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From Lamb Guts to Rubber Tires – History of Condom Materials
You’ve got ribbed condoms, glow in the dark condoms, flavored condoms, colored condoms, ultra-thin condoms that feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. Such variety and technology—the only thing they can’t do is make you coffee, but they do work well with a little whipped cream.
Condoms have come a long way since the Egyptians first used them thousands of years ago. At first they were little more than linen sheaths. They probably wasn’t pleasant for the partner, or for the user for that matter (think of the chafing!) but they served a practical purpose: protection against disease. Apparently the Egyptians were ahead of everyone in realizing that sex could lead to all sorts of nasty infections, and it’s not like you could drop by the corner pharmacy to clear up a yeast attack. Better chafed, than sorry.
Eventually people stopped using linen (too scratchy) and started making condoms out of lamb’s intestines. Then Goodyear perfected the technology behind rubber vulcanization, which made it possible to mass produce rubber goods—car tires, for one, and condoms too.
It was a breakthrough, but not entirely without its weaknesses. For one thing, the condoms were prone to breaking, aged rather quickly. It was only in 1919 that Frederick Killian started using latex condoms, which were thinner, and didn’t have that funky smell. Sales started to soar, and by 1930, over 1.5 million condoms were being made a day.
The most recent development is the use of polyutherane, which is much thinner than latex and has a longer shelf life (since it’s not as sensitive to heat). The problem however is that they’re a little riskier—there’s a greater chance of slipping off at the stickiest (literally) situations. They’re also not as effective in preventing STD’s.
But let’s admit it, the thinner a condom is, the better it feels, and the risk of not using a condom is hundreds of time worse. Besides, loyal users like to believe that if you’re storing condoms for more than a year, you may have dating issues that even polyutherane can’t solve.
Today you’ll find a full assortment of condoms, some made of rubber, some made of latex, some pre-lubricated (but since these have a shorter shelf life, most doctors recommend using a separate spermicide instead). You’ll also find the old-fashioned lamb-intestine condoms, made for those who’d rather “go organic” or are allergic to latex.
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