Photo of the Day

110-year-old condoms made from the swim bladders of fish. The oldest condoms ever found were dug up in the cesspit — or big toilet — of Dudley Castle, an English ruin, in 1985. Made of fish and animal intestine, the condoms were most likely dropped into the cesspit sometime in the mid 17th century. The condoms were only able to survive thanks to the fetid, airless environment of the castle toilet, which prevented the growth of bacteria.

Condoms to the Rescue

“Don’t forget — Put it On Before You Put it In”

Throughout history, people have used everything from seaweed to sheep intestines in order to prevent pregnancy, when all they really wanted to do was get laid. In the United States, it wasn’t until World War II that condoms were finally embraced as the pleasure devices they really are. Thanks to Uncle Sam, American troops were given condoms to keep them healthy while enjoying the action overseas, so to speak.

The condom has been known as the wetsuit, the rubber, the jimmy, and even the nightcap. The utilisation of condoms for various purposes has led to its dynamic development into the conventional latex type that is widely used today. Condoms have been a subject of curiosity throughout history. The idea of safer sex has been explored in ancient and modern history and has been used to prevent venereal diseases. From Ancient Greeks to wartime procedures, condoms have been deployed in pursuit of contraceptive measures as well as presentation of an individual in public hierarchy. Exploring the humble and primitive beginnings of this object and its evolution with time allows us to observe and appreciate the medical knowledge of the civilisations that have preceded the modern world today.

By the end of the 1940s, the condom had outlasted an act of Congress, which reinforced social stigmas and drove users to the black market, to become the safe-sex staple, the king of the contraceptive industry. And yet its packaging remained opaque, its purpose shrouded in secrecy, a product whose intended use was only indirectly suggested. So how did the condom go from contraband to federally-issued necessity without anyone ever talking about sex?

The answer lies in the history of birth control itself, which has existed at least since the Egyptian era when people created their own barrier methods or suppository mixtures made of natural elements like honey or seaweed. Sarah Forbes, a curator at the Museum of Sex, explains that over the years, “you have people making condoms out of linen sheets, you have people making them out of fish-bladders and animal intestines.” As new materials were introduced, people invariably made condoms out of them.

In the early 18th century, when slaughterhouses discarded an abundance of animal organs, butchers made extra money by repurposing intestines as preventive sheaths, making them the first widely sold contraceptive product. Since the livestock industry was much larger in Europe, most of these “skins,” as they were called, had to be imported from England or France. Long before the advent of the birth control pill, these condoms became the most effective, affordable, and accessible form of contraception.

Limited use of glans condoms (condoms that only cover the head of the penis) is documented in Asia prior to the 15th century. As was common for birth control at the time, glans condoms seem to only have been used by the upper classes. In China, the may have been made of oiled silk paper, or lamb intestine, but in Japan, they were often made of tortoise shell or animal horn. Ouch.

The idea of safer sex has been explored in ancient and modern history and has been used to prevent venereal diseases.To Egyptians, condom-like glans caps were dyed in different colours to distinguish between different classes of people and to protect themselves against bilharzia. The Ancient Romans used the bladders of animals to protect the woman; they were worn not to prevent pregnancy but to prevent contraction of venereal diseases. Charles Goodyear, the inventor, utilised vulcanization, the process of transforming rubber into malleable structures, to produce latex condoms. The greater use of condoms all over the world in the 20th and 21st centuries has been related to HIV. This account of the use of condoms demonstrates how a primitive idea turned into an object that is used globally with a forecast estimated at 18 billion condoms to be used in 2015 alone.

Ancient Greek and Roman societies
It’s still debated by historians whether or not male condoms were used this far back in time. Many people are under the false impression that the history of the condom only stretches across the past couple of decades. However, it goes far beyond that. For example, cave paintings have indicated that condoms were in use around 15,000 years ago, although whether they were actually used regularly is a matter of some debate.

