Due to the topic, I will use a great deal of euphemisms in this blog.
It it possible, along with your kids, you won't understand a word I say.
Today, I'm discussing the forms of Birth Control available to the men and women of the Victorian Era.
There was, of course Coitus Interruptus which has been used since cavemen figured out the connection between having a good time and getting another mouth to feed.
Cave drawings in France (figures) dated 12-15000 years ago indicate animal skins were worn on the cave man's sword. We cannot be certain to their motivation for sheathing their sword. It could have been because it was freakin cold and fur pelts wrapped about their waist let in a draft from down under.
Keep in mind, through most of our history, men wore wraps, long gowns and short skirts. A nice warm sheath might be prudent to prevent unmanly shrinkage.
However, we do know that later, condoms were created from animal guts. However, they were prone to tear and leak.
Before the Black Plague, women were in charge of birth control, and they had concoctions I like to call spermacides to kill little sperms with acidic liquids before they could complete their swim upstream.
They also had ways to get rid of babies, although most of the concoctions they swallowed were harmful to them as well. But who needs a liver, right?
But then in 1348, the Black Plague devastated the population. It could be a coincidence, but the burning of witches who made 'concoctions' began at this time when the country desperately needed to repopulate, not abort unwanted children.
In addition, the one to decide matters of birth control shifted to the men. Thus, the plague can be seen as a major attack on women's rights.
By the 18th century, the average woman was completely ignorant of all the ways she might prevent a pregnancy. So not surprisingly, the birth rates were extremely high in 18 & 19th centuries. But as I've noted in a prior blog, so were the death of children due to sanitation issues that arose as the population grew and new devices such as the baby bottle were created.
During the Victorian era, in England, an abortion was a costly business. The poor could pay 10-50 guineas, which was about 5% of their entire year's wage, and keep in mind, that wage barely met their survival needs. To lose 5% could mean the difference between life and death.
STD's became a serious problem during the puritanical Victorian era. (Which is kind of funny if you think about it.)
Mid 19th century Vulcanized Rubber was invented. Besides nipples for the deadly baby bottles, it was also used to create the first 'rubbers'. Yep, that's where the name came from.
At first they were small caps that fit like a bonnet on the head of the sword. A physician had to measure the little head so the bonnet fit just right. Unfortunately, all too often the bonnet, or capote, as it was called, would get lost in the cave. While I found many articles insisting the little bonnet were prone to wandering off into the cave by themselves, not one article said how they ever found their way out of the cave.
I pray that doesn't mean some caves were crammed full of capotes.
Fortunately, for all the caves, the manufacturers soon realized a longer one size fits all would work better.
One other oddity about the rubbers. They were marketed as 'reusable' so they were actually cheaper than the animal skin (gut casing) condoms that were still used to prevent getting diseases from the ladies working the docks. However, to the more expensive gut casing's credit: It provided more sensations. The rubber was as thick as a bicycle tire tube.
Allow me to jump over the pond for a moment.
In the United States, between 1844-1873 the contraceptive industry flourished. In addition to selling condoms, traveling salesmen and women would go from town to town selling IUD's, cervical caps, sponges, diaphragms, and dousing syringes to better the lives of people.
Some found this so offensive that in 1873 a law was passed in Congress forbidding the sale of all types of birth control.
With such demand for their products, companies just re-branded their products and sold them as ways to promote 'feminine hygiene'.
It appears Congress's desire to control what may and may not be done to the female body is a long standing problem.
In my Victorian Mysteries, Vic, a young woman who had chosen to live her life as a Victorian man, falls in love with her employer, the renowned sleuth, Xavier Thorn. She is unaware of any way to stop pregnancies, so she refuses to allow anything to happen between her and Xavier, because it will change her in a manner which will ruin her life. (Euphemism for 'get her pregnant').
When Xavier finally divines what the bloody hell she means, he introduces her to the condom. Thankfully, by the 1890's, they exist in longer lengths so little bonnets need not get lost in caves anymore.
However, I must admit that Xavier & Vic aren't always faithful in their use of condom...