History of condoms
Author: Matti Vissers
Wednesday 6th of June 2012 11:55:21 AM

You don't have to be an expert to know that the use of a condom can dramatically reduce the number of new HIV and other STD infections. Around the globe, between six and nine billion condoms are used each year!

But have you ever wondered where condoms came from? Or who invented them? Well here's a brief history lesson...

Approximately around 1000 BC the use of condoms was first recorded. During that time they made condoms of oiled silk paper, linen sheets, leather or even a very thin hollow horn. There are also cave paintings at Combarelles in France, dating back to the year 200 AD, that show the earliest known visual evidence of the use of condoms.

Then after a long period of time and after a severe syphilis epidemic in the 1500s, an Italian doctor by the name of Gabrielle Fallopius suggested that linen sheets could be used as condoms. To protect people against syphilis, a deadly epidemic at that time in history. It was only later that they recognized the usefulness of the condom for the prevention of pregnancy. Later on in the 1500s they even started to use spermicides on condoms by soaking the linen cloths in a chemical solution.

Reports, dating back to 1640, say that farmers in Condom (France) began using sheep guts as condoms. This is possibly the origin of the lambskin condom. However, they were very expensive and they were often reused. This type of condom was often described as "an armor against pleasure and a cobweb against pleasure".

The name "condom" allegedly comes from a Dr. Condom, who lived around 1660, one of the personal doctors from Charles II. Dr. condom gave oiled sheep intestines to Charles II to help the King to prevent the birth of more illegitimate children. But some people still believe that the name "condom" comes from the Latin word "condus" which means "vessel".

In 1855, rubber was introduced as a component to produce condoms. Thanks to the discovery of rubber vulcanization by Goodyear (founder of the tyre company). Vulcanization is a process which turns rubber into a strong elastic material. So from then on it was possible to mass produce rubber goods , including condoms, quickly and cheaply. In those days men were advised that these rubber condoms could be washed and reused until they crumbled.

Later on, in 1919 to be exact, the single-use condom was born. Thanks Frederick Killian! The core product was now latex in stead of rubber. Latex makes condoms cheaper and disposable. By World War II, latex condoms were mass produced and given to troops all over the world. 

They started to improve these latex-condoms during the 1950s, by making them thinner, tighter and lubricated. Also, the reservoir tip was introduced that collects semen in the end, decreasing the risk of leakage and unintentional pregnancy.

During the 80s condoms were taken into the mainstream because of the emergence of HIV as a sexually transmitted disease. Experts still agree that condoms are the best way, outside of abstinence, to avoid HIV.

The 1990s saw the introduction of coloured and flavoured condoms, as well as the female condom.

In 2006 condom sales reach nine billion worldwide. But experts found that spermicides that kill sperm to prevent pregnancy also increases the risk of HIV. That is why condoms with spermicides should never be used again! The rate of latex allergies kept on growing, that is why there are now condoms available made of polyurethane.

In more recent years, more and more condom innovations have arisen. You can now find condoms in all kinds of shapes, widths and lengths.



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