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The Wince-Inducing History Of The Condom

It’s Valentine’s Day and International Condom Day (coincidence?), so let’s see where our life-saving latex pals came from.

Ancient Times


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Back in ye olden days – or more accurately, ye ancient days, around 3000 BC – contraception was seen as the woman’s responsibility, and so the use of male condoms is still largely debated. Female birth control existed, although its effectiveness…well, let’s just say we wouldn’t entirely trust it. The ancient Egyptians used a mixture of honey and acacia leaves, placed inside the vagina to block sperm, while the Romans favored a mixture of olive oil and the highly toxic chemical hydrocerussite – better known as white lead – which might explain why so many of them were so utterly fucked in the head. The Greeks preferred a herb known as Silphion, which scientists believe contained a chemical that worked as an effective abortifacient. We’ll never know for sure, though, because the horny Greeks harvested the plant to extinction.

 

 

The Middle Ages


Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014

There are reports of condom use in Asia prior to the 15th Century, where it seems that “glans condoms” – that is, condoms that only covered the head of the penis – were used by wealthy men. Before you decide that maybe they were onto something with this, consider what these condoms were made of: In China, oiled silk paper was the material of choice, while the Japanese are believed to have favored tortoise shell. Considering Japan had also had access to silk for over a thousand years at this point, tortoise shell seems like an odd choice of material to wrap the tip of your penis in, but maybe they’d been watching some hot tortoise sex and figured the little guys must be onto something.

 

 

The Renaissance Period

With the spread of syphilis in the early 1600s, men began to be a little cautious about their junk for pretty much the first time in human history. Condoms made of linen, soaked in chemicals and held on with ribbons, began to appear, which was good news for women everywhere with a fetish for being boned by a freshly starched bed sheet. Condoms made from animal intestines and bladders followed, which we’re assuming were only popular because, the moment you pull a strip of intestine onto your dick, it technically means you’ve had anal.

 

 

The Victorian Age

By the 1800s, STDs were widespread and rampant, due largely to the populations of America and Europe also being widespread and rampant, if you catch our drift. Condoms had become more prevalent, but due to their cost, were generally washed after sex and later reused, because – and we can’t stress this enough – people in the past were gross. Rubber condoms made their first appearance in 1855 and, like the Asian condoms from hundreds of years earlier, covered just the tip of the penis. How anyone managed to achieve ejaculation is still a mystery, however, as they were roughly the same thickness as a bicycle inner tube. It’s amazing that we still refer to condoms as “rubbers” because of this, and not something more appropriate, like, “awful, scratchy, hurty pointless things that make it feel like my dong got run over by a Penny-farthing.”

 

 

The Modern Era

By the outbreak of the First World War, condoms had become so commonplace that they were issued as standard army equipment. Well, everywhere except America, anyway, where we were still attempting to promote abstinence instead (because we all know how well that works out). By 1920, latex had been invented, and everyone thought it was the greatest thing in the history of ever until 40 years later, when the birth control pill appeared. The 1990s saw the introduction of the polyurethane condom, which was handy for people with allergies to latex (and animal bladders).

 

 

The Future


Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014

So where do we go from here? That may well be up to Microsoft founder and mega-billionaire Bill Gates who, possibly just to prove that, yes, he totally has had sex at some point, is investing in the next generation of condoms. At the end of last year, 11 designs were chosen from 812 entries and given $100,000 to develop something better. These designs range from condoms with applicator handles to condoms made from a new polymer designed to feel like lubricated skin, but one thing seems certain: Even in the future, using a condom is still just going to involve flailing around in the dark, trying to jam something weird onto the end of your cock.

 

Check out 5 Services To Make You Less Lonely On Valentine's Day, or How Girls Feel About Around-the-Clock Sex.