Condoms have long become a normal part of intimate life – we don’t even think when and how they appeared. In fact, the first condoms were not suitable for safe sex – they were made from turtle shells, animal intestines and flax, until finally in 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber, which could be used to make a condom comparable to today.
The first condoms
As far as is known, the first condom was used in Europe by the anatomist Fallopia in 1564, according to the website ‘Wellcome Collection’.
In the 16th century, condoms were mainly used to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. In Europe during this time, many people fell ill and even died from syphilis. However, in the 17th century, after medical researchers discovered sperm cells, the clergy began to condemn the use of condoms.
In the 18th century, the medical field already held the view that condoms were used only by prostitutes, harlots and immoral people.
Despite this attitude, condoms were popular among the upper and middle classes. In the 19th century, when Ch. Goodyear invented condoms, they became available to the working class.
However, condoms were used in Japan and China as early as the 15th century. In Japan, they were made from turtle shells, later – from thin skin, in China – from waxed paper or lamb intestines. These condoms differed little from the European inventions of the 18th century, which were made from linen or cattle intestines.
Condoms were mostly one size and had to be soaked in water before use.
In the 18th century, the condom market was owned by two competing manufacturers, Mrs Phillips and Mrs Perkins, and for those who really wanted it, there was also a simple recipe for making a condom at home.
In 1923, Maria Stopa, an active defender of birth control and supporter of positive eugenics, introduced one of the first female condoms. It was made of thick rubber and had a steel rim. Like other rubber products of the time, the female condom could be washed and reused many times.
The first modern female condom was introduced in 1993, but it was not widely accepted. Women found it strange, difficult to put on, they were afraid that it would make strange sounds when used. Journalists were also not interested in the benefits of female condoms at all – they only mockingly described it, comparing it to Edvard Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’.
In 1998, the situation began to improve. The manufacturer ‘Wisconsin Pharmacal’ received a petition from Zimbabwe, which was signed by 30,000 women – they asked for female condoms to be available in their country as well. People in developed countries scoffed, but in developing countries, where medical services were difficult to access, interest in a condom that could be inserted long before intercourse and used more than once was high. It seemed like a real salvation.
Things you may not know about condoms
- The origin of the name “condom” has not yet been proven. Some associate this name with Dr. Condom, which in 1600 was a member of the royal council of King Charles II. But we can rather believe another version, that this word comes from the Latin word “condus”, which means capacity.
- Both Casanova and the Marquis de Sade wrote about condoms, with Casanova suggesting that their inventor “must be a good man”.
- Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psychoanalysis, was not a fan of condoms, although he believed they were a better solution than abstinence.
- The writer Jane Austen did not recommend contraception, but rather sleeping in separate beds.
- The Catholic Church only reluctantly endorsed the use of condoms in 2010, and only to protect against serious diseases such as HIV.
- In the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, three studies of sexual behavior were conducted in the United States; it turns out that condoms have become more popular every decade, especially among men and their new partners.
- In the 21st century, both male and female condoms are undergoing a revolution, and the market for female condoms has become competitive, meaning that women will have more choice in the future.