The History of Condoms

Did you know people have been employing condoms for use against unwanted pregnancies and for protection against diseases since the days of cave dwelling?

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Condoms in the BC

That’s right. Cro-Magnon etchings found in France in the famous Les Combarelles caves depict the use of condoms in Europe. These carvings were carbon dated to be from approximately 12,000 years ago. Incredibly, this suggest condoms have been a part of human sexuality since the days of mammoth hunting.

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The next timeframe of evidence regarding condom usage comes from ancient Egyptian times in 1200 BC. Greek and Egyptian laborers wore loincloths which covered only the head of their penis and it is speculated these were worn during sex as well as on a daily basis for work.

The Return of Condoms in the AD

After the fall of the Roman Empire, condoms fell out of fashion until the late 1400’s when a crippling syphilis outbreak took the lives of innumerable French soldiers and caused countless residents of China to suffer and perish.

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In the early 1500’s, an inventor named Gabriele Falloppio created and tested a chemically soaked linen sheath which and was held on by a tied ribbon and covered the glans of the penis. 1,100 men tested his invention and reportedly none of them contracted the deadly syphilis bacteria.

By the 1600’s, animal intestines were gaining popularity as a means of staying protected and preventing pregnancy. The English Birth Rate Commission uses the word “condon,” from the Latin word “condus,” or receptacle, to describe the  animal gut sheaths responsible for this downward shift in procreation. This is thought to be the origin of the word “condom.”

In the mid 1600’s, Catholic theologians begin to deem condoms as immoral, stating they lead to intercourse with multiple partners and promote infidelity. Condoms made of fine leather which covered the entire penis were introduced to the Japanese during this time as well. Previously, they had been using oiled paper, fish bladders and tortoiseshell to cover only the head of the penis during intercourse.

In the 1700’s, linen condoms treated with sulphur and lye and animal bladder condoms were gaining in popularity to the point of custom sizes being made and offered for sale. Protests from political figures regarding the legality and morality of condom usage became frequent and common.

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In the early 1800’s, the first condoms were being used in America by educated middle and upper class citizens. Expensive linen condoms went out of production because animal sheath condoms were more comfortable and affordable.

By the mid 1800’s, condoms were being marketed to the public through ads, lectures and pamphlets. Increased political and religious opposition makes headlines. The hunt for a more dependable and reliable condom began with fervor. Charles Goodyear then invented the rubber vulcanization process and in 1855, the first rubber condom is made. After a few trial and error follies, full length, one-size-fits-all rubber condoms were being made and sold in pharmacies.

Modern Condoms

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A major innovation occurred in the 1920’s when latex (rubber suspended in water) was invented. Latex lasted over 4 years longer on the shelf and was stronger and thinner than rubber. In 1930, the first automated latex condom manufacturing line was built in Ohio. This drastically reduced the price of condoms which were formerly individually hand dipped. In the late 1900’s, Durex brand introduces the first factory made non-latex condoms made from polyurethane. The first female condom called the FC1 is invented in 1992 and is also made of polyurethane.

Clearly, even today condoms are an indispensable part of our collective past all while remaining a vastly important and necessary precaution in modern day mating practices.

About Condom Depot

The Condom Depot Learning Center provides free safer sex ed and has recently been resourced by Men's Health, Go Ask Alice, Her Campus, LifeHacker, Scarleteen, Bustle, Madame Noire, Jezebel, Vice, Stallion Style, aPlus, Sex Talk Tuesday and Adult Sex Ed Month.

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