Butt Plug

I found this disgusting story on @HistoryWeird's blog here. The original source was Dr. William H. Van Buren's Lectures upon Diseases of the Rectum and Surgery of the Lower Bowel, 1881.

"Writing in a colo-rectal guidebook in 1881, Dr William H. Van Buren described several instances of patients placing foreign objects into their own bowel or rectum. In most cases the patients claimed to be seeking relief from severe constipation. It goes without saying that while many objects entered readily, not all were so willing to depart. In 1878 a 35-year-old valet:

"'…inserted a glass bottle into his rectum with the object of stopping an urgent diarrhoea, and was brought to the hospital the next day with much pain of belly, vomiting and exhaustion.'

"The bottle was eventually recovered – after a lengthy procedure involving scalpels, forceps and cat gut. Another case, cited by Van Buren from 1849, is notable for its motive rather than its method:

"'A gardener, to economise in food, plugged his rectum with a piece of wood, which had carefully carved with barbs to prevent its slipping out. Nine days afterward he was brought to the hospital in great agony. The mass had mounted beyond the reach of the finger… in consequence of the barbs described by the patient, Dr Reali made no effort to extract it from below but proceeded at once to open the abdomen and thus safely delivered his patient, who made a good recovery.'"

I understand that as a gardener at that time he wouldn't have had the same access to education that we have today, but good lord . . . His reason for doing this doesn't even make basic physical sense. Had the operation not gone so well, I wouldn't hesitate to nominate him for a retroactive Darwin award (which I know in 1849 would be SUPER anachronistic).

But perhaps I'm being far too harsh. Can anyone tell me what a layman's understanding of the digestive system would have been in 1849? Right now I have to believe that common understanding was better than this, but I could very well be wrong.

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