A Weird History of Condoms

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A Weird History of Condoms

 

Condoms are one of the ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and it may surprise man that this supposedly modern-day contraceptive came from somewhere obscure and downright weird.

Before someone had the brilliant idea to use latex to make condoms, people of ancient times fashioned condoms from a wide array of soft substances, some weird and some that made people think that, yeah, they might work after all. 

One of these first materials used to make condoms are of the weird category. According to Spafe, an online condom shop, the Egyptian condoms may not be the best choice for intercourse as it was made from fine linen. Only later in 1594 did the linen condom take off. Weird is not always bad in this case, because Italian physician and atomist Gabriel Fallopius made linen condoms after an outbreak of syphilis in Europe and Asia. 

Photo via Spafe

 

This linen condom was tested by 1,100 participants after diligently following Fallopius’ instructions to first soak the linen in chemicals, let it dry, and then use it. As weird as it sounds, it actually worked. Using the linen condoms ensured the safety of many people in the syphilis-affected countries after records showed that none of the participants tested positive for syphilis after indulging in sex. 

Predictably, while Fallopius’ research allowed people to put syphilis worries relatively at rest, it did raise some concerns within the religious and scientific communities. 

According to All That’s Interesting, a history and science website, the church had been quick to condemn the invention that it was immoral. An English physician, Daniel Turner, even claimed that it “promoted unsafe sex by encouraging men to have many sexual partners.” 

Photo via Spafe

 

Turner and the church’s stance was ignored, of course, and in the latter 18th century more condoms made from animal intestines, which were used and reused. 

In Asia, the first condoms were glans condoms. They rose in popularity around the 14th century in Asian upper classes. They were called glans condoms because that was the only part of the penis they covered. These were fashioned from oiled silk paper, or lamb intestine, though the biggest problem was how its small size proved unsafe for any sexual partner, as the glans condom would get stuck inside the body of its user’s partner. 

Around the 1700s, the word “condom” was used for the very first time. According to Spafe, it was first mentioned in 1666 on an English Birth Rate Commission report as the cause of the drop in birth rates. 

In 1855, condoms would get their first rubberized iteration, as Charles Goodyear thought about using rubber to make the condoms safer. But Goodyear’s condoms were incredibly thicker than their modern-day counterparts.

Photo by inlooka via 123RF

 

In 1920, the use of latex for condoms became the essential turning point as it was marketed as a “one-size fits all” material. Shortly thereafter, latex condoms made their way to the military too after 400,000 cases of syphilis and gonorrhea among soldiers were recorded during World War I. 

Around the 20th century, Durex released lubricated condoms, which changed the game for many people’s sexual lives well into the mid-1960s, where “42 percent of sexually active adults used condoms and 60 percent of married couples reported that they had used condoms in the bedroom.”

 

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