It's not exactly news that, throughout history, people have believed some ridiculous myths about women and women's bodies. You may already know that Hippocrates thought wombs wandered through the body; that the Victorians thought certain girls could live without eating and subsist solely off of air; and that the female orgasm wasn't "scientifically proven" until sexologists William Masters and Virginia Johnson published research on the topic in 1966. What may be even weirder than all of these sexist myths, however, are the weird historical myths about boobs that people once believed.
Unfortunately, women's bodies have been purposely misunderstood (and even feared) pretty much since the dawn of time — so it kind of makes sense that a few weird myths specifically about boobs would develop. That said, many of the ancient and historical beliefs about female breasts are downright absurd and pretty creepy. Despite how laughable history's boob myths are to us modern folks, though, it's also kind of fascinating to think that past civilizations basically assigned magical properties to boobs. I mean, back in the day, people thought they could tell all about a woman's life from the size and shape of her breasts — which, from our modern perspective, pretty much just sounds like a bunch of excuses to stare at women's breasts. But hey, make up your own mind: Here are five weird historical myths about boobs that people actually believed.
1. The Mythical Amazon Warrior Women Cut Off One (Or Both) Of Their Breasts To Be Better Archers
I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Amazon Woman" in your time — not only because the myth of female warriors called "Amazons" inspired the creation of classic female heroes like Wonder Woman and Xena Warrior Princess, but because the term itself is also an annoyingly popular way to describe very tall ladies. However, there's probably a lot about the myth of the Amazons that you don't know — and some of it has to do with boobs.
First of all, in case you're unaware, the Amazon myth has nothing to do with South America and the Amazon rainforest, and everything to do with Greek mythology. The Greeks believed the Amazons to be a matriarchal society of female warriors whose origins and land were a mystery even to the Athenians themselves. But one thing that the Greeks seemed to know for certain was that the Amazons only had one breast. In Greek, Amazons was actually spelled Amazones, which some translated into a, "without," and mazos, "breasts." This is because the Greeks believed the mythical Amazons would literally cut off their right breasts as a way to make themselves better archers. Gnarly, right? Though some archaeological evidence has revealed the existence of female warrior groups who would have been historical contemporaries with the ancient Greeks, there's no proof that they cut off any of their boobs.
2. Masturbation Causes Flat Breasts
OK, so we all know that masturbation has been a taboo for a very long time (hell, I didn't start playing with myself on the regular until I was 17 because of this fact). But back in the 1800s, people actually believed that if women and girls got themselves off habitually, their boobs would suffer the consequences.
Clearly, during the Victorian Era (1837-1901), female sexual pleasure was even more of a taboo than it is now. What's even weirder, though, is the fact that the Victorians actually thought masturbating was a danger to the health of men and women, as well as the cause of flat chests in women. According to NBCNews.com, one pamphlet of the era went so far as to say that orgasms stunted glandular development:
“Girls who have followed masturbating habits … show usually strong indications of it in the failure of their glandular development. Such persons are apt to be flat-breasted, or, as we term it, flat-chested."
Obviously, this is hilarious to us now, and as a woman who tries to never go a day without orgasming (whether it's self-served or not), I couldn't be happier that this theory has long been disproven. That said, knowing how dangerous society believed masturbation to be just barely over 100 years ago at least gives us some insight into why it's still a taboo. Let's just hope with time all the weirdness surrounding self-love fades, because getting off is actually really good for you.
3. Breasts Protect Female Hearts & Serve As Armor During Fights
In the 1300s, Royal Physician Henri De Mondeville wrote to the King of France that breasts existed on women, in their exact placement on women's bodies, for three reasons. Firstly, he claimed that breasts developed in their exact spot so that men could easily view them. (UGH.) Secondly, he stated that female breasts had a mutually beneficial relationship with female hearts. (Evidently, it made sense to the Royal Physician that breasts kept the heart warm and strong while the heart did the same thing for the breasts.) Thirdly, Mondeville said that boob weight helped women maintain their abdominal strength.
Fast forward to 1840: another physician, Astley Cooper, made some of his own ridiculous, and incredibly offensive, claims about breasts and their purposes. Cooper said that breasts helped women of the lower class, "to bear the very severe blows which they often received in their drunken pugilistic contests." Wow, classist and sexist. Good job with the scientific insights, Cooper.
4. Three Nipples = Witch
In the late 1400s, two Dominican friars published a book that was essentially a guide to witch-hunting. It was called Malleus maleficarum , or, Hammer of the Witches , and one of the "tips" it gave for spotting witches was determining whether or not the woman in question had a third nipple. What did these witchy women allegedly do with this third nipple, which was sometimes called "the witches' mark"? They were thought to use it to nurse imps, familiars — and sometimes, the Devil himself.
Unfortunately for the women under suspicion, this third nipple, or "teat," could actually be anything from an actual nipple to a birthmark. Even more unfortunately for the women under suspicion, if they were found to be in possession of a third "nipple," they were often put on trial for witchcraft, a practice that often resulted in torture and death.
5. Menstrual Blood Perks Up Boobs
This myth is particularly fascinating to me because, as we all know, menstruation has a long history of terrifying people — most ancient cultures (and even some of today's cultures) thought that even touching a menstruating woman would defile a person. Apparently, the ancient Egyptians felt a bit differently. According to the Ebers Papryus, which managed to survive ancient Egypt and contains a treasure trove of the era's medical advice, smearing menstrual blood all over your boobs was supposed to perk them up.
To be fair, modern women have done stranger things to keep their breasts looking young — but I'm sure I'm not the only lady who finds it really hard to imagine a time when rubbing someone else's period blood all over your boobs was considered normal. But it's hard to imagine a time when any of these things were considered normal, really.
Images: Monica Andino/Bustle; Giphy(4)