The first known documentation of the “condom” was that of King Minos of Crete in about 3000 B.C. King Minos, who ruled Knossos, was a figure of history from the Bronze Age. He was referenced in various manuscripts including the famous Illiad by Homer. Minos, the father of the Minotaur, was said to have “serpents and scorpions” in his semen. His mistresses died after having intercourse with him. In order to protect himself and his partners, which included his wife Pasiphae, the bladder of a goat was introduced into the woman’s vagina which protected the woman from disease. Prokris, King Minos’ subject, understood the sadness for Minos not being able to produce an heir; upon introduction of the sheath, significant results were shown. It is said that Pasiphae had given birth to eight children after the use of the goat’s bladder. It is a subject of controversy that the bladder was inserted into the woman. Another argument brought about is that the goat’s bladder was worn by Minos himself and not Pasiphae.

The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilisations to use sheaths. Egyptians were known to have a very ritualistic culture which used symbols and calligraphy to denote objective and subjective communication. For protection during intercourse, evidence from about 1000 C.E. states that linen sheaths were used, specifically to prevent tropical diseases like bilharzia. Furthermore, Egyptian men wore coloured sheaths to distinguish social status within their complex hierarchy

The oldest condoms ever excavated dated back to 1642 and were found in an antiquated sewage system in England. Around this time, Dutch traders brought condoms made of “fine leather” to Japan. Unlike those rough-sounding animal horn condoms used previously, these condoms covered the entire penis.

11,000 B.C.: The first evidence of condoms is an artsy one. Caves in France known as Grotte des Combarrelles are said to be the oldest evidence of condoms, with a painting on the wall that scientists say represents them.

1000 B.C.: Some historians argue that condoms made from cloth were used in Ancient Egypt to protect against disease. In ancient Egypt, historians believed people used a linen sheath around the penis as protection against troublesome insects and tropical diseases.  To prevent infection, the Chinese wrapped oiled silk paper around the penis, while the Japanese used leather and tortoiseshell sheaths. During this time period, using materials made from animal parts was very common.  The Romans developed condoms made of goats’ bladders.

1400s A.D.: In Asia, particularly China and Japan, the first condom to be used was the Glans condom.  The Glans condom only covered the head of the penis, and was primarily used as a form of birth control, but was also used to protect against infections. In China, obscure materials such as silk or lamb intestines were used in making the condom. In Japan, the materials such as tortoise shell or animal horn were used. In China, they were made from lamb intestines or oiled silk paper; in Japan, the materials of choice were tortoise shell or animal horn.

The 1500s:  Practically unheard of up until now, condoms first appeared in a published document in the 16th century.  An Italian inventor, Gabrielle Fallopius, produced the first documented work on the dangers of the STI syphilis. He invented and recommended using a protective linen sheath soaked in chemicals in order to prevent the spread of syphilis. After the linen soaked, the manufacturer would dry it and attach a ribbon on the bottom, which would later be used to tie it around the shaft. Gabrielle Fallopius conducted an experiment consisting of 1,100 participants that determined the effectiveness of the condom in the protection against syphilis. None of the participants became infected with the disease, which proved the success of the first condom that effectively protected against STIs.

Italian physician and atomist Gabrielle Fallopius writes about the horrors of the then-frequently fatal STD syphilis in De Morbo Gallico. He recommended the use of a protective linen sheath, soaked in chemicals and dried, which would help prevent the acquirement of the disease. Fallopius conducted an experiment using 1,100 participants to determine the early condom’s effectiveness; none became infected with syphilis. Condoms to the rescue.

1605: Catholic theologian Leonardus Lessius claimed in De iustitia et iure that condoms are immoral. Side note: strange how we’re still facing that argument today?

The 1600s: Condoms made from animal intestines were first made available to the public. Because of their expensive nature, though, they are frequently reused — something we know to be a big no-no nowadays.

