Have you ever wondered about the history of the make condom? Condoms are a successful barrier method of contraception, not only preventing unwanted pregnancies but protecting against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. You would be forgiven for thinking that they are modern invention, but they have actually been in existence for thousands of years. Here is a brief history of the male condom:
They first appear in the human timeline around 11,000 B.C. Cave paintings discovered in France seem to show depictions of male erections being covered with an early form of condom. Scientists state this is the first known evidence of such behaviour.
Fast forward 10,000 years to ancient Egypt, evidence suggests that people used a linen sheath to cover the penis and protect from tropical diseases and insects. In China, to stop the spread of infection, oiled silk paper was wrapped around the penis. The Japanese used leather for their sheaths, while the Romans used goats’ bladders.
The use of sheaths was still an intensely private subject, and it wouldn’t be until the Medieval period that their use was first documented. Gabrielle Fallopius, an Italian inventor carried out invaluable work on the dangers of syphilis and recommended the use of a linen sheath dipped in chemicals to stop syphilis transmission. In a following experiment of over 1000 participants, none of them contracted the disease. If you’ve been caught without a condom and worried about having contracting an infection, consider London Home STI kits from https://www.bexleysexualhealth.org/chlamydia_screening/
One stumbling block for the condom was the Catholic Church, who deemed their use immoral. Their high cost also made them difficult for the public to access. Another issue was that reusing linen is not sanitary, even running the risk of increasing the spread of disease. However, people were using them as the first ever recorded mention of a drop-in birth rate due to ‘condons’ appeared in 1666.
Over the next century, despite moral questioning, the use of chemical-dipped linen expanded. By the early 19th century, views began to shift, and some began to publicly advocate their use. MPs tried to ban them on moral grounds, believing they encouraged unsafe practices and irresponsible relations. Condoms were increasingly becoming available to the working class too, thanks to Charles Goodyear’s invention of vulcanised rubber in 1839. Initially, these rubber sheaths were re-usable, custom-made and only covered the glans of the penis. Companies soon realised, however, that they could mass produce a product to fit every man at a much lower cost. This was the turning point and revolution in protection against disease and unwanted pregnancy for the working class.
The 20th century saw many advancements. Condoms were given out to military personnel during the Great War to prevent disease. In 1918, a German judge ruled that condoms could be sold and advertised as disease prevention devices but not for contraception. This caused a surge in use during the roaring 1920s. Later in that same decade, latex was invented which resulted in the world’s first ever latex condom. Mass produced and able to mould to the shape of a penis perfectly, sales of latex sheaths rocketed.