6 Insane Sex Myths People Used to Teach as Facts
Considering how obsessed people are with their junk, it is amazing how long it took humanity to finally figure out what it was all used for. The clitoris wasn't fully mapped until 2005, which you may recognize as being about 160 years after the general layout of the Solar System had been determined. To be fair, at least we don't treat the clitoris like a campfire ghost story, or set people on fire for having an extra nipple, or assure women that the cause of all their ailments is a powerful need to masturbate. If you'd been born in a different time, you'd have been 100 percent invested in all three of those ideas, plus a handful of other wacky beliefs about the human underwear zone.
Testicles Were Sexual Ballast
Testicles are ridiculous. They can't stand it when it's too hot or too cold, and they're located in a dangerous place where they can get knocked around or sat upon. They're like a biological self-destruct button dangling around inside a pouch in the least-defensible area of the body.
Because most of the people in history who were allowed to study the body were men, and therefore were obsessed with the purpose of the groinal meat-and-two-veg, we've known basically what testicles were for since at least around the time of the ancient Greeks. But the Greeks decided that storing babies for firing into a woman's body simply wasn't awesome enough to be the sole job of the noble testicle, and decided to add a bunch of completely unwarranted features to it, like a GEICO quote.
Aristotle believed that the testicles were weights connected to the vocal cords through blood vessels. As a boy reached puberty and started to produce sperm, his testicles descended, thus pulling on the vocal cords and causing his voice to deepen. "Science" has worn many strange and fanciful masks over the centuries.
The Greeks were in a good position to test this hypothesis, considering they castrated people all the time. A castrated boy's voice never dropped, which apparently proved Aristotle's theory that the weight was no longer there to pull on the boy's vocal cords. The idea was eventually discarded, and that is the last we will hear about male genitalia in this article, because men nailed down that scientific mystery a long time ago, and were more or less content to leave the female anatomy confined to the realm of cryptozoology and superstition.
The Disappearing Clitoris
You would think a simple anatomical examination would make it pretty clear that the clitoris is a real thing that exists. Nevertheless, its existence has been the subject of scientific debate for thousands of years (and is often left out of sexual education classes even today). For example, the Greeks thought that all sex acts required a penetrative aspect, so they assumed that lesbians had giant clits, large enough to have vaginal sex with other women. Where they thought these women were hiding their shoehorn-sized clitorises is unclear -- perhaps they assumed the vagina was like a switchblade.
While the Greeks were obviously wrong, at least they acknowledged the clitoris' existence. In the 1500s, a Belgian anatomist named Andreas Vesalius decided the clitoris didn't exist, despite the fact that he was a physician who had seen several of them throughout the course of his career. He was like the Agent Scully of female anatomy, stubbornly refusing to believe even though the evidence was literally staring him in the face all the time. In order to explain away all the clitorises he had seen, he simply came to the conclusion that all women who possessed them were hermaphrodites with tiny little goblin penises, and that normal "healthy" women didn't have them.
The reason Vesalius was so anti-clitoris was that he had a theory that men and women's genitals were exact opposites of each other, with the penis being the reverse of a vagina and the testicles the opposite of the ovaries. However, men don't have anything that looks like an inverse clitoris, so instead of admitting that there was a serious flaw in his theory, Vesalius decided that all women who possessed clitorises were genetic anomalies, which makes us wonder exactly how many women he bothered to examine during the course of his research.
Thousands of Chinese immigrants landed in California during the 1800s. Since America was a beacon of hope and freedom and had been founded by immigrants, the Chinese were accepted into the newly formed Gold Rush communities with open arms and- oh wait, no. They were totally treated like shit, forced to live in slums while working the worst jobs for slave wages. And that was just the men. Many of the women went into prostitution, since the double whammy of racism and sexism meant it was basically the only employment option open to them (when they weren't being sold or kidnapped into it against their will, that is). America is a shady sumbitch.
Anyway, at some point, a rumor started among white male brothel patrons that Chinese women had a "sideways slit," meaning their vaginas were oriented horizontally instead of vertically. Despite the fact that this would be an enormous disability which, at the very least, would make it very difficult for women to walk, word of these "exotic" prostitutes and their impossible vaginas spread far and wide. *Ahem.*
How this rumor managed to continue once someone had actually seen these women's decidedly non-sideways vaginas is unknown. But it didn't stop in the 1800s. A quick Yahoo search reveals that this is something many individuals still believe today -- which, in the grand scheme of the internet, is honestly not that surprising.
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 dumbass medieval people believed was used to nurse a new little demon friend called a familiar which 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).
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.
Breasts Were Protection
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 reason for breasts being located on women's chests was that this was the ideal placement for guys to look at them. Clearly, his scientific mind was beyond reproach.
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.
The Wandering Womb
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 differences 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 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 blowjob."
A witch's teat is useless, but a witch's brew coffee from Jim's Organic Coffee is delicious.
Kathy wrote a very funny book, and you can buy it here and here.
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