those silly, superstitious Europeans, so they got the brilliant idea to use moonshine with beaver testicles in it.
The hooch was incredibly strong and the beaver balls were ground up into a fine powder, all to ensure the rampant Canadian sex would have no unfortunate side effects, other than having to drink grain alcohol with dried balls in it. This was presumably exactly as effective as the aforementioned magic weasel balls, but with the bonus of getting drunk off your ass (it should be noted that most Canadian scientific advancement can be summed up with these same words).
Ah, delicious, hot mercury. From the old days when it was considered a cure for almost everything, to the future when we'll make terminators out of it, mercury never goes out of style.
Several thousand years ago in China, somebody logically came up with the idea of using mercury as birth control. Why not? After sex, women would do some shots of mercury, and we like to think they called it "Riding the Quicksliver Pony," then voila, no pregnancy. There may have been some sterility, brain damage and kidney failure, of course, but stopping the baby was the main thing. This was China, after all.
But, hey, at least they were taking it orally.
Hey! This one doesn't sound so bad! While today's cervical caps are the idiot cousin of the diaphragm and not used all that often, a couple thousand years ago they were the shit. The basic idea was to make a little thimble that fit way up inside a woman over her cervix. While the unwashed masses were busy using oiled paper and beeswax to make these caps, the sluterati were having them made out of gold, silver and ivory.
While these substances were no doubt awesome to anyone going spelunking in a woman's vagina and could give you a cool girl-band name like Ivory Twatter or Silver Coochella, they sometimes lead to things like Toxic Shock Syndrome, unusual odors, discharge and infections, not to mention pregnancy since they only work if properly fitted and have a chance of falling out during sex.
But, hey, if things play out just right, your penis could come out wearing a shiny little top hat! And wouldn't that make it all worth it?
Condoms are not, as you'd suspect, the result of some drunken man looking at a party balloon and getting an idea. The idea of wrapping one's wang for delivery has been around for ages, long before latex, Saran Wrap and tube socks were viable options.
Back then, animal intestines were the order of the day, most likely because somebody was making sausage and made the logical connection. One of the oldest known condoms is made from a pig intestine and even has a user manual that suggests soaking it in warm milk before use, probably because just humping with a pig intestine was only half gross, but if you could somehow include sour milk in the mix well, that'd put it right over the top.
Again, you have to remember that ancient civilizations existed mainly to disgust the future.
You know what else will never go out of style? Opium. Long before recorded history, there have been segments of the population who decided that everything could be made a little better with a little bit of opium thrown in.
This includes the people of ancient Sumatra, who figured they might as well use it for birth control. So, they'd take a sticky wad of opium and, you know--wedge it in there. Now, we hesitate to even include this because we have a feeling right now there is some dude at his computer, gel in his hair and three buttons open on his shirt, reading this and suddenly having an awesome idea for Saturday night.
PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. We don't know what the side effects are, let's just assume they're unimaginable and move on with our lives.
By the 1700s, most had realized that dried turds and hard metals probably had no rightful place in a woman's lady parts. That's when some enterprising man or woman looked at a lemon half, and got an idea. OK, it was probably a man.
"Honey! I'm going to try something here ... "
The shape would act as a diaphragm and (though the inventor may not have even known this) the acid in the citrus would kill the sperm. And the scent would be just like a freshly cleaned bathroom each and every time! Considering what they were using before that, the guy who came up with it probably won a Nobel prize.
As a bonus, the various shapes and sizes of citrus meant it was great for every woman, though it probably made for some awkward moments with the fruit seller.
Nothing says "baby-free" or "massive brain damage" quite like drinking filthy, toxic sludge--a theory proved positive by the childless, Listerine-drinking hobo who lives by the dumpster out back.
Dating way back to ancient Greece and spanning a good 1,800 years of human history is the idea that drinking the water a blacksmith used to cool the materials he was working with would stop you from getting pregnant. Though it's not really known why anyone believed this, the idea that the water contained lead is a strong possibility as even up through the first World War, women were volunteering to work in factories with lead just so it would keep them sterile.
The only real downside was a pantload of neurological problems, nausea, kidney failure, seizures, coma and death. Hell, they'd probably have been better off sticking with the mercury.
The modern age isn't all enlightenment and ribbed condoms. For a time, not too long ago (and in fact, probably as recent as last Wednesday) people were under the impression a can of Coke was as good as the morning after pill. And they weren't drinking it.
Yes, they would douche with it after having sex. The belief was that carbonation and sugar would be effective at stopping pregnancy, and also turning a vagina into a syrupy, caffeinated horror show of fizz and sticky spots. We like to think Dr. Pepper or Mr. Pibb were the carbonated no-baby douches of choice, but study by Harvard in the late '60s gave the honor to Diet Coke.
We're sincerely hoping this still doesn't go on today, because if so it's just a matter of time until some joker decides to stick some Mentos in there.
For more evidence that history be trippin' (we should totally make that an article category) check out our rundown of The 6 Most Insane Crash Diets of All-Time. Then head over to the blog and witness the very definition of bad parenting.