Once Fallopius published a work on condom STI protection, people became more sceptical of the idea of the condom and controversy on whether to use it or not began to stir in scientific and religious communities.  In 1605, Catholic theologian Leonardus Lessius claimed that condoms are immoral, thus becoming the first documented religious figure who opposed the use of the condom.  Condoms made from animal intestines became widely available to the public.  Even though condoms were now widely available, many people reused them because of their expensive nature.  Reusing linen condoms is unsanitary and can even increase the possibility of spreading STIs, but many people were not aware of this fact.  Published by the English Birth Rate Commission in 1666 for the first time ever in recorded history, the word “condons” (which eventually evolved into today’s English word “condoms”) was credited for the drop in birth rate.

1666: When the birth rate dropped, the English Birth Rate Commission attributed it to “condons” — the first time that word had been published.

During World War II, the U.S. military hopped on the bandwagon and distributed condoms to male soldiers. They also coined fun safe-sex slogans like this gem: “Don’t forget — put it on before you put it in.”

The 1700s: By this time, the public was becoming much more aware of condoms and their uses.  Again, as public awareness increased, so did the scepticism on the whether condoms protected against pregnancy and STIs.  English physician Daniel Turner reportedly stated his belief that condoms encourage men to have unsafe sex with different partners. In fact, around this time, many physicians decried the use of condoms on moral grounds. Nevertheless, the condom market continued to expand.  Condoms, often made of either “skin” (intestine or bladder treated with sulphur or lye) or linen soaked in chemicals, became more widely available and began being sold in public places, like pubs or markets.

English physician Daniel Turner reportedly stated his belief that condoms encourage men to have unsafe sex with different partners. In fact, around this time, many physicians decried the use of condoms on moral grounds. Nevertheless, the condom market continued expanding. Condoms became more widely available, often made of either “skin” (intestine or bladder treated with sulphur or lye) or linen soaked in chemicals, and are often sold in public places, like pubs or markets.

After the outbreak of syphilis, then known as the “French Disease,” Italian physician Gabriele Falloppio (best known as the king of Fallopian tubes) recommended a birth control device he designed: a chemical-soaked sheath wrapped around the head of the penis and tied on with a ribbon. Like a pretty, STD-free present.

The early 1800s: More people began publicly advocating for birth control, including condoms (though at the time, they were still not nearly as reliable as they are today when properly utilised).In the early 1800s, many people’s views about condoms began to expand.  Some people began to advocate publicly for the use of condoms, while others continued to discredit condom use.  Members of parliament in the United Kingdom tried to ban condoms because they believed that they did not offer sufficient protection against syphilis and that they encouraged unsafe and irresponsible sex.  Although people discredited the use of condoms, the condom market was expanding rapidly now that they were available to the working class and not only the upper class.  Up until this point in history, all condoms had been made out of linen or animal skin.

In 1839, Charles Goodyear invented rubber vulcanization, but the first rubber condom was not produced until 1855.  Just a few short years later, the majority of rubber companies were producing condoms as well. These condoms were reusable, which meant they were much more affordable. However, skin condoms still tended to be more popular, mainly because they were lower in cost. One of the problems with early rubber condoms was that they were “custom made” (each person was fitted specifically), yet they could easily fall off as they only covered the glans of the penis. Eventually, condom manufacturers realised that they could mass produce condoms that would fit everyone at a much more reasonable cost.  The history of condoms was forever changed when the rubber condom was invented because they now successfully protected against pregnancy and STIs while also being very widely available.  These newly invented rubber condoms are also what caused people to refer to condoms as “rubbers,” a term that remains in use today.

Packing Your Prophylactic: Before the term became exclusively used for condoms, toothbrushes were often advertised as prophylactics.

1839: Charles Goodyear created rubber condoms. More companies follow shortly thereafter. Despite much opposition (like requests to Parliament to outlaw condom use), the condom market grew steadily and rapidly. Most were made from animal bladders and intestines and lined with chemicals. They were sold at pubs, theatres, and even barber shops (for that post-haircut confidence boost) throughout Europe and Russia.

