Condoms have offered a form of contraceptive for centuries; however they have also long been used as protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How far back the first condom was used is a matter of intense debate and has produced an array of answers. However ancient Greek writer Antoninus Liberalis appears to write of a female condom in 150 AD, with the purpose of protecting against harmful semen as opposed to reducing the risk of pregnancy. In the tale, King Minos of Crete solves his curse (his semen was supposedly filled with snakes and scorpions) through using a goat bladder inserted into his lover.

Whilst “snakes and scorpions” may be a metaphorical STI that King Minos had; the outbreak of Syphilis raging through 16th century Italy is well documented. Fortunately, Italian physician Gabriele Falloppio (whose name the fallopian tube is derived from) created an invention which kept all 1,100 men on whom he trialled his invention safe for the epidemic. Falloppio urged men to wear specially treated linen secured by ribbons to avoid contracting the STI, and thus promoted the use of a very early condom.

Most early condoms, however, were not made of linen but the intestines of animals and fish such as the ones found in the English ruin Dudley Castle; at around 350 years old, these condoms are the oldest ever found. The move to a more familiar model came through the perfecting of industrial rubber production in the mid 19th century, which led to the first synthetic condoms being produced, however they required a great deal of tailoring and fitting. The next technological advance came in 1920 with the invention of latex – rubber suspended in water – which formed stronger, thinner condoms than rubber alone, and spawned the practical, protective condoms we use today.

The endeavours people throughout the ages have undergone to ensure better protection during sexual intercourse, and in many cases saving lives, should be remembered when you “cannot be bothered” to put on a condom. We live in an age of very effective, available and affordable protection; what excuse can anyone possibly give for opting not to use a condom?

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