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This is a background article. See Psychological aspects of condom use

Condom rolled
A rolled-up condom
B.C. type Barrier
First use 1994 (polyurethane)
1912 (latex)
1855 (rubber)
Ancient (other materials)
Failure rates (per year)
Perfect use 2%
Typical use 10–18%
User reminders Damaged by oil-based lubricants
STD protection Yes
Benefits No external drugs or clinic visits required
Weight gain ?

A condom is a contraceptive device, usually made of latex, or more recently polyurethane, that is used during sexual intercourse. It is put on a man's erect penis and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering the body of a sexual partner. Condoms are used to prevent pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs—such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV).


Male condoms are usually packaged inside a foil wrapper, in a rolled-up form, and are designed to be applied to the tip of the penis and then rolled over the erect penis.

As a method of contraception, condoms have the advantage of being easy to use, inexpensive, having few side-effects, and of offering protection against sexually transmitted diseases. With proper knowledge and application technique—and use at every act of intercourse—condom users experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate.[1] Condoms may be combined with other forms of contraception (such as spermicide) for greater protection.[2]

Some couples find that putting on a male condom interrupts sex, although others incorporate condom application as part of their foreplay. Some men and women find the physical barrier of a condom dulls sensation. Advantages of dulled sensation can include prolonged erection and delayed ejaculation.[3]; disadvantages might include a loss of the erection, or a loss of the pleasure of sexual actions


Most condoms have a reservoir tip, making it easier to leave space for the man's ejaculate. Condoms also come in different sizes, from magnum to snug. Mass produced condoms vary hardly at all in width, but vary significantly in length [How to reference and link to summary or text]


Condom unrolled durex

An unrolled latex condom

Latex condoms are the most distributed type of condom in the world and there are thousands of variants in regards to size, thickness, and texture. The most popular variants of the standard condom are condoms with a ribbed or studded texture, those that come in different colors or scents, and those marketed as larger sized condoms.[4] There are also condoms available that are lubricated with a very small amount of Benzocaine (usually under 4%). The use of Benzocaine with the lubrication on the inside of the condom produces a slight numbing sensation for the man and is meant to help him prolong sexual activity before climax.[5] Currently the thinnest latex condom stands at 0.03mm thick.[6]


Latex condoms used with oil-based lubricants (e.g. vaseline) are likely to slip off due to loss of elasticity caused by the oils.[7]

Some latex condoms are lubricated at the manufacturer with a small amount of a nonoxynol-9, a spermicidal chemical. According to Consumer Reports, spermicidally lubricated condoms have no additional benefit in preventing pregnancy, have a shorter shelf life, and may cause urinary-tract infections in women.[8] In contrast, application of separately packaged spermicide is believed to increase the contraceptive efficacy of condoms.[2]

Nonoxynol-9 was once believed to offer additional protection against STDs (including HIV) but recent studies have shown that, with frequent use, nonoxynol-9 may increase the risk of HIV transmission.[9] The World Health Organization says that spermicidally lubricated condoms should no longer be promoted. However, they recommend using a nonoxynol-9 lubricated condom over no condom at all.[10] As of 2005, nine condom manufacturers have stopped manufacturing condoms with nonoxynol-9, Planned Parenthood has discontinued the distribution of condoms so lubricated,[11] and the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a warning regarding this issue.[12]


Latex has outstanding elastic properties. Tensile strength exceeds 30 MPa. Condoms may be stretched in excess of 800% before breaking.[13]

In 1990 the ISO set standards for production (ISO 4074, Natural latex rubber condoms) and the EU followed suit with its CEN standard (Directive 93/42/EEC concerning medical devices). Latex condoms are tested for holes with an electrical current. If the condom passes, it is rolled and packaged. Batches of condoms are tested for breakage with air inflation tests.[14]

Health issues[]

Dry dusting powders are applied to latex condoms before packaging to prevent the condom from sticking to itself when rolled up. Previously, talc was used by most manufacturers, however cornstarch is currently the most popular dusting powder.[15] Talc is known to be toxic if it enters the abdominal cavity (i.e. via the vagina). Cornstarch is generally believed to be safe, however some researchers have raised concerns over its use.[15][16]

Nitrosamines, which are potentially carcinogenic in humans,[17] are believed to be present in a substance used to improve elasticity in latex condoms.[18] A 2001 review stated that humans regularly receive 1,000 to 10,000 times greater nitrosamine exposure from food and tobacco than from condom use and concluded that the risk of cancer from condom use is very low.[19] However, a 2004 study in Germany detected nitrosamines in 29 out of 32 condom brands tested, and concluded that exposure from condoms might exceed the exposure from food by 1.5- to 3-fold.[18][20]

Other materials[]


See also: AT-10 Resin

Polyurethane condoms can be thinner than latex condoms, with some polyurethane condoms only 0.02 mm thick.[21] Polyurethane is also the material of many female condoms.

