Since the first pen was put to paper, women have emerged as mysterious figures in history as well as fiction. Eve and Pandora are blamed for introducing evil into the world, teenaged Joan of Arc martyred herself to save her people, Cleopatra frolicked with deadly snakes and manipulated a bevy of powerful men, Helen of Troy's beautiful face is rumored to have launched 1,000 ships, Lizzie Borden axed her parents with no remorse (and beat the rap!), and hundreds of queens throughout the world led troops to victory and defeat and periodically were beheaded for their deeds.
Not only have females been portrayed as the best and worst characters who ever lived, they have confounded many men to the point that the only way to make them fit into society was to call them crazy (aka hysterical), malevolent, and/or blinded by the desire to rule the universe. Unfortunately, those depictions are still alive today.
To further complicate their image, myths about women's bodies – largely conjured up by men – have permeated societies throughout the world. Some legends have been around for thousands of years, and other fables have materialized as late as the 1980s and 90s. There are bizarre tales that question women's physiology including organ structures and functions, psychology, brain functions, drug reactions – an amazing catalog of fantasy that would have eliminated women from existence if any of it was actually true. Read on to learn how women's bodies and minds have been so oddly portrayed throughout history.
15 Driving Cars Obliterates Lady Parts
As if maneuvering 4000 pounds of steel on 4 rubber tires with a steering wheel isn't scary enough, just a few years ago word started spreading in some parts of the world that driving cars seriously damaged ovaries and dislocated women's pelvises. A famous Saudi Arabian cleric, Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan, told the media that studies reveal that women who drove cars suffered from pelvic displacement which injured their ovaries and put them at high risk for giving birth to deformed children. Al-Loheidan's devotees quickly started a Twitter hashtag #WomensDrivingAffectsOvariesAndPelvises that perpetuated the myth. But many of Al-Loheidan's most fervent fans found his remarks questionable and publicly denounced the declaration. Before long, Mohammad Baknah, a Saudi gynecologist, disputed the sheikh's contention, proving that not only were the results false, no such study had ever been discussed, much less conducted. The errant cleric joined the ranks of another cleric in 2010 who suggested women welcome hired drivers into their families since females should be banned from the activity.
14 Learning Is Unhealthy
Denying women the right to higher education is a practice that is sadly alive and well in many parts of the world. Misogynistic leaders and clerics concoct all sorts of bogus reasons why educated women are a threat to world peace or some similar concept (most likely male dominance) but as early as the 1800s, other preposterous opinions about the dangers of education went public. An educator named Edward H. Clark published a paper claiming that educating even teenage girls would threaten the ability for society to thrive. Clark alleged the energy required to study would rob young women of the ability to mature, stating education would halt the "flow to power" of their reproductive organs. He went on to opine that higher education of teenage girls would result in mature women with “monstrous brains and puny bodies … [and] abnormally weak digestion.” As late as 2005, Larry Summers, then president of Harvard University, publicly declared he believed women were biologically incapable of excelling in math and science.
13 Evolution Theory That Isn't Fair To Women
Charles Darwin arguably had the most dramatic impact on mankind when he published his Theory of Evolution – which, by the way is not a "theory" in the traditional sense. In science, theory is the definitive goal, the clarification; in other words, it's as close to proven as anything in science can be. But Darwin did a disservice to the female human of the species when he claimed with bias that aggressive and promiscuous males must be so to attract the lesser, always faithful females. Misogynists embraced the myth and Kevin D. Williamson, deputy managing editor of the National Review, who wrote a befuddled, tedious piece claiming that real men produce sons rather than daughters and that Mitt Romney should've easily received 100 percent of the female vote based solely on his evolutionary supremacy. It's amazing women still wonder why we have sexism and wage inequality in the 21st century workplace.
12 Women Can't Get Pregnant During Their Period
No one knows where this myth got started but rumor has it most people believe some heated, yet undeniably creative, teenage boy made it up while he was trying to get lucky in the backseat of the first car that had a backseat. The truth is a woman is more unlikely to conceive a child if she has intercourse during her period but as Aaron Carroll of Indiana University and co-author of "Don't Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-truths and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2009) said, "…nothing, when it comes to pregnancy, is impossible." Sperm behavior is highly unpredictable. It can hang out inside a woman's body for up to a week, just waiting for an egg to fertilize, which can come into play right after or even during a woman's period. This variation on the old rhythm method is highly fallible; just ask all the parents who've tried it.