Condom production ballooned after 1839 when Charles Goodyear’s method of rubber vulcanization kick-started modern latex technologies in the United States. By 1870, condoms were available through almost any outlet you can imagine–drug suppliers, doctors, pharmacies, dry goods retailers and mail-order houses. It may seem surprising today, but sexual products were openly sold and distributed during much of the 19th century. Then, suddenly, in 1873 Congress passed the Comstock Act, which paralysed the growing industry; Comstock made it illegal to send any “article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever for the prevention of conception” through the mail.

19th century
For the first time in history, condoms were promoted and distributed to the poorer classes. Texts from this time still cite condoms as expensive and flawed: they often contained multiple holes and would frequently fall off during sex. But hey—what’s a little-unprotected adventure between friends?

Latex was invented in 1920, and with it came something similar to the condom as we know it today. During World War I, the United States and (initially) Britain were the only countries in Europe who did not provide condoms to their soldiers, and by the end of the war, there were almost 400,000 documented cases of syphilis and gonorrhoea in the American military.

1889: A bummer for Don Drapers of the 1800s: Ireland made it illegal to advertise condoms, though they could still be made and sold.
The late 1800s: People began using the term “rubber” to mean “condom.” Who knew that nickname was so historic?

1912: Julius Fromm, a German chemist, created a new means by which to manufacture condoms wherein he dipped glass moulds into raw rubber solution, thus allowing them to have a texture. His line of condoms — Fromm’s Act — remains popular in Germany today.

The U.S. military knew it had a problem on its hands. In 1905, in an effort to combat common infections like gonorrhoea and syphilis, the Navy implemented the first trial system of chemical prophylaxis dispensed by staff doctors. Though the treatment was strictly post-intercourse, its results impressed Navy brass enough that the procedure became standard on all ships by 1909. However, one of the system’s major flaws was its dependence on self-reporting to a doctor, so the following year prophylactic kits or “pro-kits,” were distributed to soldiers for self-administration. This was highly preferred to an exam, and though still painful, the pro-kits protected many recruits from being court-martialed for contracting VD.

When draft examinations for World War I revealed infections for nearly a quarter of all recruits, the military policy was altered to accept some soldiers with pre-existing VD. Over the next two years, around 380,000 American soldiers would be diagnosed with some form of VD, eventually costing the U.S. more than $50 million in treatment.  During World War I, American soldiers weren’t issued condoms; instead, they were given a “Dough Boy Prophylactic Kit.” The idea behind these kits was that soldiers who “went out on a weekend furlough and had sexual contact would then clean themselves up afterwards with antiseptics and urethral syringes and so forth.”  This method was like “closing the gate after the horse is out of the barn; not very effective.”

This half-hearted prevention program resulted in a complete epidemic of sexually transmitted infections. Nearly 18,000 soldiers a day were unable to report for duty because of these illnesses. Starting with the pro-kit, which was described as “glorified soap that was completely ineffective,” the U.S. military began its attempts to counteract the dire consequences of VD.  Slowly but surely, they provided condoms and developed health education programs, which became the precursor to sex-education in American public schools.

2 Vintage Original Ultrex Metal Condom Tins Full with Rubbers 1950s RX Pharmacy.

1918: A judge ruled that condoms can be advertised and sold to prevent diseases from spreading. Phew.

The 1920s: Condom companies stepped up their advertising by making packaging more interesting and names more intriguing. Sales of condoms doubled throughout the world in this decade.

1927-31: Condoms were often distributed to members of the American military and become standard issue for military men. Subtle hints at the tawdry or dangerous worked well for condoms, with brands like Devil Skin, Shadows, and Salome hitting the shelves in the ’20s and ’30s. One popular label, Merry Widows, was named after a long-standing slang term for condoms that implied a certain illicit pleasure. In 1937, the FDA instituted national standards for condom testing in order to fight venereal disease, which further legitimised the industry. This also meant that larger companies with more resources for quality control testing could succeed where small businesses couldn’t. Giants like Julius Schmid, who made Ramses and Sheiks, and Youngs Rubber, responsible for Trojans, came to dominate the U.S. market.

