This morning I took a terrible risk. I drove a car. Yes, I drove around town behind the monster engine of my Ford Fiesta. Please don’t judge me. I didn’t know it was so bad for my health and the health of my hypothetical future children.
Thanks to one Saudi cleric, who apparently knows a lot about anatomy, I now know that, as a woman, I shouldn’t be allowed to drive because driving “automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis.” Automatically!
Okay, in all seriousness, how does this cleric think women would sit while driving? If he’s right, does this little piece of science preclude women from riding in cars? Or sitting? Or is it something about the multitasking nature of driving that causes a woman’s pelvis to just pulverize her ovaries? We may never know. Because it’s nonsense.
But you know, women are just dark enigmas. Our bones work differently and we’re magic, or something. Surely, there are physiological differences between men and women that need to be taken into account in things like drug trials, but people have been sitting for pretty much forever, and we’ve still managed to produce more or less healthy offspring.
For some people, though, the idea that men’s and women’s bodies function more or less the same is just too difficult to grasp. There have been many, many myths throughout time about how women’s bodies work. We still see these myths today in the form of “legitimate rape” comments. Some, however, are laughable and at times inconsistent. Take these five doozies:
1. Wandering Womb
In Hippocrates’ time, it was thought that a woman’s uterus could travel around her body. I guess because women are just giant empty vessels for baby-making. Hippocrates called the uterus “an animal within an animal” because it responded to things like odors. (Your womb likes nice smells, by the way.) Wandering womb was thought to cause female hysteria, which originally could mean a variety of symptoms, but became synonymous in the 19th century with what we’d today call sexual dysfunction.
2. Too Many Teeth
Probably one of the best and most outlandish myths regarding female sexuality is vagina dentata, or toothed vagina. (Can you even imagine? I mean, I accidentally bite the inside of my cheek all the time.) The folk tale has cropped up in South American tribes as well as in Hinduism as a caution against having sex and as a deterrent for rape. I don’t think many people believe in the toothed vagina anymore, but the concept is far from dead.
3. Or Not Enough Teeth?
Women have fewer teeth than men? Who in their right mind would ever think that? Apparently, Aristotle would. Turns out he was wrong about a lot of things and had some pretty strange ideas about women in general. (But what do you want from him, really. It was a very different time.)
Wait, so which is it? Do we have extra vagina teeth or do we have fewer mouth teeth? Make up your mind, patriarchy.
4. Bears Love Menses
No proper blog post about the myths of women’s bodies would be complete without an examination of perhaps the most famous myth of all: that bears are attracted to menstruating women. At least for black bears, this myth is just that. Three experiments were conducted in the early 1990s that attempted to measure a black bear’s attraction to menstrual blood. The first experiment tried to determine whether bears preferred tampons or trash. The second compared how bears reacted to used tampons, unused tampons, tampons soaked in non-menstrual blood and tampons with beef on them. The third experiment involved actual live human women interacting with the black bears. (Evidently, bears in this region were used to human contact.) What all tests found was that bears don’t give a crap about your menstruation.
5. Or Prey Are Afraid of Menses?
The study summarized above isn’t perfect by any means, but it does dispel the myth that bears are driven ravenous by the mere presence of a menstruating woman. But what about the other way around? Maybe we have this idea of men as hunters because menstruating woman actually scare away prey?
Not so much. Experiments conducted in the 1980s found no evidence that deer were averse to menstrual blood. Researchers provided feed mixed with menstrual blood and feed mixed with male and non-menstruating female urine to deers on a game reserve. The deer inspected the menstrual blood first, but only fed out of the urine feed. A similar study was conducted a few years later, this time with venous blood from males, nonmenstruous urine and cow blood, along with regular feed. This time the deer fed out of the regular feed, the urine feed and the cow blood, but not the male blood. While this last experiment didn’t test menstrual blood, it seems like prey are not really all that deterred from menstrual blood.
Just remember, we can avoid so much silliness if we just remember that women are human.
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