The earliest known condoms were used by the ancient Egyptians, but the condom as we know it today was first developed by King Charles II, who asked his physician, the Earl of Condom, to invent something to protect him from syphilis. He came up with an oiled sheath made from sheep intestine.
The King's invention caught on, used enthusiastically by his courtiers, and advertised widely, but they became morally controversial. Many argued that condoms lead to the deterioration of the human race by encouraging pre-marital sex, sex with prostitutes and the demise of marriage.
As with all innovations, there were teething troubles, notably with the noblemen who re-used their condoms without washing.
In the 19th century condoms began to be produced from vulcanized rubber, a strong elastic material. However men were instructed to wash their condoms before and after sex, and to reuse them again and again until they cracked or broke, which obviously offers little or no protection from sexually transmitted infections or conception.
Latex manufacturing processes improved in the 1930s to produce a thin, pliant and inexpensive product, similar to the one-use only condoms we use today.
Following widespread use in World War Two, the next challenge for prophylactics involved making them more consumer friendly. The reservoir tip on the skin-tight latex condom was introduced in the early '50s, as was the sensation-deadening condom designed to end premature ejaculation.
In the '80s, the spread of AIDS transformed the condom into an essential sexual accessory, providing highly effective birth control and protecting millions worldwide from infections. These days condoms come in many shapes and sizes, textures, colours, and even different flavours!
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