Polyurethane can be considered better than latex in several ways: it conducts heat better than latex, is not as sensitive to temperature and ultraviolet light (and so has less rigid storage requirements and a longer shelf life), can be used with oil-based lubricants, is less allergenic than latex, and does not have an odor.[22] Polyurethane condoms have gained FDA approval for sale in the United States as an effective method of contraception and HIV prevention, and under laboratory conditions have been shown to be just as effective as latex for these purposes.[23]

However, polyurethane condoms may be more likely to slip or break than latex,[22][24] and are more expensive.


Condoms made from one of the oldest condom materials, labeled "lambskin" (made from lamb intestines) are still available. They have a greater ability to transmit body warmth and tactile sensation, when compared to synthetic condoms, and are less allergenic than latex. However, conventional wisdom holds that there is an increased risk of transmitting STDs compared to latex because of pores in the material, which are thought to be large enough to allow infectious agents to pass through, albeit blocking the passage of sperm. Lambskin condoms are frequently called ineffective with regards to preventing sexually transmitted diseases. [25] Nonetheless, hard data regarding the alleged lack of efficacy are lacking. Although a search of the PubMed database of medical literature does not demonstrate any clinical trials demonstrating that lambskin condoms have decreased efficacy, at least one study does suggest that use of non-latex condoms is associated with higher rates of breakage and slippage. [1]

While it may make sense to portray lambskin condoms as simply "ineffective" for the sake of simplicity in educational settings, it is more accurate to state that there are solid scientific reasons to expect lambskin condoms will be less effective in preventing STDs than latex and poluyrethane, though the degree of such presumed decreased efficacy is not known. It is unlikely that lambskin condoms would be "ineffective" in preventing STDs; for example, the risk of transmitting a disease through depositing 1.5 to 5 mLs of ejaculate directly into a partner's body cavity without the use of any barrier protection would be anticipated to be greater than the risk involved in depositing such ejaculate into a lambskin barrier within a body cavity, with the barrier subsequently removed from the body cavity along with all or virtually all of the ejaculate.

Because the degree of efficacy of lambskin condoms has not been rigorously investigated and because there exists a solid rationale to expect them to have decreased efficacy, it is prudent to treat them as not effective. If one has concerns about the possibility of STD transmission, it is prudent to use latex or polyurethane condoms, rather than lambskin condoms.


The Invisible Condom, developed at Université Laval in Québec, Canada, is a gel that hardens upon increased temperature after insertion into the vagina or rectum. In the lab, it has been shown to effectively block HIV and herpes simplex virus. The barrier breaks down and liquefies after several hours. The invisible condom is in the clinical trial phase, and has not yet been approved for use.[26]

As reported on Swiss television news Schweizer Fernsehen on November 29, 2006, the German scientist Jan Vinzenz Krause of the Institut für Kondom-Beratung ("Institute for Condom Consultation") in Germany recently developed a spray-on condom and is test-marketing it. Krause says the advantages to his spray-on condom, which is reported to dry in about 5 seconds, is that it is perfectly formed to each penis.[27][28]


In preventing pregnancy[]

The effectiveness of condoms, as of most forms of contraception, can be assessed two ways. Perfect use or method effectiveness rates only include people who use condoms properly and consistently. Actual use, or typical use effectiveness rates are of all condom users, including those who use condoms improperly, inconsistently, or both. Rates are generally presented for the first year of use.[1] Most commonly the Pearl Index is used to calculate effectiveness rates, but some studies use decrement tables.[29]

The typical use pregnancy rate among condom users varies depending on the population being studied, ranging from 10–18% per year.[30] The perfect use pregnancy rate of condoms is 2% per year.[1]

Several factors account for typical use effectiveness being lower than perfect use effectiveness:

  • mistakes on the part of those providing instructions on how to use the method
  • mistakes on the part of the user
  • conscious user non-compliance with instructions.

