Prepare for a deep dive into the long, colored, and sometimes flavored, history of the condom.
Condoms are not new inventions, even though you might think they are. Let's see how long they've been successfully protecting people from unwanted pregnancies.
When you think about all the amazing inventions the world has given us over the centuries, condoms definitely rank up there. Ever since early humans figured out that sexual intercourse could result in children-- and that they didn’t come from eating fruits or magical seafoam (like Aphrodite did)-- we were thinking up ways to avoid unwanted pregnancy. The most assured method, of course, would be abstinence, but statistics show that abstinence education versus safe sex education can actually lead to more unwanted pregnancies or STDs. So the next best reliable method would be either pulling out or attempting to track fertility cycles, both of which leave much room for human error. This leaves us with the use of barrier methods or condoms.
Believe it or not, humans have been using some form of barrier protection for longer than most of us think-- and some of the ancient ideas of condoms run the gamut from absurd, to ‘wow that must have been painful.’ So let’s take a deep dive into the history of man’s second-best friend-- which has been preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases for thousands of years.
After we give a rundown of where condoms came from, we’ll share our top picks available today. There are lots of choices when it comes to condoms these days, so we will recommend a couple of our favorites in different condom categories. Keep in mind; there is no “Old School” Condom category, so please, stay away from animal horns.
A Condensed History of Condoms
Way Back When
The oldest known reference to a condom appears on the wall of a cave in France and is dated at around 12,000-15,000 years old. It appears that the man has some sort of animal skin around his penis for protection during sex-- it is unclear how effective this method was, but we can guess. To their credit, there wasn’t much to work with back then as far as condoms went, so this was probably as good as it could get.
The Egyptians were also in the know when it came to putting together that unprotected sex can equate disease or children. Dated from around 3,000 years ago are wall paintings that depict men wearing loincloths to not only protect them from the harsh sun and desert, but it is also speculated that these proto-condoms were worn during sex. We would expect nothing less from the great civilization that gave us pyramids, the Sphinx, and some great beer recipes.
The Greeks and Romans are not to be outdone either when it comes to inventive ways to protect themselves-- instead of animal skins, they tended to use animal bladders and intestines during their sexual adventures (or orgies). There are even references to King Minos of Crete wearing an animal bladder to prevent infection. In the legend he seems to have had an issue with “serpent-bearing semen,” but this exaggeration was probably just code for the fact that he may have had a nasty STD.
Not So Way Back
The historical record on condom use and pictorial depiction seems to fall away until around the Middle Ages in Europe and Asia. Here we find the use of the glans-condom in the 1400s-- which were condoms that just covered the tip of the penis-- and were used only by the Asian upper classes in China and Japan. The Chinese tended to make theirs out of oiled silk paper or animal intestines, while the Japanese favored using tortoise shells or horns. We don’t even want to imagine how many times partners avoided this awful-sounding sex.
In Europe during the 1500s-1600s, people seemed to forget about the disease-preventing nature of condoms, and venereal disease ran rampant among the lower and upper classes. One of the worst was syphilis, and it seemed to spread like wildfire during this time period-- just like the proliferation of illegitimate children of European monarchs.
One inventor, Gabriele Falloppio, decided to do something about it. The man who also gets credit for giving his name to fallopian tubes invented the first linen condom. It was soaked in a chemical solution and tied off at the end of the penis-- and according to tests, were able to prevent the spread of syphilis. The Latin word “condus” which means receptacle, was changed to condon by the English Birth Rate Commission in 1666-- and is the origin for the word we still use today, condom.
Throughout the 1700 and 1800s, condoms made from animal intestines started to become common. They replaced the less comfortable linen condoms and were widely available in pubs and markets. Per usual of this time period, they faced some serious opposition from the Catholic Church-- who deemed their use immoral and insisted that their use promoted sex with many partners. There were also some prudish politicians who fought against their use and legality-- but thankfully the masses kept insisting for more and pushed to make them cheaper as well.
The first rubber condom was invented in 1855 by Charles Goodyear-- who is thankfully credited with moving condoms away from animal parts to vulcanized rubber. They were thicker, but less prone to breakage-- although definitely not as thick as the Goodyear rubber tires his name may bring to mind. Unfortunately, men were told to keep reusing them until they broke-- which is an awful idea. However, rubber condoms were much less expensive and they started to proliferate into the working-class neighborhoods.
