Highlights from 11. September 2012

Two Highlights for everyone returning from holiday: an innocent-looking briefcase and an apparently dangerous metal object

Most briefcases are black or dark blue – the danger of mixing them up is considerable, and some respectable-looking attachés contain surprises. Our big black briefcase was not involved in a case of mistaken identity, but many people would certainly be surprised by what’s inside: a presentation of all contraception methods available in the US in 1991. Included are explanations of how they work, a list of the pros and cons, and the brochure “Today’s Contraceptives – What’s Best For You?”, which contains detailed advice. This is interesting reading, as it provides insight into sex myths that were common in the 1990s: can women get pregnant their very first time? Is pregnancy possible when the woman’s on top? Is she fertile while nursing? These and other incorrect ideas still haven’t disappeared. en.muvs.org

And our second object is not really suitable for air travel either: being made of metal, it wouldn’t pass the airport security check, and having to dispose of it in public would be highly embarrassing. This is an enema syringe. Such thick-walled cylinders with plungers were in use from as early as the 15th century to cleanse the intestines. However, the short attachment tube could be replaced with a longer one, making them suitable for rinsing other body openings. At the same time, it satisfied the most important requirement for every tool used to perform abortions: it raised no suspicions. Since abortions were illegal, a variety of items were repurposed – anything too obvious would be noticed during a police search. Abortionists could protect themselves in this way, but the hygienic and medical inadequacies resulting from legal prohibition cost many women their health or even their life. en.muvs.org


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Visit the Museum for Contraception and Abortion (MUVS), Mariahilfer Gürtel 37, 1150 Vienna, open Wednesday to Sunday, 2 to 6 p.m., or visit our website on http://en.muvs.org/ and our facebooksite http://www.facebook.com/eMUVS.