Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: A boy's mother becomes pregnant after using the same bathwater he'd ejaculated in.
Example: [Healey and Glanvill, 1996]
Origins: How old is old? According to a 1948 book about rumors, "About three hundred years ago Sir Thomas Browne recorded that 'The woman that conceived in a bath' was 'now common in every mouth.' According to Sir Thomas, 'Tis a new and unseconded
It has also been pointed out an old Jewish legend (midrash) says Jeremiah was forced by a gang to masturbate in the public baths, letting off his sperm into the water. His daughter later went to the baths and was impregnated with her father's sperm, resulting in the conception of Ben Sira. This story comes from The Alphabet of Ben Sira, which was written somewhere between 700 to 1000 A.D.
This particular pregnancy legend is quite similar to the swimming pool pregnancy tale (otherwise chaste girl ends up in the family way after using the public pool), but it has some key differences, namely the incest factor. In the swimming pool tale, the girl does not know who the father of her child is, whereas in the bathwater tale there's a heavily implied possibility the baby's brother is actually his father.
Is the boy the baby's father? We'll never know; though the narrative makes it clear he suspects he is, its failure to mention the woman's husband doesn't rule out her having one. Indeed, that the story focuses on the boy's concerns ("Was it me?") and not the mother's ("How did that happen?") leans things towards her having a husband. Clearly, she's not in doubt as to the baby's parentage, a situation likely fueled by her having a husband handy she'd enjoyed marital relations with around the right time.
Barbara "water sprite" Mikkelson
Sightings: A snippet of gossip about a girl becoming pregnant after using the same bathwater as her brother shows up in Florence King's 1985 novel Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady.
Last updated: 19 July 2007
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