The real game-changer came in the 1920s with the invention of latex. This made condoms even safer (and more comfortable) and came in a one-size-fits-most application. It also reduced the cost of condoms even more-- allowing for more people to use them-- and most importantly, not use them more than once.
Even More Modern Times
The latex condom got an upgrade in the mid-20th century when it was sold with included lubrication and a reservoir tip-- which is still used in today. Condoms continued to become safer, more comfortable, and maybe even a little more accepted in society from the 1950s on. However, it wasn’t until the AIDs crisis of the 1980s that condom advertising and the knowledge that condoms protect from STDs were advertised around the world.
From the 1980s on, condoms became ok to talk about and their use was encouraged. Even the Catholic Church after centuries of fighting a losing battle decreed that condoms were a lesser evil, and could be used to help stop the spread of the Zika virus.
Now that we’ve had our history lesson for the day, let’s get down to what we’ve been waiting for-- the best-of lists for, you guessed it, condoms!
Image courtesy of Royal Condoms. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite condom categories for your pleasure!
Top 3 All-Natural Condoms
1. Royal Natural Condom
Royal’s Natural Condom is going to be your new best condom friend. It is ultra-thin and triple-tested for strength. Royal condoms are all-natural and healthy because only be best should be going in and around your body. These condoms are gluten, paraben, and cruelty-free. They are also vegan-friendly and made of organic latex. Designed for climax control, these condoms will let you be your own Energizer Bunny and keep going, and going...
2. Sir Richard’s
Look no further if you’re into all-natural latex that is also approved by PETA. They’ve worked to eliminate that latex odor, and are also vegan certified. Sir Richard’s condoms are rigorously tested to ensure the most pleasure, no matter how adventurous your evening is.
3. Glyde Condoms
These all-natural condoms are also vegan and cruelty-free-- and their ingredients are from fair-trade businesses. You’ll feel like you did your small part to help out the world when you slip on these jackets. They come in all kinds of sizes and are designed to transfer the heat exceptionally well-- so get your glide on already.
Best Flavored Condoms
1. Royal Taster Pack
If you’re looking to have your socks knocked off by a rush of flavor, you’ve got to get your hands on Royal’s Taster Pack. These are for the people who do not like to do ordinary, and who enjoy a little variety in their sex lives.
This pack comes with Royal’s amazing Natural Condom, as well as two flavored ones, in Strawberry and Chocolate. With flavors like these, you get a bit of everything to keep it interesting in the bedroom. These condoms are all tailor-fitted for comfort and are naturally paraben and cruelty-free. Take a walk on the deliciously wild side with these flavored condoms.
If you’re looking for a condom that has a little something extra, consider trying a flavored one, like One Flavor Waves. Be prepared to be transported to the world of creative flavors such as Chocolate Strawberry, Island Punch, and Banana Split (no pun intended). These guys come in a variety pack, so there’s always something new to try. Make sure also to check out their condom carrying case, which can hold up to four condoms.
3. Manforce Flavored Condoms
India’s number one selling condom comes in all types of flavors-- including strawberry, chocolate, and yes, even black grapes. Because sometimes you’re just really craving the taste of black grapes? Well, apparently someone is! This company also features flavorful stamina condoms, specially designed to help you last longer, helping you go the extra mile. These come in orange and pineapple flavors, and truly put a new twist on citrus. Perfect for that upcoming beach vacation!
Best Condoms for Same-Sex Partners
1. Beyond Seven Condoms
If you and your partner are looking for condoms made out of the highest quality materials that are designed for the utmost pleasure, Beyond Seven Condoms are for you. These jimmies are made from Sheerlon, which is known around the world as one of the thinnest barriers-- and can offer a dramatic difference in feel. Be prepared for some amazing sensations!
2. Crown Skinless Condoms
The number one selling condom in Japan is also one of the most loved among men with same-sex partners. These condoms are also made from Sheerlon, which is one of the world’s strongest, yet thinnest shields-- sure to give you some great sensations. You’ll almost forget you’re wearing a condom-- which of course you are!
3. Caution Wear Iron Grip Condoms
If you demand a close, snugger fit for your pleasure, Iron Grip Condoms are the way to go. These condoms almost feel to be tailor-made to your shape, offering some of the closest sensations you’ve ever felt. This slim-fit condom won’t budge while you and your partner are having fun-- and the silicone-based lubricant ensures everything goes smoothly without any interruption.