By the time the U.S. entered World War II, American soldiers were much better prepared for VD. The military stopped focusing only on prevention through abstinence and post-infection treatment, incorporating condoms on its approved list of prophylactics. Troops could purchase sets of three condoms for ten cents at “pro stations” placed for easy access, day or night. The military also created an aggressive advertising campaign promoting safe sex through prevention, combining images of sexy women with the not-so-sexy effects of VD.

The 1950s and 1960s: It’s “No balloons? No party!” for 42 percent of Americans, who rely on condoms for birth control and STD prevention at this point in time.

1957: It was a “Wet Hot American Summer,” as Durex reveals the first condom with lubrication.

The 1980s: In the face of the terrifying AIDS epidemic, the contraceptive is marketed as a way to prevent acquiring HIV. Condom use rose as a result. The final stage in the history of the condom was the discovery that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease, and the best way to protect against this (and the only way) was through barrier methods such as the condom. The condom then absolutely exploded in popularity, and can now be found in many places around the world from supermarkets to pharmacies. The condom has now become firmly rooted in the history and is now one of the most popular birth control methods out there.

1997: Durex created the first condom company website.

2017: We now have the ability to buy condoms in all sorts of colours, flavours, textures and materials! The perfect device for nearly everybody’s sex life.

During World War II, the government issued a series of eye-catching posters urging soldiers and sailors to resist the temptations of disease-ridden prostitutes.

World War II era ads published by the military reminded men of the dangers a pretty face can hide; even Donald Duck was enlisted to publicise the need to use a “Pro.”

Female Condom

The female condom was invented many years after the male condom.  The idea for the female condom first came during the year of 1937.  That year, an example of what a female condom might look like surfaced, but the female condom was not actually invented until the 1980s.  In 1984, a Danish physician named Lasse Hessel devolved a prototype for the first female condom.

It contained three important aspects that successfully reduced the risk of sexually transmitted infections and that protected against unintended pregnancy.  First, it contained a sheath that lined the vagina.  Second, it included an external ring that covered any external genitalia, and that prevented the condom from being pushed deep into the vagina during intercourse.

Lastly, it had an internal ring which both assisted with initial insertion into the vagina and prevented the condom from being pushed into the cervix, which could be very painful.  After Hessel developed a prototype, he partnered with a chemical product company named Wisconsin Pharmacal Co.  He further developed the design, making sure that the female condom would meet the FDA requirements.  The first generation female condom, named FC1, is made from polyurethane.  The second generation female condom, named FC2 is made from synthetic nitrile.  The FC2 was designed to take the place of FC1, as it provided the same safety and efficiency but at a lower cost.  It was also designed to make less distracting (and potentially mood-killing) crinkling noises compared to the FC1.

With perfect use, the female condom has a 5% failure rate.  However, with typical use (usually have some leakage or not inserted perfectly) it has a 21% failure rate.  The female condom can also be used by homosexual males during anal sex.   The worldwide use of female condoms is much lower than that of male condoms, but the World YMCA is trying to push an initiative for increased female condom use.  In 2005, the YMCA contacted international donors and health clinics and requested that they purchase 180 million condoms, stating that “Female condoms remain the only tool for HIV prevention that women can initiate and control.”  As a result, 12 million female condoms were distributed to women throughout developing countries.  Although the YMCA continues to push for the use of the female condom, in 2005, between 6 and 9 billion male condoms have been distributed compared to only 12 million female condoms.

Female condoms are an alternative to regular condoms. They provide pretty much the same great protection from pregnancy and STDs. What’s different about them? Instead of going on the penis, female condoms go inside your vagina for pregnancy prevention or into the vagina or anus for protection from STDs. They’re sometimes called internal condoms or referred to by their brand name, FC2 Female Condom®.

