For the longest time, just about a few centuries or so, contraception was considered a woman’s problem. All kinds of devices and magical potions were developed over time to prevent pregnancy. The idea of the condom may have started around the 14th century in Asia. The Japanese used sheaths made of tortoise shells and animal horns. The Chinese made their condoms from oiled silk paper.
Outbreaks of syphilis and other diseases focused attention on the penis during the 1600s throughout Europe. Linen sheaths were first used, applied to the penis with ribbon. Smart folks eventually discovered that covering the penis also prevented pregnancy. Birth rates began to decline by the mid-17th century in England.
Even though the use of these early condoms was condemned by religious authorities on the grounds of immorality, condoms began their rise to immortality. Secretly or otherwise, people, most often the upper classes, realized the benefits or sex for recreation rather than only procreation.
One may have wondered how Casanova was able to continue his sexual adventures during the 18th century without sexually transmitted disease or paternity suits. Casanova owed it all to his “assurance caps,” according to historians.
Social and religious opposition may have continued, but people in general could not argue the health benefits condoms provided as well as the sheer fun. From pubs and drug shops to outside markets and theaters, condoms were making their presence in Europe and just as available as on today’s college campuses. You may be surprised when learning your grandparents were having sex for enjoyment, but your ancestors were playing the same game. Even the lower classes were getting into the act.
Condom use got a big push starting in World War I when soldiers were encouraged to slip them on in between battles. War – what is it good for? At least one thing. The 1900s also marked the era of rubber condoms. And the name, rubbers, stuck for some time. Condoms were handmade, dipped in solutions and time consuming. Latex condoms later required less labor and cost to make and felt more comfortable for guys in the 1920s.
Once again, condoms came in handy for soldiers during World War II. American GIs received free distribution along with films and posters that promoted an earlier version of safe sex. In the post-war, baby-boom era, condoms would soon skyrocket with help from plastics and other materials that improved their use and reliability.
Although some restrictions made condoms difficult to find through most of the 20th century, protection, safety and the youth-oriented sexual revolution popularized the use of condoms.
Condoms became widespread in the 1980s because of safety concerns, but also because they just made good sexual sense. Today’s sexual athletes and novices have the opportunity to enjoy sex to the fullest. Ribbed, glow-in-the-dark, flavored and other unique condoms make the opposition to these miracle gloves seem rather silly.
At any rate, you can sure be glad you don’t have to stick a tortoise shell on your rascal. Today’s condom users can wear them with dignity.