The humble rubber isn’t, as you may think, a new invention – it has been around for centuries. And the “rubber” euphemism is a little misleading too, with many modern varieties made from polyisoprene, polyurethane and other materials. Obviously, these materials weren’t around when condoms were first invented, so they had to be a little more creative…

 

The first images of sheaths actually appeared in prehistoric cave paintings in France, with others from around 1000BC being depicted in Egypt. It isn’t known if these were used in a sexual context, however, or for certain unknown rituals.

 

What we do know, however, is that glans condoms that only covered the head of the penis were used in China and Japan in the 1400s. We should be pretty grateful for advances in modern technology: in China, these were either made from oiled silk paper (not so bad) or the alternative of lamb intestines… while in Japan it was a choice of animal horn or tortoise shell. Gives a whole new meaning to “getting the horn”…

 

It was in the 1500s that Italian doctor Gabrielle Fallopius cut the condom from a different cloth, and came up with the invention of a chemical-soaked linen sheath as protection against syphilis. He later discovered that it prevented pregnancy too, increasing their popularity despite the Catholic Church proclaiming that condoms were immoral.

 

The quest for the perfect condom continued, and in the 1600s and 1700s, there were bright sparks who had the guts to produce condoms from animal intestines – reportedly a favorite of King Charles II. A great idea, apart from the fact that they were often washed out and reused… The popularity of condoms increased, with them being sold at markets and pubs across the country.

 

In the early 1800s, a public call for better birth control led to other companies sitting up and taking notice, and the first rubber condoms bounced onto the market in 1839. While more effective than previous versions, rubber condoms were pretty thick and not very flexible – with a rubber ring at the end that could be a little constrictive…meaning that the arrival of latex condoms in the 1880s was a relief in more ways than one. Latex condoms were not only thinner and more comfortable, but were more durable too.

 

These were times when condom usage was frowned upon by many, with advertising banned in a number of countries. Luckily now we live in more liberal times, and buying condoms isn’t a hush hush process. With a more relaxed attitude came other developments, such as the use of polyurethane and polyisoprene, ideal for those with latex allergies.

 

It’s safe to say that the condom is no longer just designed for protection. With a huge range of flavors, textures, materials and colors (even glow in the dark), it’s safe to say that it’s safe to play. Choosing exactly what to wear when getting dressed for the occasion has never been such a fun decision…

 

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