The things people used to believe about sex were just about as unfounded as the stuff we were told in the back of the bus in middle school. It required very little evidence to turn a Freudian whim into "fact" back then; meanwhile, people were actually told that pleasuring oneself too much would cause hair to grow on the palms of their hands. For real. Sifting through ancient theories on copulation, it becomes entirely clear why sex education has always lagged a bit behind.
Most of these ridiculous rumors were put to bed a long time ago, but a few still pop up now and then. Here's a list of crazy historical theories about making love to casually bring up at your next dinner party.
From ancient Greece until late in the 20th century, lesbianism and the female body were under intense scrutiny. In the ancient world, it was widely believed that dominant lesbian partners called "tribades" used the female reproductive organ to somehow recreate heterosexual intercourse. An enlarged clitoris was considered the "male" organ used for penetration in lesbian relationships.
As long as men were at the helm, steering science and psychiatry surrounding female behavior and sexuality, wildly entertaining myths such as this one prevailed even in modern medical texts.
George Cuvier, a French naturalist and zoologist, set out to prove that human female genitalia varied from race to race. According to him, Asian women's genitalia were set to open horizontally. These racist claims first surfaced in 1816. Needless to say, minimal research was necessary to disprove this grievously ignorant misinformation.
In cultures where masturbation is considered a sin, authority figures will come up with just about anything to try and get you to keep your hands above your belt. This myth is no exception.
Pleasuring yourself will not cause blindness, hair on the palms of your hands, or compromise your status as a "virgin." As a matter of fact, masturbation can relieve urinary tract infections and prevent cervical infection in women.
Ancient cultures all over the world had prohibitions against masturbation (or sometimes, just excessive masturbation), often because it is not procreative and so a "waste" of sexual energy and fluids. However, many modern western fears about this perfectly healthy act have been linked to a pamphlet published in England in 1716 by a theologian entitled Onania, or the Heinous Sin of self-Pollution, And All Its Frightful Consequences, In Both Sexes, Considered: With Spiritual and Physical Advice To Those Who Have Already Injured Themselves By This Abominable Practice, that warned masturbation led to:
Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory ... rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.
Foot binding is a painful tradition wherein a woman's feet are twisted, wrapped tightly, and deformed from childhood. These tiny, disfigured feet were considered sexually attractive in certain cultures and were frequently thought to enhance vaginal muscle strength or tightness because of the small painful steps these women were required to take when walking on their bound feet. This is entirely untrue.