Many advancements to condoms came within the 1900s.  These advancements began when condoms were distributed to military personnel during World War I as they were shown to lower the rate of transmitting STIs.  Before the war, the majority of condoms distributed in Europe were provided by Germany, but this changed drastically throughout the World War I.  Julius Fromm, a German chemist created a new method of manufacturing condoms, in which he dipped glass moulds into raw rubber solution.  This method allowed the rubber to adopt whatever bumps or ridges were on the glass, thus giving the condoms a texture.  His line of condoms, Fromm’s Act, remains popular in Germany today.  In 1918 a judge ruled that condoms could be sold and advertised for the prevention of disease, although they could not be sold as contraceptives.  As a result, condom sales doubled in the early 1920s.

Trojan Condoms Gay-Supportive Ad

His line of condoms, Fromm’s Act, remains popular in Germany today.  In 1918 a judge ruled that condoms could be sold and advertised for the prevention of disease, although they could not be sold as contraceptives.  As a result, condom sales doubled in the early 1920s.  In the later 1920s, the latex was invented.  With the invention of latex came the first latex condom.  The manufacturing of the latex condom involved a process with rubber suspended in water, which allowed the latex to mould into the shape of a penis.  The Young’s Rubber Company produced the first latex condom. These condoms were mass produced and much cheaper than linen condoms due to the minimal amount of labour required.  The London Rubber Company created Durex, the first latex condom brand, which is still a well-known and widely-distributed brand today.  

Early paper condom wrappers used vague, exoticized designs used to convey their contents.

Throughout the 1920s, skin condoms lessened in popularity as latex condoms began to be mass produced.  Although most people started to use latex, these condoms were not known for their effectiveness.  The latex condoms that were being produced often leaked and were unreliable.  Therefore, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) mandated that a condom was a drug and that every condom must be tested before it left the factory.  The acceptance and popularity of condoms continued to grow throughout the mid-1900s.

In 1957, Durex created the first condom with lubrication.  But even with all the improvements and increased acceptance, the use and sale of condoms didn’t really skyrocket until the AIDS epidemic.  When scientists discovered HIV to be a sexually transmitted infection, condoms began to be marketed as a way to prevent acquiring HIV.  People discovered that condoms were the most effective and, in fact, one of the only barrier methods that would allow them to have sex while protecting against the disease.  Now that condoms were widely believed to be a contraceptive and one of the best ways to protect against sexually transmitted infections, they became extremely popular and known around the world.  In 1997, Durex created the first condom company website, marking a milestone in the progress of condom use worldwide.

Following the AIDS crisis, condoms were sold in a wider variety of retail outlets, including in supermarkets and in discount department stores. In 1991, Condomania (America’s first condom emporium), opened in New York City.

Amsterdam and its condoms shop.  Once again ahead of the game, Durex was also the first condom brand to have a website, launched in 1997. Condom use is expected to continue to grow around the world: the global condom market is expected to reach $6 billion by 2015, with increased use in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

No Condoms? use the Spoon …

Today, condom use is in the billions and continues to grow every year.  The transmitting of STIs has significantly dropped as well as the number of unintended pregnancies due to condom use by people across the world.  Many types of condoms are now available to fit and suit every individual just as they please.  Every individual has a different preference on size, texture, and lubrication and today’s condom market allows people to choose whatever they prefer for their sexual experiences.

The History of the Condom | SexInfo Online

The story of the condom – NCBI – National Institutes of Health

History of condoms – Wikipedia

The History of Condoms – LifeStyles Condoms

15,000 Years Of Condoms: A Feel-Good History Lesson – MTV

The History of the Condom – Condom Sizes

History of Contraception- Condoms and Sponges

A brief history of the condom – Salon.com

History of the Condom » Pasante

Condom History Mirrors Changing Societal Attitudes & Modern Human …

Background, Condom History and Ecoproduction | Condomerie

A Brief History of Condoms – Nerve

Live Better | The history of the condom – Medibank

The History of the Condom | myCondom.com

Ooooh, Ahhhh: The History of the Condom – Marie Claire

The Long and Curious History of Condoms | LYC Blog


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