Sexist Theories & Ideas That Haunted Women In the Name of Science

Here are some absurd sexist ideas that were once a scientific belief and haunted medical science.

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Let's talk sex
4 min read
The struggle of a woman to prove that she isn’t inferior will probably go on for eons.
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For centuries, Science, when we talk about women, was repeatedly used to establish bigotry backed by bizarre theories. All of them came down to one conclusion eventually — women are inferior and have to be controlled.

Even in the 21st century, equality still seems like a far-fetched idea.
Even in the 21st century, equality still seems like a far-fetched idea.
(Photo: Unsplash)

From believing things like mentally unwell women can recover if their uteruses were better aligned, to having repressed sexual urges be cured by "corrective rape", the list gets even more bizarre.

Here are some absurd sexist ideas that were once a scientific belief.

1. The ‘Roaming Uterus’

For ages, hysteria was described as a gender-selective illness, which affected only women as they had a uterus. Even the word 'hysteria' itself comes from the Greek word ‘hystera’, which means uterus. The theory “roaming uteri”, was backed by big names from history like Plato and Aeataeus, who called it ‘hysterical suffocation’. To cure this condition, the 'notorious' uterus was usually forced back in its place by putting good fragrance near the suffering woman's vagina and foul smells near the mouth and sneezing. Wanderers are of all kinds, who knew the uterus would also be one of them!

The wandering uterus.
The wandering uterus.
(Photo: altered by The Quint)

2. A woman’s uterus could fall out of her body if she tried running

According to a myth published as a medical theory (more like a medical discourse) in the late 1800s, rough movements of the body could cause an aggressive movement and loosening of the uterus because of which it could fall or slip out of the body. This would lead to not being able to get pregnant ever, which was and in some cases is still considered as the one and only purpose of a woman's existence.

For the longest of time, it was believed that running or jumping was not appropriate from a medical point of view.
For the longest of time, it was believed that running or jumping was not appropriate from a medical point of view.
(Photo: altered by The Quint)

3. Mental health issues and anxiety? Cmon! You’re just sexually broken

Father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud had this theory that hysteria in women was an outcome of removing male sexuality from females. Yes! Women were nothing but smaller men without a penis. This weird idea was derived from Freud’s ‘Oedipal moment of recognition’ in which a young woman thinks she does not have a penis and has been castrated.

Sounds bizarre? Not yet.

In order to “treat” this disorder, it was further said that a woman could reclaim the lost penis by getting married to a man, and eventually giving birth to one.

Both men and women received treatment for hysteria. But some doctors still referred to it as sexual or reproductive dysfunction in women. So, in order to treat that, medical experts used gush of water to get a woman to have an orgasm or as they would call it - Hysterical paroxysm. (Guess you know now where vibrators originated from)

It was believed that women were nothing but smaller men without a penis.
It was believed that women were nothing but smaller men without a penis.
(Photo: Parthavee Singh)

4. Women have smaller brains — Neurosexism

Are you a woman? You have a smaller head as compared to men, therefore, I shall declare you intellectually inferior! Well, this topic was argued about by scientists through ages. They conveniently wanted to believe that women were not as intelligent as men as women had smaller heads, which means they had smaller brains, hence the argument.

It was argued that women were intellectually inferior to men.
It was argued that women were intellectually inferior to men.
(Photo: Parthavee Singh)

5. Women do not have any sexual urges. It’s (not) a sin

The desire for the sensual aspects of sex for women was a sin.
The desire for the sensual aspects of sex for women was a sin.
(Photo: Quint Fit)

Talk about living in denial, the Victorians mastered this skill by blindly denying the fact that women could have sexual urges of any kind. The desire for the sensual aspects of sex for women was a sin as their role was strictly restricted to reproduction. Hence Victorian marriages were nothing beyond a cold and emotionally obscure relation.

This does not just end here. While sex was recommended to cure women of mental illness, doctors were "concerned" about regular medical checkups being really arousing for a woman.

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