The idea of men and women having control of their familial future is nothing new. In fact, the use of contraception dates back to ancient Egyptian times. Despite the controversy that often surrounds the use of birth control, history shows that the need for pregnancy prevention existed even before most modern religions were established. This paper will cover the colorful history of what we now know as birth control, through the centuries and up to modern times. Hopefully, this can give the audience a good idea about how necessary this concept is, and to look at the idea of controlling your destiny with objectivity.
Beginning in ancient times, people saw a need to control the amount of children that they may have. One civilization in particular, the ancient Egyptians, had novel approaches to birth control. Drawings found from the time, around 3000 B.C., depicted men wearing condom like devices. This civilization also had what is called a pessary, which is an object or mixture that is inserted into the vagina to block or kill sperm. Some of their mixtures may have included pebbles, crocodile dung, or even rock salt. The Egyptians also used sea sponges drenched in lemon juice; much like a woman today might use a sponge with a spermicidal. The Egyptians weren’t the only ancient civilization to utilize birth control methods; the ancient Greeks used a method of post coital birth control. This method was employed when the couple was done with sexual intercourse, and the woman was to squat and apply pressure to the abdomen to rid the vagina of semen. Yet another approach from within the same time period was that of Aristotle, who recommended that women “anoint that part of the womb in which the seed falls” with olive oil, cedar oil, or frankincense. These oils were thought to act as a spermicidal that prevented conception because of the lips of the cervix would be too slippery to allow the semen to pass.
Even as cultures and society progressed, the need for birth control remained strong. For example, in the 16th century it was common to use condoms made from animal intestine. This practice was more intended to decrease the spread of syphilis rather than preventing pregnancy at this time. A few hundred years later, it was noted in the memoirs of the famous womanizer Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) that various types of birth control were used in his carnal escapades. Some of his methods included the use of animal intestine as a condom, and the use of an empty half of a lemon rind as a primitive cervical cap. Also from this time period came the advent of the chastity belt, which was used all the way up until the 1930’s. The chastity belt was a bulky metal device that was like an undergarment with openings at the front and back for urination and defecation. The use of this device was initially intended to prevent the wearer from having sex, but it consequently prevented pregnancy as well.
In the late 1800’s, Charles Goodyear (of Goodyear Tire fame) made...