Blanche Dumas was a woman of extraordinary physical attributes. She defied societal norms and transformed her unconventional existence into a captivating tale.
She was born in the 19th century with dipygus. This meant that she boasted two fully functional vaginas, as well as four breasts and three legs. She certainly captivated the imaginations of onlookers.
Her extraordinary physical attributes both fascinated and perplexed those at the time and continues to today.
How did she navigate a world that often relegated those with unique bodies to the fringes of society? And what compelled her to leave behind the realm of sideshows and embrace a life as a Parisian courtesan?
Blanche’s story raises thought-provoking questions about the natural human fascination with the unusual and what we make of the subjects of our curiosity and desire.
Discovered By a Freak-Hunter
Blanche Dumas entered the public eye through a series of little-documented encounters in the late 19th century.
It is believed that she was born in 1860 on the island of Martinique, in the Caribbean, to mixed-race parents. She must have immediately caught the attention of all those who knew her. On such a small island, her story probably radiated from end to end.
Dumas certainly caught the attention of a certain freak-hunter. This was a man by the name of Bechlinger from Para, Brazil. He found her when she was 25 years old.
At this point, most stories of Dumas tell of her entering the world of freak shows and circus sideshows. Little is known about this period of her life and where this line of work took her. Surely, it took her away from her birthplace of Martinique, but anything more is speculation.
After her run-in with publicity and freakshows, the accounts of her unique physiology were subsequently featured in the notable publication, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine.
The publication was written during the fervor of the 1890s. It had a long track record of detailing ‘freaks’ and their unique, fascinating conditions. It included the two-faced Edward Mordrake and plenty of others.
According to the sources, Blanche possessed a ‘modified duplication’ of her lower body, as the publication worded it. Her pelvis was notably broad, and she had two imperfectly developed legs alongside an additional third leg.
Notably, she displayed both fully formed and functional breasts, accompanied by two smaller rudimentary breasts, complete with nipples. What set Blanche apart even further were her two vaginas.
The discovery of Blanche Dumas not only sparked curiosity among medical professionals but also fueled fascination and speculation among the wider public.
The Three Legged Courtesan
Blanche Dumas’s intriguing journey took an unexpected turn when she crossed paths with a man named Juan Baptista Dos Santos.
He was a Portuguese man known for his own anatomical uniqueness. Juan was renowned for having two fully formed functioning penises. He also had a malformed leg that dangled loosely from his body.
He embraced his distinctive attributes. He willingly exhibited himself in medical circuses and sideshows, captivating audiences with his extraordinary features.
Reports suggested that Juan even engaged in sexual encounters using both of his penises. A claim that, from a medical standpoint, seems unlikely.
Rumors abounded about the two striking up a sexual relationship. One must admit the pairing is immediately an interesting thought, given both of their dual abilities.
Dumas, as noted, joined Juan in freakshows and sideshows. It’s very possible that he was the individual who first introduced her to this life. (Although this entire period of her life is tough to discern as few details remain about Dumas aside from some scant medical sources and photographs).
However, Blanche was not alone in leveraging her “freak” status for erotic employment during the heyday of carnivals and exhibitions.
As chronicled in the controversial yet comprehensive volume, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, many women with unusual bodily configurations found men curious to explore their unconventional forms.
The exhibitions of people with extraordinary bodies carried an undeniable erotic undertone. It appealed to the voyeuristic pleasure of spectators.
The displays catered to a fascination with the unconventional. They blurred the boundaries between curiosity, admiration, and a more perverse interest.
It was a realm where the human form, particularly in its unique variations, became a source of both titillation and intrigue. It captivated audiences seeking to satisfy their curiosities and desires.
Over time, however, Dumas was said to have given up the life of sideshows. Instead, she opted to move to Paris where she would become known as the ‘Three-Legged Courtesan’ as she made a name for herself in prostitution.
It is worth noting, though, that these are just rumors. Little is known about Dumas’ eventual life in Paris and her trail ends there.
Anomalies and Curiosities
Blanche Dumas challenges our perceptions of beauty, normalcy, and desire. Her extraordinary physical attributes, including dipygus and rudimentary breasts, were likely unheard of. It immediately made her the subject of both fascination and perversion.
In a society captivated by spectacles and marvels, Blanche’s journey speaks to the blurred boundaries between admiration and exploitation. The phenomenon of “freak shows” and the emergence of a “freak-hunter” culture underscore our fascination with the extraordinary and erotic undertones that often accompanied these displays.
We must ask ourselves, what drove men to scour the world for new attractions, seeking out individuals like Blanche, whose bodies defied conventional norms? And how did Blanche herself negotiate the complex dynamics of showcasing her unique features while pursuing a life that transcended mere spectacle?
Beyond the spectacle, there is a deeper exploration of human resilience and resourcefulness. Blanche Dumas, like other individuals of her time, turned their “freak” status into a means of survival, and even empowerment.
Their bodies, often deemed aberrations, became their livelihood. How did they navigate a world that simultaneously reveled in their differences and condemned them for not fitting into societal expectations?
How did they reclaim agency over their narratives? How did they find ways to monetize their uniqueness and challenge societal norms?
Blanche Dumas and her story invite us to reflect on our perceptions of beauty and normalcy. What does it mean to be “normal” in a world that celebrates diversity but often seeks to conform?
In exploring the history of Blanche Dumas, we delve into a fascinating world of paradoxes and contradictions. It is a world where the extraordinary and the mundane coexist, where exploitation and empowerment intertwine, and where curiosity and desire converge.
Blanche’s story challenges us to reconsider our own biases and assumptions, encouraging a more compassionate and nuanced understanding of the diverse human experience.
“Blanche Dumas, Seen from Behind.” Show History. Accessed June 10, 2023. https://showhistory.com/free/blanche-dumas-seen-behind.
King, Cameron. “A to Z of Sexual History: F – Freaks.” VICE, January 7, 2010. https://www.vice.com/en/article/qbamp3/a-to-z-of-sexual-history-f-freaks.