Ribbed For Pleasure Condoms
1. Rough Rider
For those nights when your girl wants to be a cowgirl, the Rough Rider is going to be her new best friend. These condoms have more studs than your jean jacket from 1987. It’s covered in grooves and bumps that are designed for her pleasure. They’re fitted a little tighter for men’s pleasure as well, so you’re both guaranteed to have a night of pleasure that neither of you will soon forget. You may have just found your new go-to condom.
2. Skyn Extra Studded
For an intense night of pleasure, make sure you have Skyn Extra Studded at the ready when it’s go time. These condoms are ribbed and studded to form a wave-like pattern, sure to blow your girl’s mind. The waves are designed to stimulate her most sensitive areas and are sure to be her favorite for round two, and probably round three.
3. Lelo Hex
Technology is amazing-- we know this because no longer are condoms made out of animal intestines (see condom history above). The people at luxury sex boutique Lelo Hex have taken condom technology into the 21st century with their hexagonal condom. The hexagonal structure is one of the strongest and symmetrical shapes around-- just look at how indestructible honeycombs can be. These condoms are made for pleasure-- and are some of the lightest you can get.
For Those Looking for Non-Latex Condoms
1. Unique Pull Non-Latex
The invention of latex was the best thing to happen to condoms-- however, some people have an allergy to the stuff. It can result in itchy skin and hives, and nobody wants to worry about that when they’re ready for a night of fun. Unique Pull offers some of the thinnest, latex-free condoms on the market. It’s made of synthetic polyethylene resin so that you can have an amazing time, without the unsexiness itchiness of an allergic reaction. These condoms are also odorless, transparent, and of course, vegan.
2. Lambskin Condoms
Say you’re in a heterosexual relationship and you’re looking for a condom that is just for pregnancy prevention, then why not throw it back and try a condom made from the thin membrane of a sheep’s intestine? Sound appetizing yet? These types of condoms should really only be used for couples who have already been screened for STDs since they do nothing to protect the wearer from diseases. They’re usually on the pricier side as well, but they do transmit heat between partners better than their latex equivalents, so there’s that at least.
3. Skyn Original
These condoms feel just like your own skin-- hence the clever name. There are a couple of different types in the Skyn line, but the Skyn Original is going to be one of your favorite latex-free condoms. These condoms are incredibly soft, and they should be since they are designed to mimic the intimacy of skin on skin. Leave out the latex and enjoy the fully lubricated awesomeness of these condoms.
You might not be aware of it, but there are single-use internal condoms available for the ladies. FC2 female condoms are latex-free, fully lubricated, and provided proven protection against both unwanted pregnancy and STDs. They also feel amazing to both partners. This is amazing news for women who aren’t interested in hormonal birth control and still want the freedom of choice and safety that condoms bring. That seems like a win-win situation for all parties involved!
1. One Glow in the Dark Condoms
Who says that condoms can’t be safe, effective, and a little silly at the same time? Of course, you want to try a glow in the dark condom because really why not? All you have to do is expose these guys to light about 30 seconds before you put it on, and you’re ready for some neon fun. These condoms are made from a non-toxic phosphorous pigment that is layered between the latex, so they’re just as safe as the less adventurous condoms.
2. Condom Lollipops
Because what says I’m ready for a sexy night than the sweet treat you used to get at the doctor’s office as a child. Yes, these silly lollipop-shaped condoms are a thing. This would be a great way to switch it up a little in the bedroom-- and may make both of you crack up at the same time. We have a feeling sales in these little guys spike around February 14th of every year, then quickly get lost or thrown out.
3. Condoms for the Holidays
Businesses will literally put holiday designs on anything-- including condoms. That’s right, make sure you pick up your holiday-themed package of condoms before the yearly rush, the day after Thanksgiving. It’s the gift that keeps on giving-- hopefully more than just once a year.
Humans throughout history have always wanted amazing sexual experiences-- and condoms have given us a way to make them fun and safe at the same time. The next time you go to purchase condoms-- no matter what your fancy is-- don’t be embarrassed, just remember you’re a part of a long and proud line of condom users! And be grateful it isn’t made of tortoiseshell.