• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

“And this contraceptive thing … you know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.

– Philanthropist and political contributor Foster S. Friess

Mr. Friess’ jest stunned NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who responded, “Excuse me; I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.”

It seems odd that the reporter should have been offended by the remark, unless she was offended by the idea of chastity. This is a question we shall not ponder further.

In any case, Ms. Mitchell must have been unfamiliar with the age-old contraceptive technique Mr. Friess mention. It was employed long before the advent of the Bayer company and the aspirin tablet. To provide her with a scholarly reference on the subject, we repaired to the definitive text on human sexuality, Howard Bashford’s seminal work, “Why We Do It” (Little Brown Jug, 2001).

The author and the publisher have granted us permission to quote at length from the former New York Times best-seller. The applicable section follows:

Early contraception:

“Reference is made from time to time of the contraceptive efficacy of placing an aspirin tablet between a woman’s knees. The length of retention of said object may vary according to individual exigencies, but one thing is certain: This is not recommended if ambulatory activity is contemplated. Nevertheless, the method is foolproof and, in fact, predates many other techniques and pharmaceuticals.

“We know, for example, that colonists arriving in the New World from the British Isles discovered that Native American women avoided pregnancy by clamping a sliver of willow bark between their knees. These women, of course, had no way of knowing that acetylsalicylic acid one day would be derived from the salicin in the bark. Though the salicin is a milder form of that active ingredient in aspirin, the bark clamping technique was fully as effective as the aspirin tablet would be in the modern era.

“Research indicates the technique dates much further back in time. Hieroglyphic panels from Egypt’s Old Kingdom – some 5,000 years before the present – indicate that the salicin itself may not be an essential ingredient of contraceptive devices. Indeed, indications are that materials as inert as papyrus may have performed just as well.

“Further, clay tablets from ancient Sumeria bear cuneiform inscriptions directing women to use these artifacts themselves as proof against pregnancy. Some ethnologists have theorized this may have been the ancient precursor of the aspirin tablet for the function in question. However, more thorough ethnological and linguistic study is needed before the theory can be confirmed definitively.

“Deep in the French caverns of Lascaux, famed for their ancient paintings of deer, bison and other animals (circa 18,000 years BCE) are representations shown only to qualified researchers. They provide unequivocal credence to the theory that Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal women employed simple pebbles where later generations would use bark, clay tablets and – ultimately – aspirin.

“Closer to the present, we have a fragment from Aeschylus’ lost play, ‘The Thracian Escape,’ in which the heroine, Clytemnestra, preparing to flee with her lover, Aegisthus, calls, ‘Hold on, Aggy! I can’t find my pebbles.’ Similarly, the poet Sappho makes repeated reference to her own ‘knee stones.’

“In sum, though the history of birth control is lengthy and varied, it is clear that whatever object is used – aspirin, willow bark, clay tablet or pebble – the use of ‘knee stones’ has remained a reliable contraceptive throughout the ages.”

As Bashford’s work is scholarly and in no way salacious, we trust Ms. Mitchell will recognize its scientific veracity and its applicability to Mr. Friess’ joke.

But, seriously:

I couldn’t believe my ears but, through the wonders of the digital video recorder, I was able to back up a television commercial and hear the words again:

“To test how well All-Wheel Control handles winter, Mitsubishi teamed up with Weather Underground …”

Is it possible that the marketeers at Mitsubishi never heard of the terrorist Weather Underground? Is it possible that the folks operating the Weather Underground site on the Internet are similarly ignorant of the murderous terror bombings of the ’70s? Is it conceivable that they think their title is cute?

Perhaps a few e-mails to Mitsubishi Motors would dissuade the firm from employing this ill-advised advertising campaign. The folks at Weather Underground, as defenders of man-caused global warming, probably are beyond hope.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.