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Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Were Made To Stop Masturbation & Other Bizarre Medical Treatments

Credit: Matthew Hollinshead/

Happy Halloween! Nothing says festive trick or treat delights like medical facts. I know all of you guys listen to Sawbones, so don’t play coy. Of course, we could pick tons of things just based on the subject alone, but I focused on what we do best here at The Mary Sue: Sex, Women’s Health, and Cannibalism. The source of all of this delicious knowledge came from the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen.

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Women’s Health: Because Who Knows Women’s Bodies Better Than Men?

Back in ye old days it was mostly men who were dedicated to the medical care of women (hell, who are we kidding, this still mostly the fact). You see for most of our history men were convinced by classical-misogynist-in-chief, Aristotle, that women were just “failed men” prone to illness due to our inherent femaleness and wonky uteruses. Medical men of the time really had it out for good ol’ uterus and were convinced that if something was wrong with a woman, it was ol’ ute to blame for it. That is why hysteria comes from the Greek word “hystera” which means womb.  So what treatments were given to help these ailing utes?

  • Isaac Bake Brown, decided that anything that gave women sexual pleasure was going to be hella detrimental to their overall mental health. He, therefore, recommended and performed clitoridectomies. Oh yeah and this genius was a prominent gynecologist in London at the time. Yes, it was the mid-1880s, but still, come on dude. It was a practice that continued to be approved by the medical community until the twentieth century. “One patient in 1944 had the procedure done and stated ‘They tried to keep me from masturbating.’ She added, ‘Didn’t work.'” Two for you girl.
  • What was the biggest medical issue facing women in history? Infertility. That’s right. If you can’t give your husband an heir why were you there? That’s Mission #1. Medical men have been trying to fix this problem forever, including our good patron of medicine, Hippocrates (like the oath). His infertility DIY: “When the cervix is closed too tightly the inner orifice must be opened using a special mixture composed of red nitre, cumin, resin, and honey.” What is the holy hell is red nitre? It is unclear but here are some of the educated hypotheses:  “potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, which is used for pickling corned beef of making fireworks. Or it could have been soda ash, or natron” which was used to dry out Egyptian mummies. Sounds like a Goop recipe waiting to be reborn.
  • While baby making is important, until you are lawfully married it is important to protect your long-term investment, A.K.A. virginity. Men can have bastards, women can not. This isn’t Dorne. However, if you are going to have sex (if you must, I suppose) make sure you don’t have any of those illegitimates hanging about to ruin your future marriage prospects. Some classic contraceptive advice. “Take a male weasel and let its testicles be removed and let it be released alive. Let the women carry these testicles with her in her bosom and let her tie them in goose skin…and she will not conceive.” You damn right she won’t because dudes can put up with a lot, but I think weasel balls wrapped in goose skin is a deal-breaker.

Cannibalism: Just One Step Beyond Organ Donation 

Cannibalism has always been, as a rule, largely pooh-poohed on in the Western culture. Even the Greek Gods, who were mostly down for whatever, took a very strong stance on not eating the flesh of other people. Rape and sexual assault against humans? Totally fine, but do not eat other people. It’s wrong. However, sometimes, there are loopholes or superstitions that human flesh and blood could be very useful in curing what hurts.

  • Pope (I’m not that) Innocent VIII was a really shitty pope. A lot of illegitimate children, did a bunch of witch-hunting, encouraged the slavery, and also spent all that sweet papal gold. While he was dying he, allegedly, asked for three young boys’ blood to be drained and given to him to drink to try and save him. He died regardless, as did the boys, but he tried it which is the gross part. In those days blood of the youth was thought to have regenerative properties. Hence why Countess Elizabeth Báthory was accused of doing it to young maidens to keep her youth…allegedly. The most sought-after blood: redheads.
  • “Man’s Grease” was one of the go-to items in the local apothecaries. Executioners would sell the skin and fat of dead criminals which would be liquefied and sold in stores. It was used to heal: pain relief, cancers, gout, rheumatism. Sometimes it would even be an ingredient in love potions, because why not? There is the legend of a “honeyed man” which was the body of an elderly person freely given, who would eat nothing but honey for days and days until they basically peed honey. Then once the person died the body would be placed in a coffin filled with honey. After 100 years, everyone would have the biggest piece of Halloween candy.

Sex With Me…Is Mediocre and Okay I Guess

Female sexuality is complicated depending on which culture you are in. Sometimes women are lusting creatures with chaos magic and destructive power come from their wandering uterus. Other times women are creatures who must be protected because they have no sexual needs, they only want to be caregivers. Sure, Jan. Sex and health have always been at odds about really understanding what gives women pleasure in sex, but somewhere along the line they discovered that if women don’t get some, they could go crazy. Or you could just be damning your soul for all time. 50-50.

  • The Orgy Treatment: In ancient Greece mythology, there once lived the healer, Melampus. He helped out in a tricky situation in the city of Argos where all of the virgins went mad after failing to honor the phallus in a religious ritual. Who hasn’t been there? Anyway, Melampus decided that the solution was for all of those women to have sex with all of the strong young men of Greece. Now, that is one Patrick Star of a plan. Of course, it worked because having sex with the cast of 300 when you are out of your literal mind wouldn’t be totally an invasion or assault or anything like that. This was basically the origin of the concept of female madness stemming from a lack of sex.
  • Dr. Wilhelm Reich was part of the post-Freud psychoanalyst and developed a theory about a universal life force called “orgone” (qi to basically everyone else). The best way to build this energy was by having sex. This energy would help cure any emotional ailments. After WWII, Reich helped create and manufacture: Orgone Boxes. These would be large empty boxes that you would sit or stand in for hours to build up your libido and accumulate sexual energy that you can then use on your special somebody. Nothing screams hot like sitting down in a box for hours.
  • Kellogg’s or Masturbation, you decide: John and Will Kellogg the creators of Corn Flakes, everyone’s favorite starter cereal, were both very health conscious. Exercise, vegetarianism, no excessive calories, a real Weight Watchers bunch. In addition to that, they were also anti-masturbation. John, in particular, was a physician and thought it was the most unhealthy thing you could do for your mind, body, and soul. In his mind a healthy diet helped encourage people…not to masturbate. His predecessor, Sylvester Graham shared his ideas about the dangers of the jerk and created…Graham crackers as a way to help fight the urges to masturbate with a healthy diet. That’s right your breakfast cereal and crackers were made to convince your brain not to have sex.

What are some of your favorite medical facts or myths? Check out these stories and many more in Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything.

(image: Matthew Hollinshead/

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.

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