For instance, someone using condoms might be given incorrect information on what lubricants are safe to use with condoms, or by mistake put the condom on improperly, or simply not bother to use a condom.

In preventing STDs[]

See also: HIV#Transmission

Condoms are widely recommended for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They have been shown to be effective in reducing infection rates in both men and women. While not perfect, the condom is effective at reducing the transmission of HIV, genital herpes, genital warts, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other diseases.[31]

According to a 2000 report by the National Institutes of Health, correct and consistent use of latex condoms reduces the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by approximately 85% relative to risk when unprotected. The same review also found condom use significantly reduces the risk of gonorrhea for men.[32]

A 2006 study reports that proper condom use decreases the risk of transmission for human papilloma virus by approximately 70%.[33] Another study in the same year found consistent condom use was effective at reducing transmission of herpes simplex virus-2 also known as genital herpes, in both men and women.[34]

Although a condom is effective in limiting exposure, some disease transmission may occur even with a condom. Areas of the genitals hosting an infection may not be covered by a condom, and as a result, some diseases can be transmitted by direct contact.[35] The primary effectiveness issue with using condoms to prevent STDs, however, is inconsistent use.[14]

Causes of failure[]

Wikibooks has more about this subject:
Use of male condoms

Condom users may experience slipping off the penis after ejaculation,[36] breakage due to faulty methods of application or physical damage (such as tears caused when opening the package), or breakage or slippage due to latex degradation (typically from being past the expiration date or being stored improperly). Even if no breakage or slippage is observed, 1–2% of women will test positive for semen residue after intercourse with a condom.[37][38]

Different modes of condom failure result in different levels of semen exposure. Failures that occur during application generally pose no risk to the user.[39] One study found that semen exposure from a broken condom was about half that of unprotected intercourse; semen exposure from a slipped condom was about one-fifth that of unprotected intercourse.[40]

Standard condoms will fit almost any penis, although many condom manufacturers offer "snug" or "magnum" sizes. Some studies have associated larger penises and smaller condoms with increased breakage and decreased slippage rates (and vice versa), but other studies have been inconclusive.[7] Ethnic differences may play a role in correct sizing; a small exploratory portion of a 2006 Indian Council of Medical Research study concluded that standard condom sizes were too large for many among India's men.[41]

Experienced condom users are significantly less likely to have a condom slip or break compared to first-time users, although users who experience one slippage or breakage are at increased risk of a second such failure.[42] An article in Population Reports suggests that education on condom use reduces behaviors that increase the risk of breakage and slippage.[43] A Family Health International publication also offers the view that education can reduce the risk of breakage and slippage, but emphasizes that more research needs to be done to determine all of the causes of breakage and slippage.[7]

Among couples that intend condoms to be their form of birth control, pregnancy may occur when the couple does not use a condom. The couple may have run out of condoms, or be traveling and not have a condom with them, or simply dislike the feel of condoms and decide to "take a chance." This type of behavior is the primary cause of typical use failure (as opposed to method or perfect use failure).[44]

Another possible cause of condom failure is sabotage. One motive is to have a child against a partner's wishes or consent.[45] Some commercial sex workers report clients sabotaging condoms in retaliation for being coerced into condom use.[46] Placing pinholes in the tip of the condom is believed to significantly impact their effectiveness.[38][47]

Female condoms[]

Préservatif féminin

Female condom

Main article: female condom

Recently "female condoms" or "femidoms" have become available. They are larger and wider than male condoms but equivalent in length. They have a flexible ring-shaped opening, and are designed to be inserted into the vagina. They also contain an inner ring which aids insertion and helps keep the condom from sliding out of the vagina during coitus. The condom is made from polyurethane or nitrile.

Role in sex education[]


How to put on a condom

Condoms are often used in sexual education programs, because they have the capability to reduce the chances of pregnancy and the spread of some sexually transmitted diseases when used correctly. A recent American Psychological Association (APA) press release supported the inclusion of information about condoms in sex education, saying "comprehensive sexuality education programs... discuss the appropriate use of condoms", and "promote condom use for those who are sexually active."[48]

In the United States, teaching about condoms in public schools is opposed by some religious organizations.[49] Groups such as Planned Parenthood, which advocate family planning and sexual education, argue that religious opposition to teaching about condoms results in increased number of unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs.

