Tuesday, November 23, 2010
"Vice Pioneers" : The Condom
Casanova: condom entertainer
Falloppio: first documented condom reference
Charles Goodyear: tire namesake, condom innovator
This week's "Vice Pioneers" takes a look at the most important invention for sex--the condom. Without it, we'd be in trouble in our whorish, lust fulfilling culture. The history of this "device" is long so this is just a tidbit of history (the very early years) regarding our beloved baby/disease preventer.
The term condom first appears in the early 18th century. Its etymology is unknown. In popular tradition, the invention and naming of the condom came to be attributed to an associate of England's King Charles II, one "Dr. Condom" or "Earl of Condom". There is however no evidence of the existence of such a person, and condoms had been used for over one hundred years before King Charles II ascended to the throne.
A variety of unproven Latin etymologies have been proposed, including condon (receptacle), condamina (house), and cumdum (scabbard or case). It has also been speculated to be from the Italian word guantone, derived from guanto, meaning glove. William E. Kruck wrote an article in 1981 concluding that, "As for the word 'condom', I need state only that its origin remains completely unknown, and there ends this search for an etymology." Modern dictionaries may also list the etymology as "unknown".
Before the 19th century
Whether condoms were used in ancient civilizations is debated by archaeologists and historians. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, pregnancy prevention was generally seen as a woman's responsibility, and the only well documented contraception methods were female-controlled devices. In Asia before the 15th century, some use of glans condoms (devices covering only the head of the penis) is recorded. Condoms seem to have been used for contraception, and to have been known only by members of the upper classes. In China, glans condoms may have been made of oiled silk paper, or of lamb intestines. In Japan, they were made of tortoise shell or animal horn.
In 16th century Italy, Gabriele Falloppio wrote a treatise on syphilis. The earliest documented strain of syphilis, first appearing in Europe in a 1490s outbreak, caused severe symptoms and often death within a few months of contracting the disease. Falloppio's treatise is the earliest uncontested description of condom use: it describes linen sheaths soaked in a chemical solution and allowed to dry before use. The cloths he described were sized to cover the glans of the penis, and were held on with a ribbon. Falloppio claimed that an experimental trial of the linen sheath demonstrated protection against syphilis.
After this, the use of penis coverings to protect from disease is described in a wide variety of literature throughout Europe. The first indication that these devices were used for birth control, rather than disease prevention, is the 1605 theological publication De iustitia et iure (On justice and law) by Catholic theologian Leonardus Lessius, who condemned them as immoral. In 1666, the English Birth Rate Commission attributed a recent downward fertility rate to use of "condons", the first documented use of that word (or any similar spelling).
In addition to linen, condoms during the Renaissance were made out of intestines and bladder. In the late 15th century, Dutch traders introduced condoms made from "fine leather" to Japan. Unlike the horn condoms used previously, these leather condoms covered the entire penis.
Casanova in the 18th century was one of the first reported using "assurance caps" to prevent impregnating his mistresses.
Rubber and manufacturing advances
In 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered a way of processing natural rubber, which is too stiff when cold and too soft when warm, in such a way as to make it elastic. This proved to have advantages for the manufacture of condoms; unlike the sheeps' gut condoms, they could stretch and did not tear quickly when used. The rubber vulcanization process was patented by Goodyear in 1844. The first rubber condom was produced in 1855. The earliest rubber condoms had a seam and were as thick as a bicycle inner tube. Besides this type, small rubber condoms covering only the glans were often used in England and the United States. There was more risk of losing them and if the rubber ring was too tight, it would constrict the penis. This type of condom was the original "capote" (French for condom), perhaps because of its resemblance to a woman's bonnet worn at that time, also called a capote.