Glimpses of Eccentricity: 30 Bizarre Conventions from Bygone Eras

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1Medieval Female Sexuality

Medieval Female Sexuality

In the Middle Ages, Catholic women were prohibited from having sex on Sundays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, on feast days, while fasting for Lent or Advent or while "impure" (menstruation, pregnancy, 40 days after giving birth & while nursing). Everything but the missionary position was considered sodomy.

2. In the 50s, teenagers having a stable monogamous relationship (“going steady”) was considered edgy and frowned upon by parents and the church as amoral. Instead, they encouraged their kids to go out with different people every weekend. The rationale behind this was that going steady would encourage the relationship to develop into one of physical intimacy, something parents wished to avoid.

3. For the Romans, a big penis wasn’t seen as a sign of manliness or sexual skill. All of the Roman heroes - mythological, political, or athletic - were portrayed as having small, compact genitalia, almost like pubescent boys. What we consider “well-endowed” was considered a sign of a barbarian or a fool.

4. Seat belts were very controversial when they first appeared in cars during the 40s and 50s with many arguing that they caused injuries and didn’t work, no matter how much researchers disputed these claims. Many people refused to wear them and even cut them out of their car seats.

5. People used to believe that a tarantula bite was fatal unless the victim engaged in frenzied dancing to certain music.

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6Modern Fez Hats

Modern Fez Hats

The fez hats were once considered very modern. These hats were made famous by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II in the 1800s as he made them a requirement as a replacement for turbans. They didn’t really go out of style due to lack of interest but were banned in 1925 by Kemal Atatürk to modernize the country.

7. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates based all of his theories on superficial observations like texture, colors, and symptoms. Human dissection was considered taboo in Ancient Greece until Alexandrian physicians began dissecting cadavers in the 3 century B.C.

8. Many religions used to believe what we know as outer space was a giant ocean.

9. ‘Male Menstruation’ was considered a normal part of growing up in 20th century Egyptian culture, but it was actually caused by an endemic parasitic bladder infection from schistosomes which caused bloody urine.

10. The modern bowling game originated in ancient Germany, not as a sport but as a religious ceremony. The “Kegel” (bowling pin) represented an unbeliever, and those who could topple it with a round stone were believed to have cleansed themselves of sin.

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11Mandrake Lore

Mandrake Lore

Mandrake, a root of a plant that sometimes resembles a human has long been steeped in the occult and medieval lore. The root was believed to bear hallucinogenic and narcotic properties and was used in the treatment of headaches, earaches, gout, and insanity to name a few.

12. At the end of the 19th-century horse manure was considered one of the greatest challenges to urban planners. Shortly after, the problem was solved by the introduction of the automobile.

13. As recently as the 1930s (and even now in some places) in China, the women’s feet were bound in “lotus shoes” measuring three inches in length, as smaller feet on women forced them to walk in a way that was considered erotic.

14. Bluefin Tuna, the most expensive fish in the world, was considered a trash fish until the 1970s. Its reputation was so bad in Japan that it was referred to as “neko-matagi”, which meant food too low for even a cat to eat.

15. Up until 1974, banks could refuse to issue a credit card to a woman unless she was married and her husband co-signed for the card. A divorced woman was considered too much of a risk because she “couldn't keep a marriage under control.”

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16Smiling in Photograph

Smiling in Photograph

For most of history, smiling in a painting or photograph was considered radical, and even Mark Twain once wrote, “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”

17. At the premiere of Beethoven's 9th symphony, police had to break up the applause, as the amount he was receiving was considered inappropriate for a private citizen.

18. The bikini was considered so skimpy back in 1946 when it was first designed that no model agreed to wear it and its designer Louis Réard had to hire a nude dancer from Casino to wear it at swimsuit review.

19. In Renaissance France, a woman could take her husband to court if he was impotent. Because marriage was created by the church in part as a means for procreation, to be unable to “uphold your end of the bargain” was considered a form of fraud.

20. In the 1900s, Margarine was considered contraband in 30 U.S. states, and some states felt so strongly about this substance that they required it to be dyed pink in order to make it look less appetizing.

21<10% Alcohol Soft Drink

<10% Alcohol Soft Drink

In 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order making beer an alcoholic drink. The law went into effect on 01/01/2013. Before this, any drink under 10% alcohol was considered a soft drink.

22. In the early 1900s, Celery was considered a delicacy and one of the most popular foods in America. Kalamazoo was the Celery capital of the world.

23. In the 16th century Europe, it was considered manly for men to wear elaborate headdresses made of ostrich feathers.

24. The original "Snake Oil Salesman" wasn’t convicted of selling snake oil. He was convicted of selling fake snake oil. Oil from Chinese water snakes was considered a legit medicine at the time, but Clark Stanley was convicted in 1917 of selling fake snake oil.

25. For hundreds of years, people believed that the Egyptian pyramids were used to store grain.

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