11 The Treacherous Button
Always in contention for the most misunderstood part of a woman's body, the organ that is the most associated with physical arousal that some even think is a dirty word has been shamed for centuries by a variety of mislead and misinformed cultures. This symbol of women’s pleasure has raised anxiety in many cultures. Sinistrari, a 16th century Roman inquisitor known best for writing about demons, cautioned that men were at risk of being attacked by women with extended 'buttons', and he advocated torture to stop these heinous crimes . The myth of the evil fun button persisted for three more centuries and in the 19th century, many Western physicians proposed it be removed or cauterized to "cure" everything from pleasuring yourself below the waist to "immorality." Hundreds of millions of women around the world today are still subjected to mutilation based on peculiar myths like a baby will die if it comes in contact with a 'fun button' or the body part will develop into a male member if it's not removed.
10 Females Are Just Misshapen Men
While Aristotle was an undeniable genius when it came to many philosophies, he was a massive failure when it came to the subject of women's minds and bodies. He thought women had less body heat which gave them smaller, inferior brains than men. His studies did not differentiate between the v-word between a woman's legs and the urethra. One of the most astonishing conclusions of Aristotle was that women were formed in the womb by having a male fetus shoved back inside their bodies during fetal development, meaning they were nothing more than deformed males. He further pointed out women's alleged inferiority was based on having fewer teeth than men (apparently not counting those in his wife's mouth) and fewer sections in their skulls than men. Needless to say, Aristotle was not only notorious for his world philosophies but for being one of the biggest chauvinists of all time.
9 Antibiotics Make Birth Control Pills Undependable
The most common reason birth control pills fail is not taking them as prescribed. You risk pregnancy every time you miss one and you can't play catch-up by swallowing a handful of them. And even if you take them religiously as per doctor's orders, there's still a 1 percent chance they won't work. Carroll covers this topic in the book he co-authored, noting that a significant number of doctors even subscribe to this myth. But in reality, Carroll says, an immense majority of the most common antibiotics have no effect on the failure percentage of properly administered birth control pills. However, if you take rifampin to treat tuberculosis, it can interfere with the contraceptive's ability to increase pregnancy-defying hormone levels, although the scope of those effects is unclear. Carroll speculated that the rifampin studies may have incited the rumor that all antibiotics make birth control pills less effective.
8 Tainted Blood
Women often think negative names for their periods came from their mothers or grandmothers but calling the monthly menstrual cycle The Curse, Shark Week and many other colorful and negative names started when the biological process was first noticed by men, who naturally feared what they did not understand. Pliny the Elder, a renowned Roman author and naturalist who died in A.D. 79, asserted women on their periods could dim the brightness of mirrors, blunt the edge of steel, take away the polish from ivory, and stop hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightening. He also claimed that menstrual blood drove dogs mad. Other schools of thought asserted that periods were a punishment from God, a sign of corruption and a deadly poison. The power of the menstrual cycle was viewed equally as bizarre in the Middle Ages when it was thought that having carnal relations with a menstruating woman would kill her partner and ultimately produce children with ghastly physical malformations. Menstruating women were also kept away from crops as their mere presence allegedly killed them.
7 Women Need As Much Sleep As Men
Confusion often clouds discussions of female and male equality when comparisons of physical differences dominate the floor. Most agree that muscle development is different in men and women, as well as metabolism and rates of death from heart disease. But a study conducted by the University of Warwick in 2007 revealed a new fact about how much sleep is ideal for men and women. Researchers evaluated over 6,000 subjects of both sexes. They discovered that women who snoozed 5 hours or less each night were two times as likely to be plagued with hypertension (high blood pressure) than those who slept 7 hours or more. Sleep patterns for the equal number of men in the test group revealed absolutely no correlation between the number of hours slept and the propensity to suffer from hypertension. A year later, a study of 210 females conducted by Edward Suarez at Duke University found that women who didn't sleep soundly, who constantly changed sleeping positions, had increased insulin and inflammation levels as well as more psychological stress, all of which negatively affected both their mental and physical well being.
