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* There is no such thing as tabboo.

We found Liad Shadmis’ book called ‘Safe’ Sex’ on art site ELLO and instantly fell in love. This in-depth book is filled with methods that date back to ancient times, and explore the modern day contraceptives we know today.



Read below to find out more.



www.liadshadmi.com/

Written by Ellie
February, 2019





Ellie
What led you to be interested in contraception to begin with and why did you choose this topic for your project ‘Safe-Sex’?


Liad
As a designer I like to deal with daily subjects that are ‘right under the nose’. I usually find that the greatest inspirations come from mundane and boring things. If you try to design something out of a reference you always get an imitation of a reference, but if you take a mundane and ugly inspiration and make it beautiful, that’s something new.

‘Safe-Sex’ was designed during a typography course, the brief was to design an index book about a certain subject. I didn’t want to pick a fancy subject like seahorses or species of mushrooms, these subjects are interesting and have marvelous visuals but they are detached from our daily life. I wanted to deal with contraception because we use it on a daily basis but we never pay any attention to it. We don’t over think about it but it’s a big part of our lives, we don’t like talking about it because it’s a taboo.

In addition, in many of my works as a designer I tend to deal with topics that teach us about us, as a human society. Human beings, unlike animals are aware of the fact that intercourse leads to fertility. We are the only mammals in the whole universe that know how to limit birth. This fact fascinated me.

What does it tell about us as a society? Why do we control birth? What does it tell us about humanity ? Why do we limit birth?

During my research I learned that this issue has occupied our thoughts since ancient times. Despite ethical and religious controversies humans never gave up on this ability which symbolizes the fact that humans have different knowledge than any other mammals.




“We are the only mammals in the whole universe that know how to limit birth. This fact fascinated me.”





Ellie
What is the most interesting thing you found when researching for the book?


Liad
An interesting fact that I discovered about the plant Silphium. This plant was known in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. According to ancient Greek doctors' writings: the seeds of Silphium were consumed as a beverage once a month and they prevented pregnancy for the whole period.

The usage of the plant was vast and its price was very expensive. It was even coined in Roman coins.

According to scientific research, the plant belonged to Phytoestrogens, plants that consisted natural estrogens and thus affected the woman's period.

So, there was probably a chance that it was efficient in pregnancy prevention.

However, it disappeared, the reason for its extinction is unknown but it is commonly believed to be overharvested.

Although the wonder plant is lost it might be that its remains are still left in our culture. Some claim that the sign of a heart (♥) isn’t a drawing of a heart (it’s shape is anatomically different) but it looks like the seeds of Silphium which were connected to love and to our ancestors’ ability to consummate their love.

While I was researching I stumbled upon a crazy project by a German entrepreneur Clemens Bimek. His project consists of a surgically inserted valve that is mounted on each spermatic duct and it disrupts the flow of sperm cells when closed. This idea, that with a flick of a switch you can control your sperm is truly amazing, and it actually works! The German entrepreneur conducted the surgery on himself and has 2 working valves implanted. I advise you to check his website to learn more about this invention.








Ellie
What is the weirdest thing you found when researching!?


Liad
There are a lot of weird methods throughout the history of humankind. I guess one of the weirdest is using Coca Cola as a spermicide. During the 50’s it was accustomed to use Coca Cola after sex as a contraception method, you just have to reach to the bottle, give it a good shake and so on… Weird thing is - Harvard medicine research center found out that it actually might work to some extent. They found out that Diet Coca Cola disintegrates 99% of the sperm in one minute. Regular Coca Cola has a lower percentage of 41%.

Although Diet Coke might be potent against sperm the team conclusion was to advise against these methods since the sperm can reach into the uterus in a matter of split seconds after Coitus.

Another weird method was developed by Soranus (a Greek physician from the 1st/2nd century AD) claiming that a woman should pull away far from the man straight after having sex, stop her breath, rise up, crouch, sneeze (!?) and wipe gently her vagina (?).

The ancient Egyptians also used a paste contained of Crocodile dung to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The italian adventurer Casanova used half a lemon as a diaphragm and medieval witches and sorcerers used to tie around their waist weasel testicals as a part of a ceremony that is supposed to prevent pregnancy. These weird methods go on and on and they are quite interesting and funny, some work and some don’t!




“An interesting fact that I discovered about the plant Silphium. This plant was known in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. According to ancient Greek doctors' writings: the seeds of Silphium were consumed as a beverage once a month and they prevented pregnancy for the whole period.” 





Ellie
How did you feel your work was received and who were you aiming it at?


Liad
I was contacted by several female acquaintances and friends that told me that this work really moved them. They were struggling with a lot of contraception related issues such as hormone breakdowns and even women that had problems getting pregnant because of using the wrong method.

I believe that the choice of contraception is subjective. Every woman or man should use what suits them and not what society or the government imposes.

Unsuitable usage of contraception stems from lack of knowledge about certain contraception and sometimes it's even a political agenda.

