A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CONDOM

“There should be no shame around coming out of a store carrying a box of condoms,” declares an ad for Trojan’s newest line of condoms, the aloe-infused, female-marketed XOXO condom. The condom has taken a winding path to social acceptance, though historians can’t pinpoint the date on which the world’s first condom was invented. As the medical historian Vern Bullough writes, the condom’s early history is “lost in the myths of antiquity.”

Animal-intestine condoms have existed since “at least medieval times,” Bullough writes. Other scholars assert that the condom dates back even further, to tenth-century Persia. It was not until the sixteenth century that doctors began suggesting that patients use condoms to prevent diseases. The first physician to do so was the Italian doctor Gabriele Falloppio, who recommended that men wear a lubricated linen condom to guard against venereal disease.

Condoms made from animal intestines—usually those of sheep, calves, or goats—remained the main style through the mid-1800s. Used for both pregnancy- and disease-prevention, these condoms stayed in place with a ribbon that men tied around the bases of their penises. Because they were “widely associated with houses of prostitution,” condoms were stigmatized, Bullough writes. And men didn’t like wearing them. As the famous lover Casanova said in the late 1700s, he didn’t like, “shutting [himself] up in a piece of dead skin in order to prove that [he was] well and truly alive.”

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