Aristotle tells us that homosexuality was an effective population control device and quotes the ancient persian proverb “A boy for pleasure; a woman for children”. women were often viewed as merely “functional” though an old Athenian law gave a wife the legal right to expect her husband to perform at least three times a month. Jordanian law was slightly less civilised, enforcing intercourse only once every four months.
image by van maele
having children was rewarded in Sparta. a man there was exempt from military duty as soon as he had sired three sons, and ceased paying taxes if he produced a fourth. the egyptians were more interested in ways of having fewer children and to this end suggested “attaching a spider’s egg containing two worms” to the body to prevent conception. together with a deerskin. before sunrise. it might sound like a lot of trouble but perhaps it was worth it as this method was supposed to work for a year.
The Classic of the Immortals urged men to conserve their sperm. “when, during the sexual act, the man feels he is about to ejaculate, he must quickly and firmly press with fore and middle finger on the left hand the spot between scrotum and anus, simutaneously inhaling deeply and gnashing his teeth scores of times, without holding his breath. In spring, man can allow himself to emit semen once every three days, in summer and autumn twice a month and in winter not at all.”
and from the Classic of Obstetrics:
A child conceived during daytime will be given to vomiting.
A child conceived at midnight will be either deaf, mute or blind
A child conceived during a solar eclipse will be burned or wounded
A child conceived during thunder and lightning will develop mental troubles
A child conceived during a lunar eclipse will be persecuted by an ill fate and so will its mother
A child conceived when there is a rainbow in the sky will be exposed to ill fortune
A child conceived during solstice will bring harm to its parents
A child conceived during intoxication will suffer from epilepsy, boils and ulcers
There are also warnings about how to recognise a woman unsuitable for sexual intercourse:
this image from sydney’s mardi gras is by dominic gili
“dishevelled hair and coarse face, elongated neck and a protruding adam’s apple, irregular teeth and manly voice, a large mouth and long nose, eyes which are bloodshot or yellowish, hair on upper lips or cheeks, large and protruding bones, long stiff pubic hair and women over 40 are all to be avoided”