Condoms Through The Ages

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Safe sex is by no means a modern concept and, although perhaps today’s methods of protection differ quite radically from the days when a gentleman slipped on a quick pigs bladder, the concept is the same. Nowadays it’s a simple task to pop along and have a quick STD test to put your mind at rest if you’ve an unplanned liaison. Sometimes good times are higher on the agenda than good sense, but sexual health is one area where prevention is way better than a cure, and protection is most definitely better than infection!

The humble condom has been around in some shape or form for several centuries at least, and possibly much longer. One would have to assume the basic shape has been fairly standard, but the lads of the eighteenth century would probably be hard pressed recognising the aerodynamic design of modern man’s sexual armour.

Skin to Skin

History tells us that the first preventative measures against unwanted pregnancy and disease were in the form of either a linen cloth treated with chemicals, or some kind of animal bladder. Without the hindsight of an easy STD test it was even more important to ensure that you were protected, and the use of these crude versions of the condom was widespread. There was however, controversy about their use. Some detractors claimed that they encouraged sex with unsafe partners, and when they experienced the loss of sensation that occurred while wearing them, they were abandoned mid-coitus. There was also much moral argument against their use, but nevertheless the market flourished and in the eighteenth century they were available in barber shops, bars, markets and even the theatre. The linen variety soon became obsolete as they were less comfortable than the skin ones, but even as production became more mainstream, the condoms were extremely expensive in comparison to the average wage.


The advent of rubber condoms heralded a new dawn in safe sex. They became much more accessible and, even though an STD test was still not the norm in the nineteenth century, the ‘masses’ were becoming more aware of the importance of using a condom. The invention of the rubber condom meant that because they were reusable, their cost was even higher; so many people still preferred the skin variety. As well, the sensitivity factor of the skin condom was better than the rubber one. Originally available only after a specific fitting to an individual client, manufacturers soon realised that they could produce a much cheaper ‘one size fits all’ variety, and the rubber revolution began.


The invention of latex (a product of water suspended in rubber) in 1920, brought with it changes in both the performance and cost of condoms. The properties of latex made it stronger, thinner and, with the mechanics of mass production in motion, its longer shelf life meant the entire condom industry was turned on its head. In the 1900′s with still no accessible STD test available, condom usage grew as in general, people became more educated in the values of safe sex.


Fast forward to the 21st century and the modern polyurethane condom has a very different look, feel and social profile. Today society is far more relaxed about condoms and they are available everywhere from supermarkets to pub toilets. Safe sex is the buzz word of the modern generation as the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases continue to spread. An STD test is just a click away on the internet and condoms can be purchased with your weekly groceries. It seems that good old Johnny has finally found his rightful place in the world – vive la condom!

Tim Leach is part of USALabTesting that can provide a confidential, online STD test. With over 2,000 clinics across the USA and a large range of STD testing available, getting peace of mind is discreet, easy and painless.

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