Let’s take a trip into history, to a world that time and systemic hormone disruptors have forgotten–the world after the Comstock Act and before the legalization of diaphragms and cervical caps and the invention of the Pill. I will share with you the most interesting thing I learned in co-teaching a course on the History of Sexuality in America last term: American women were encouraged by the marketing geniuses at Lysol in the middle third of the twentieth century to use Lysol douches for both contraception and personal hygiene.
I had heard about the Lysol contraceptive douche, but until my colleague lectured on the subject, I had no clue that it was actively promoted for decades in degrading and fearmongering advertisements by the manufacturer. It was an enlightening moment for me and for the students when my co-teacher explained in her lecture that Lysol was very popular during the Depression, because it was 1) inexpensive, 2) probably something you had already lying around the house, and 3) didn’t require a physician’s assistance (unless it caused internal injuries!)
(Remember: I am not a modern U.S. historian. The only thing recommending contraception in my period of expertise, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is perhaps the fact that most were non-toxic, if also as ineffective as Lysol. The most dangerous “menstrual regulator” available was jumping off of fences or carrying heavy loads of wood, or eating too many juniper berries or drinking too much pennyroyal or squaw mint tea.)
Nicole Pasulka at Mother Jones, riffing on Andrea Tone’s Devices and Desires, has assembled a brief history of Lysol’s contraceptive application as well as a slideshow of the advertisements promoting the Lysol douche. Warning: this may be offensive and/or induce involuntary buttcheek clenching in women especially. Clicquez a vos risques! Continue Reading »