The contraceptive's thousand-year saga—from animal skins to silk.
While it’s easy to think that practicing safe sex has only become a priority in the last century or so, the truth is our ancestors have been using contraception for years—thousands of years, in fact.
Sure, their methods were much more, shall we say, “creative” than just rolling on the latex, but they definitely deserve points for trying. Here’s a brief history, based on research from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Yep, even back then they were doing it. A series of cave paintings in France depict something—most likely some kind of animal skin or intestine—that resembles a condom.
In Ancient Egypt, the covering of choice was likely linen, but it was used to prevent something other than STDs and unwanted pregnancies—insect bites during intercourse. Romans and Greeks reportedly favored animal bladders as their method of contraception.
Over in Japan, leather and tortoise shells were used to protect a man’s member (though we wonder how well the recipient fared), while in China a slightly gentler cover—oiled silk paper—was used.
By the 15th century, the Japanese were still using tortoise shells, but had also added animal horns to their contraceptive toolkit (again, ouch).
It wasn’t until the 16th century that the concept of condoms was published, when anatomist Gabriele Falloppio referred to the use of chemical-soaked linen tied around the shaft with a ribbon to help prevent the spread of syphilis.
In 1839, inventor Charles Goodyear discovered rubber vulcanization, the technology of which led to the creation of the first rubber condoms in 1855. Given that they were the thickness of a bicycle inner tube and had to be custom-fitted, they were more than a little cumbersome.
The invention of latex in the 1920s revolutionized the condom industry by enabling them to be mass-produced. The first lubricated condom was produced in 1957.