Position of the Roman Catholic Church[]

The Catholic Church directly condemns only artificial birth control, and sexual acts aside from intercourse between married heterosexual partners. The use of condoms to combat STDs is not specifically addressed by Catholic doctrine, and is currently a topic of debate among high-ranking Catholic authorities. A few, such as Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, believe the Catholic Church should actively support condoms used to prevent disease, especially serious diseases such as AIDS. However, to date statements from the Vatican have argued that condom-promotion programs encourage promiscuity, thereby actually increasing STD transmission.[50] Papal study of the issue is ongoing, and a 200-page document on the use of condoms to combat AIDS is being prepared for Pope Benedict's review.[51]

Use in infertility treatment[]

Common procedures in infertility treatment such as semen analysis and intrauterine insemination (IUI) require collection of semen samples. These are most commonly obtained through masturbation, but an alternative to masturbation is use of a special collection condom to collect sperm emissions during sexual intercourse.

Collection condoms are made from silicone or polyurethane, as latex is somewhat harmful to sperm. Many men prefer collection condoms to masturbation. Also, compared to samples obtained from masturbation, semen samples from collection condoms have higher total sperm counts, sperm motility, and percentage of sperm with normal morphology. For this reason, they are believed to give more accurate results when used for semen analysis, and to improve the chances of pregnancy when used in procedures such as IUI.[52]

The Catholic Church teaches that masturbation is immoral. For observant Catholics, collection condoms are the only morally permissible way to obtain semen samples. Most Catholics put two or three pinholes in the collection condom to avoid violating the Catholic prohibition on artificial birth control.[47]

Condom therapy is sometimes prescribed to infertile couples when the female has high levels of antisperm antibodies. The theory is that preventing exposure to her partner's semen will lower her level of antisperm antibodies, and thus increase her chances of pregnancy when condom therapy is discontinued. However, condom therapy has not been shown to increase subsequent pregnancy rates.[53]


Condom on Obelisk, Buenos Aires

A 67 m long "condom" on the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of an awareness campaign for the 2005 World AIDS Day


Open sales are encouraged in some jurisdictions

Condoms are more accessible in developed countries. In various cultures, a number of social or economic factors make access to condoms prohibitive. In some cases, cultural beliefs may cause some persons to shun condoms deliberately even when they are available.[54]

Furthermore, regardless of culture and availability, many men shun condoms simply because they dislike using them. This dislike may be due to reduced sexual pleasure or to practical problems, e.g. difficulty in sustaining an erection hard enough for effective condom use.

Because they are generally available without a valid prescription, and because they are very effective in reducing the spread of sexually transmitted disease, condoms tend to be especially popular among younger men, those who are not in exclusive partnerships, and newly-formed monogamous couples. Often, once a steady relationship has deepened, the woman may begin to use hormonal or some other type of highly effective contraceptive, at which time condom use typically (though not always) comes to an end. Ideally, however, this should not occur until blood tests have shown both partners to be free of infection.

Most research has revealed, through survey, four factors which establish the minimal use of condoms: various encumbering beliefs, reduced sexual pleasure, adverse experiences, and fears related to gender and tensions. New technology and beneficial studies have come forth that combat these various factors, however only a small proportion of individuals world-wide actually practice safe sex[2]. This noticeable gap has led several investigators to analyze whether social factors might be involved such as a residual social stigma attached to condoms.

In broad detail, social factors range from geographical location to race, and become as specified as methamphetamine versus non-drug users, so correlations within this research are not always strong and accurate, but it does establish that correlations do exist.

Geographic location[]

Several regions provide examples of social factors influencing the use of condoms within their populace. Two examples which contrast the effects of similar problems are South Africa and rural Lebanon.

