Since we owe A LOT to the invention of the condom, February 14 is National Condom Day here in the United States. Created by the American Social Health Association, National Condom Day is a day in which we not only spread the awareness about not just how vital condoms are in sexual health, but teach the younger generations, who are now just starting to experiment with sex, just how essential they are.
While only abstinence can truly protect someone from STDs or unwanted pregnancies, preaching abstinence isn’t a very realistic way to approach sex education. Instead, we need to focus on the fact that condoms, when used correctly, make a huge and important difference in sexual health. According to the CDC latex condoms are “highly effective” in preventing the transmission of HIV and play a major role in reducing the risk of STDs like gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, and chlamydia. Condom use also “may reduce the risk” of HPV, but not always at the success rate that they protect against other viruses. Also, condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
Because condoms are an important form of birth control, LifeStyles SKYN Condoms compiled a condom historical chart about everything you could possibly want to know about the history of condoms. What you’ll find out, more than anything, is that latex is a walk in the park compared to what was used in the past. Yikes.
1. Condom Use Goes Way Back To B.C. Times
According to SKYN’s research, the oldest known proof of a “sheathed penis” can actually be seen in cave paintings. While it’s unclear what was used to “sheath” these penises, it’s really interesting to know that our ancestors knew that wrapping the penis up could actually be a good thing.
2. Once Upon A Time Condoms Were Made Of Linen
As the B.C. era came to an end and history evolved into the early A.D. period, the first actual documented condoms made their appearance. Made of pieces of linen that were sewn together by hand, the condoms were made to fit either the whole penis or just the tip of it. This was also the time of the Roman Empire… so, considering how those people partied, condoms were a good introduction into society at that time. Although, I’m not sure exactly how much protection a piece of linen could provide for either partner, no matter what end they were on.
3. Glans Condoms Eventually Became A Go-To Item
Before the 1400s officially rolled around, aristocrats in Asia started using glans condoms, which, as the name suggests, only covered the glans (head) of the penis. While they weren’t using linen, which seems rather useless, they were using glans condoms made of intestines or oiled paper ― again, not exactly the most protective of choice.
However, where things get a bit more protective was in the fact they also used animal horns or tortoise shells. While that’s likely to protect against STDs and pregnancy a bit better than paper or the aforementioned linen, the thought of either having that on one’s penis or in one's vagina sounds like one hell of an uncomfortable situation. I’m also hoping that they were using pieces of these horns and shells, because tortoises can get REALLY big in size. Picturing that is making me feel less than happy at the moment.
4. Linens Condoms Made A Comeback By The 1400s
Maybe it was because they were far softer than animal horns or they just sold well, but by the 1400s through the 1700s the majority of condoms were made of out linen or goat insides. I’m not talking about just goat intestines, which, shape wise, makes sense, but pieces of goat bladders, too, became a popular condom choice.
5. Casanova Didn’t Just Use Condoms, But He Checked Every One Of Them Himself
As the legendary lover wrote in his memoir, History of My Life , "Cultivating whatever gave pleasure to my senses was always the chief business of my life; I never found any occupation more important. Feeling that I was born for the sex opposite of mine, I have always loved it and done all that I could to make myself loved by it."
Takeaway? Casanova got laid. A LOT. Because this was the case, he also he became known for blowing up his condoms before using them to make sure there weren’t any holes, so he could continue along his merry way without impregnating all the women with whom he slept. This is actually the first recorded attempt at condom quality control.
6. The First Rubber Condom Was ‘As Thick As A Bicycle Inner Tube’
Although the first rubber condom, produced in 1855, was a major step forward in regards to material, the fact that it was, according to research, as thick as a bicycle inner tube, didn’t make it very appealing. Of course, if a man wasn’t very endowed in girth, it could be a big hit, but other than that, no thanks.
7. Queen Victoria’s Face Used To Adorn Condoms
Because who doesn’t want to use condoms with Queen Victoria's face staring back at them, in 1897 condom manufacturers started selling condoms with her face on their labels. Supposedly this was because of the fact that her kids were constantly getting STDs, so nothing says, “Go home and take a cold shower,” like your mom’s face.
8. Condoms Became Legal in 1918 In The States
Why it took so long for condoms to become legal in the States can probably be attributed to our Puritan roots and the fact that ― gasp! ― sex is BAD. Either way, with the roaring ‘20s and the flapper generation about to emerge just a couple years later, it was better late than never when condoms became legal in the U.S. In fact, by 1920 the first latex condom made its debut.
9. We Can Thank The UK For Lubricated Condoms
In 1957, the UK introduced the very first lubricated condom to the world. For those who were stuck with using spit up until that point, it was definitely a game-changer.
10. AIDS Made Condom Use Paramount
At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S, after it became quite clear that HIV and AIDS are sexually transmitted, the conversation about the importance of condom use exploded. It was in 1985 that LifeStyles Condoms launched to keep up with ever-growing demand for condoms during that decade when the epidemic was seemingly out of control.
11. Condom Manufacturers Started To Get Creative In The 1990s
As the ‘80s came to an end, the demand for condoms continued. It was at this time that manufacturers decided to break the usual condom mold and offer consumers something more. Suddenly the boring latex condom had competition with colored, textured, and even flavored condoms.
But while a pink condom that tastes like a strawberry might be fun, at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you’re using condoms and using them correctly.
Happy National Condom Day!
Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.