Colonel Leveson’s Condom
Imagine a dark night in Worcestershire county, England … in the year of our Lord 1646. The dark clouds of Civil War hang ominously over all of England. In Dudley Castle 340 Royalist soldiers are besieged under their commander, Colonel Leveson. The battle of Naseby has been fought and he knows his cause is lost. On May 16th he lead his men out of the castle gates under the midday sun to surrender.
As he lay awake the night before did he look for consolation in the arms of a local wench and then, knowing his likely fate, had he thrown his other five condoms, safely stored inside each other, down the same privy?
In 1980 archaeologists discovered six diaphanous pieces of leather in the ancient castle sewage system. They turned out to be the first condoms ever found although speculative evidence of condom use goes back to 10,000 BC.
Those early condoms afforded some protection from the Great Pox, or syphilis, that was ravaging Europe. It was unlikely that they belonged to any of the soldiers as condoms were expensive. They were made by hand from either sheep or pig’s skin or intestine. The membranes took skill and dedication as they needed to be soaked for hours, scraped and stretched several times to get the correct shape. They were a gentleman’s way of avoiding the embarrassment of pregnancy.
The alternative was the linen condom, recommended by Gabriele Falloppio of Italy. Typically stylish, it offered protection from the ‘French Disease’ (syphilis by yet another name). It consisted of a chemically treated bonnet that covered the glans of the penis, fetchingly held in place by a small ribbon.
By the end of the 18th century condoms had become more widespread and were traded as far as Japan. They came in a variety of sizes and qualities, either linen or ‘skin.’ They were still beyond the means of the masses, who were largely ignorant of their benefits. A condom cost the equivalent of several months of a typical prostitute’s earnings.
‘Skins’ and ‘Rubbers’
Charles Goodyear, the inventor of the vulcanisation process that revolutionised tyre manufacture, died penniless in 1858. However, his process enabled the first rubber condom to be made in 1855. The first ‘rubbers’ were as thick as bike inner tubes and made by hand to the individual’s size. Despite being less sensitive than ‘skins,’ their reuseability made them more economical in the long run.
Wars are always great means of spreading disease and WWI was particularly effective at spreading STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). This lead to condoms becoming part of military standard issue and gaining a wider public acceptance. Sales doubled in the 20s but use began to drop off again as drugs based on penicillin were introduced to tackle STIs. Riding bareback was the favourite method when the odds were even.
Getting into Latex
Latex condoms came on the scene in the late 20s – thinner, stronger and lasting longer … on the shelf (five years compared to three months for rubber). ‘The Durex’ was also cheaper to make as the process could be automated. This lead to condom manufacturers springing up all over the world.
Although the shelf life is longer latex condoms do disintegrate and especially when in contact with oil-based lubes, mineral, baby or vegetable oil or cold cream.
Variety for a Spicy Life
It is still possible to buy condoms made from animal membranes, possibly the only ecofriendly option. For those with a latex or rubber allergy there are other options made from polyurethane, and polyisoprene. They also don’t have that characteristic condom smell.
Manufacturers have also been experimenting with texture for increased pleasure – ribs, rings, and knobs. Try spirals or one that actually twists in use to give the feeling of being really screwed.
Lubrication is another big issue, as condoms tend to promote drying out of natural juices. Accordingly, they now come with and without lubrication, either inside or both in and outside. There are also special additives to increase sensitivity and blood flow (L-arginine), as well as stimulants such as menthol (with breath benefits). Some also offer a numbing agent for those suffering early ejaculation.
However, watch out for N-9 (no relative of K9). This is the active ingredient (nonoxynol-9) of spermicidal lubricant. It can irritate the sensitive tissues of some women’s vulvas and vaginas and increase the risk of infection.
On the Subject of Sensitivity
Remember the inner tubes that started the whole rubber revolution? Well thickness is still an issue. Super thin condoms, from America’s Thinnest to the polyurethane Sagami Original at 0.01mm thickness, claim a more natural experience due to the transmission of body heat.
The wide availability of condoms came about through the mass production of one-size-fits-all. Unfortunately this left 20% of users reporting from mild slippage to complete loss during use. This explains why the claimed 98% effectiveness falls to around 82% in practice amongst the general population. This rate isn’t improved by using both a male and a female condom at the same time, unless the withdrawal method is also used … which begs the question of why begin in the first place?
Manufacturers, it seems, will go to any length to guarantee your pleasure. A good fit affects sensitivity and this is where the thorny subject of penis size raises its ugly head. The answer is bespoke condoms just the way they used to be. It is important to measure your erect member’s length and girth to make sure they fit perfectly.
Added to all this you can also make a moral statement when you purchase by choosing the ‘ethical, fair trade’ condom. And if it’s more to your taste a vegan option from amongst a range that guarantees ‘100% organic fruit flavors’ … to be sampled before, during or after use?
As most condom related activity takes place in low light situations there is now an incandescent option. The Night Light is made from ‘a non-toxic, safe, phosphorous latex’ that glows in the dark.
Whatever your personal situation or partner’s preference there is a condom out there that has been designed to protect you whilst ‘enhancing’ your pleasure.