A condom is a sheath-shaped barrier device used during sexual intercourse. It helps protect against pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, although it isn’t a foolproof method to stop either. You probably know what a condom is, what it is for and how to use one. The following are 10 things you might not know about condoms.
Condoms have been around a long time. There is evidence that glans condoms were used before the 15th century in Asia. Glans condoms were those that covered only the head of the penis. In Europe, these same style of condom were first used in the 16th century as a way to prevent the spread of syphilis. These early condoms were made from a variety of materials. In China they were made from oiled silk paper or lamb intestines. In Japan, they were made from tortoise shell or animal horn. In Europe, early condoms were made from linen, which was soaked in a chemical solution and then allowed to dry. These were then tied on with a ribbon.
Condoms are sometimes referred to as “rubbers.” This name came about because Charles Goodyear’s process of making rubber led to the manufacturing of rubber condoms, which were reusable. Today’s condoms are mostly made from latex, polyurethane or lambskin and are used once and then thrown away. Lambskin condoms are actually made from the lamb intestines, not the outer skin.
Condoms are still used only by 5 percent of men worldwide. Many people realize that condoms help prevent pregnancy and they greatly reduce the chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Even so, they are “hugely unpopular,” with only a small percentage of men worldwide using condoms on a regular basis. This figures includes men who live in parts of the world where condoms are not readily available and education about condoms isn’t common, but it still is a very low number.
Condoms come in a large variety of sizes, shapes and textures. Trojan itself, has over 30 different varieties of condoms. Some condoms are less than 7 inches long and some are more than 9.5 inches long. There is also a variety in the width of condoms, making sure that all sizes and shapes are available to help you find the one that fits you best.
There is some controversy over whether or not information about condoms should be taught in sex ed class. Despite the fact that many high school students will contract a STI, about one-third of high schools in the United States teach what is commonly known as “condom sense.”
Proper storage of condoms is important for effectiveness. It is recommended that you keep unused condoms out of sunlight and store them in areas that are between 32 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
While male condoms are most popular, there is a female condom. The female condom is a pouch with flexible rings on each side. It is inserted into the vagina prior to sex and, like the male condom, can help reduce pregnancy (from 21 percent without condom use to 5 percent with condom use) and reduce the risk of STIs.
Using condoms does not diminish satisfaction with sex. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that couples who regularly used condoms were just as satisfied with sex as those couples who didn’t use condoms.
Condom design hasn’t changed in almost 100 years. There is research to find a better condom going on around the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offers grans of up to $100,000 for people trying to make a better condom. Some ideas for better condoms include a one-size–fits-all made of a material that will mold to the penis and a condom with handles to make it easier to put on.
World sporting events are a great place to get condoms. There were 150,000 free condoms available to athletes during the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Durex provided the condoms for the over 10,000 athletes, giving each athlete the opportunity to have 15 condoms. During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Karex, a condom manufacturer distributed 864,000 cocktail-flavored condoms.
For more information:
The Humble Little Condom: A History: Prometheus Books
Special Topic: History of Condom Use: Population Action International
Female Condom: Planned Parenthood
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.