While researching the topic I found out that in Israel and some countries the population is encouraged to use pills or other hormonal methods and it is very hard finding a diaphragm or cervical cup and some methods are even illegal in certain countries.

Although Hormonal methods might be great for some, it’s important to see what’s the right method that suits every individual.






Ellie
Why do you think it is important to talk about contraception today?


Liad
I think that this topic is very relevant and there is lack of awareness and knowledge because it's a taboo or unpleasant topic to talk about. Many people are not aware of the dangers of blood clots when taking birth control pills. This is a dangerous situation which can even result in death.

In addition there is lack of knowledge concerning the issue of non-hormonal methods. There are contraceptive methods without hormones (diaphragm, awareness system and more), Using these methods can decrease the usage of hormones and their harmful and unpleasant side effects.

 I think that talking about sex and contraception shouldn’t be a taboo. It symbolizes love and freedom. I think that contraception is a wonderful thing which enables us to realize love without compromise or limit.

I added to the book a quote by Sigmund Freud that summarizes this idea:  

"In the absence of such solutions [to control fertility], society appears doomed to fall a victim to incurable neuroses, which reduce the enjoyment of life to a minimum, destroy the marriage relation and bring hereditary ruin on the whole coming generation."







“I think that talking about sex and contraception shouldn’t be a taboo. It symbolizes love and freedom. I think that contraception is a wonderful thing which enables us to realize love without compromise or limit.”





Ellie
Could you list all 48 methods from your book for our readers?


Liad
Before I start counting I have to mention that part of the methods were parts of ancient rituals and superstitions - so don’t try them at home!


Ancient methods
  1. Ancient Condoms
  2. Castration
  3. Abortion
  4. Coitus Interruptus (Pull Out method)
  5. Crocodile Dung
  6. Douching and Fumigation
  7. Breast Feeding
  8. Acacia Leaves
  9. Coitus Reservatus (also known as Karezza)
  10. Queen Anne’s Lace
  11. Copper Ore
  12. Stones and Seeds
  13. Pomegranate
  14. Olive Oil
  15. Sexual Abstinence
  16. Silphium
  17. Mercury
  18. Pennyroyal
  19. Oophorectomy
  20. Rolling and Shaking
  21. Mokh
  22. The Cup of Roots
  23. Lemon
  24. Calendar Method
  25. Weasel Testicle (middle ages superstition)
  26. Pitch/Tar
  27. Coitus Obstructus
  28. Chastity Belt

Modern methods
29. Spermicide
30. Vasectomy
31. Cervical Cup
32. Diaphragm
33. Modern Rhythm Method
34. Latex Condom
35. Tubal Ligation
36. Fertility Awareness
37. Lysol
38. Coca Cola
39. Contraceptive Pill
40. Emergency Contraception
41. Copper IUD
42. Contraceptive Sponge
43. Female Condom
44. Contraceptive Implant
45. Progestogen IUD
46. Injection (Depo Provera)
47. Vaginal Ring
48. Contraceptive Patch



Ellie
Do you think we have come far enough from ancient techniques?


Liad
I think that we have come very far. Although personally, I'm against the contraceptive pill - it completely changed the way that people treat contraception and women. It handed over to women an ability to control their body and be more free in many aspects.

Although we did come far, during my research I read about the usage of Acacia Leaves during ancient Egypt. They used the tree leaves to create an ointment that prevents pregnancy. Today this method is still being used to create modern spermicide, you would have to wonder how the ancient Egyptians knew that these exact leaves are potent to prevent pregnancy. But the fact that we are still using a method (and many other methods) that have been used 4000 years ago makes you wonder if we have come far enough.





Ellie
Why did you feel that a book was the right medium for the message?


Liad
The Brief of the course was to design a printed format. I think a book holds a message of history of something ancient and unique, also, a book is a format that symbolizes creativity.

When I started this project I had no idea that contraception is such an ancient thing and I was surprised by the creativity of the human kind to develop all these methods.

A book is a timeless format, like contraception. The inspiration to my design was taken from old encyclopedias and old books.

Despite the usage of very conservative grid and fonts that might seem a bit old I inserted many contemporary elements into my design. I did that in order to emphasize that this subject is very ancient but still very relevant and is going through an ongoing change.


Ellie
What is next for you?


Liad
I’m Currently finishing my BA degree at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, one of the leading design schools in Israel.

During my studies I've been freelancing as a graphic designer and a photographer. I guess I will continue with my freelance work after school.

I hope to develop in artistic fields maybe continue designing more books.





Thanks for talking to us!


Work Credits; 
All images of the book are taken by Keith Glassman.
Image of 2nd century BC Contraceptive made out of bronze, Science Museum, London
Coitus, Sexual Life, Sploni život
Engraving by J.P le Bas
Lolita, By Stanley Kubrick 1962
Museum of sex, Vienna
Kate Whitley

Check out more of Liad’s work online through his website.






Contact

hello@thepeachdiaries.co.uk