Condoms… when were they ‘invented’?

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Was the contraception and birth control mainly a woman’s responsibility in the past? The historians still argue, but it seems that in ancient societies of Greece and Rome it was like this. The only documented  contraceptive was a female controlled diaphragm like device. And apart from that coitus interruptus may have been used.

It seems that  the first male controlled contraceptives appear only in the 15th century in Asia.  They used glans condoms (condoms that only cover the head of the penis)  for birth control at the time. And it’s kind of obvious that they seem to only have been used by the upper classes. In China, they may have been made of oiled silk paper, or lamb intestine, but in Japan, they were often made of tortoise shell or animal horn.

condom 2

It’s easy to predict that due to trade between Far East and Europe these ideas got to Europe and considering that the 16th century Europe had a big, big problem with syphilis outbreak this form of protection spread. Italian physician Gabriele Falloppio (best known as the king of Fallopian tubes) recommended a birth control device he designed: a chemical-soaked sheath wrapped around the head of the penis and tied on with a ribbon.

Since then condoms were developed, different materials from leather to animal bladders or intestines were used for making them. Until 1920s when latex was invented. During World War I, the United States and (initially) Britain were the only countries in Europe who did not provide condoms to their soldiers, and by the end of the war there were almost 400,000 documented cases of syphilis and gonorrhea in the American military. Taught by the earlier bad experience, during the Second World War, the military personnel were already wiser than that and simply distributed condoms among soldiers also coining some fun slogans that were intended to promote the use of the protection.

After the Second World War, from the 50s-70s condoms were widely used as a main contraceptive. Especially after Durex introduced the first lubricated condom in 1957. In the 80s and the 90s the use of condoms spread even wider due the the AIDS crisis. They started to be sold in a wider variety of retail outlets, including in supermarkets and in discount department stores. In 1991, Condomania (America’s first condom emporium), opened in New York City.

colorful condoms

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