6 Lady Parts On The Go
Aristotle wasn't the only highly touted ancient philosopher who had bouts of insane theories. The highly esteemed Plato, another Ancient Greek theorist, set out to explain the theory of hysteria, which was a popular supposition of what caused women to be so "crazy" as late as the 20th century and commonly "treated" with electric shock treatments and lobotomies. Plato decided this perceived malady was caused by a woman's uterus dislodging itself from its normal place in the reproductive system and travelling all over the body. Plato wrote in his dialogue Timaeus that the uterus was a tiny animal with independent thinking that moved willy-nilly throughout the female anatomy "blocking passages, obstructing breathing, and causing disease." Not only did his peer group of alleged higher minded men not call him crazy, they fully agreed with his hypothesis. Furthermore, thousands of supposedly learned male doctors and scholars embraced the idea of the traveling uterus for centuries to come.
5 Tiny Chests Are Caused By 'Playtime'
Young men have been warned for centuries that pleasuring one's self through putting one's hand(s) on their Johnson would cause hair to sprout in the palms of their hands, a theory they quickly learnt is a lie—although it may have deterred a few to hold back for a week or two. This tale likely sprung from beliefs at the time that this normal and healthy practice was at the root of every problem from mental infirmity to dying prematurely. But during that same period, the Victorian era of the 1800s, an equally peculiar belief about the consequences of self-pleasuring females was just as prevalent during that time. Noted doctors and health experts of the day declared in a public health manual that "Girls who have followed [self-pleasuring] habits … are apt to be flat-breasted, or, as we term it, flat-chested." The same people also hypothesized that women who pleasured themselves in their younger years would "go through menopause." No word on how long anyone bought that last bit of mindless twaddle.
Just when you think myths about women's bodies can't possibly get more outrageous, the toothed cootchie legend emerges. Many cultures all over the world have variations on this theme. No one's quite sure how it started – or why it won't die – but some theorists believe it was an offshoot of the belief that women were monstrous seductresses with carnal appetites so voracious that teeth developed down there that ate unsuspecting Johnsons during physical relations involving male and female unspeakable body parts, resulting in castration and even death. Other analyses contend the yarn was spun to warn young men about hooking up with female strangers or forcing themselves on non-consenting women. The tale of the toothy love box was the inspiration for a 2007 cult film called Teeth in which the heroine uses her secret weapon to deter carnal assault by males.
3 Hype Over Lady Parts
To this day, many people believe a doctor can tell if a woman is a virgin through a thorough gynecological examination. Rumor has it that if the hymen has a hole in it, the woman is not a virgin. This fairy tale reeks of masculine roots but many women believe the parable as well. However, numerous studies have shown that even with extreme magnification, accurately identifying a virgin is impossible. Since all healthy hymens have holes in them, that isn't a valid criterion. As Dr. Rachel Vreeman of Indiana University and the aforementioned Aaron Carroll's co-author of "Don't Swallow Your Gum" stated, "Some people think the hymen seals off the vagina [until virginity is lost], but that is just not true." She added that In the rare cases when the hymen is sealed, menstrual blood builds up in the uterus and causes serious medical problems.
2 Having Relations With A Female Against Her Will Can't Cause Pregnancy
The myth that having relations with a female against her will can't cause pregnancy has been spread for centuries, with some of the earliest legal claims dating back to 13th century Britain. Generally believed to have roots in ancient beliefs, this ridiculous and illogical contention is based on the bizarre premise that a woman had to have an orgasm in order to conceive, therefore, this convoluted thought pattern concluded that if a woman was pregnant after a man forces himself on her, she must have given consent. Just as astonishing as the foundation for this assertion is that it still exists in the 21st century. Rep Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who ran against Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from being assaulted] is really rare ... If it’s a legitimate [assault], the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” And Republican North Carolina Rep Henry Aldridge said, "The facts show that people who are [assaulted] — who are truly [assaulted] — the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant." Oh my.
1 Intimacy Dies With The Onset Of Menopause
Menopause, often delicately referred to as "The Change," or "The Silent Passage," is different for every woman and can admittedly be a challenging phase of life. But while it may bring on night sweats, dramatic mood swings, mind and body bending hot flashes, and little hairs sprouting in odd places, menopause has never been linked to a decrease in carnal desire. This fabrication may have developed legs based on menopausal women not having much interest in a roll in the hay when they're sweating, experiencing fits of fever and chills, and plucking hair from their ears, all of which are real romantic mood killers. When these symptoms subside or at least become less frequent, a woman's sex kitten demeanor and desires will resurface, sometimes with more vim and vigor than ever before. In fact, a 1994 wide-ranging study of carnal habits in America found that about 50 percent of women in their 50s had intercourse several times a month.