South Africa has some of the highest HIV rates in the world, so there the statistics on condom use are being studied heavily. As of 2001, the 21-25 year age group has the peak rate of infection at 43.1%.[55] These studies became more specified and it was discovered that despite all the information known today about HIV and the spread of infection, many young people of the study did not feel that they were in danger of contracting this disease. In fact, only 30% of people, males and females, felt they had any risk of contracting HIV at all. Of those that said they felt there was any chance of contracting HIV, only 12.9% thought there was a moderate chance, and 17.6% thought they had a good chance of infection. It seems that even though the youth of South Africa do have a relatively high level of knowledge concerning the risk factors of getting HIV, many feel that it simply won't happen to them. Many of the factors found in South Africa apply to well developed countries of the world and these new findings hopefully will help shape future campaigns against decreased condom use in the future.

Another end of the spectrum are the rural areas of Lebanon in the Middle East. Generally, the use of condoms and other forms of contraceptives in the Middle East is low even though there is a growing awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.[56] A study revealed that only twenty-four percent of the women in the regions ever used a condom. A household survey was also done on condom use which found that ninety-eight percent of women had indeed heard of contraceptive methods, but only eighty-five percent of the women had heard of condoms. Some things to keep in mind also are that women in this culture are not expected to have knowledge or express openly knowledge of contraceptives or even sexuality. Also some background that is needed on the group surveyed is that the marital fertility rate of the surveyed women were about five children per woman, and each of the women had a different level of education. About sixty-one percent had intermediate-level education, twenty percent had a primary education, and eighteen percent had trouble reading or could not read at all. This provides evidence that condom use varies dependent on social factors like the area’s cultural background and education.

It should be noted that largely the variances in geographical location are highly affected by culture and cultural beliefs, as well as class and race, but also have dynamic influences resounding from economic yield for the area, use and expansion of communication, and other criteria. These social factors can again be examined in South Africa and rural Lebanon:

An example is that in South Africa, it was discovered that condom availability is a problem for young adults.[55] Although condoms are given away by local clinics, many participants stated that there are instances when they found themselves without condoms because they never know when they are going to need one. Thus, this higher economic region has properly developed health services; they are just not being properly utilized by the public.

Opposing in the lower economic region of rural Lebanon, another reason for the lack of condom use is that public health services and family planning services are very inadequately developed. A health service that is trying to help is the Lebanese Family Planning Association but their funding is very limited and recently they have not been able to increase its budget to promote more complete reproductive health service.

Despite these specific social factors contributing to the differences between these regions and others, most research has identified issues such as trust and gender power in relationships and others as socially relevant to almost all countries worldwide.

Anti-condom trends[]

Studies have shown baby boomers are increasingly contracting sexually transmitted diseases because they choose not to wear condoms. The analogy of being "like wearing a raincoat in a shower" describes, what is for many men, its anasthetic effect. A method to reduce this effect is to retract the foreskin as much as possible while putting it on. Afterward, the condom will have wrinkles that allow the foreskin to move more during intercourse.

Many have been married, and separated, and now have multiple sexual partners.[57] Several reasons for this choice are given. Since the women are no longer capable of conceiving children, they do not see the large risk in not protecting themselves, and thus the importance of a condom becomes minimal. Also, since many of them have just come out of a long term relationship, they are starting over and they are too uncomfortable with their new partner to ask them to use a condom.

The practice of barebacking in Western gay culture is another example of a trend away from condoms. Barebacking partners often know that they could reduce their risk of sexually transmitted infection by using a condom, but choose not to do so.[58]

Laws and policies restricting condoms[]


In Ireland, condoms (and other contraceptives) were originally available only to those with a doctor's prescription (finding a doctor willing to prescribe them was very difficult—almost impossible if one was unmarried) or via the black market (usually smuggled from Northern Ireland). This was later altered to being available only to those over the age of 18 in pharmacies in 1985. Sale outside of pharmacies was only legalised in 1993, although stores such as the Virgin Megastore had in fact been selling them openly since 1988. The age limitations were also removed in 1993.


The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, and the Catholic Church is a powerful force in Philippine politics. The Church teaches that only natural family planning methods are moral ways to prevent pregnancy, and opposes promotion of condoms for any purpose.

While condoms are legal in the Philippines, the government will not promote them or pay for their distribution. As of 2004, several local officials—including the mayor of Manila—had banned distribution of condoms in government health facilities, and some locations even ban government health workers from discussing condoms.[59]


In 2003, a powerful Somalian Muslim group banned selling or using condoms in Somalia. The punishments for violating this include flogging.[60]


Condoms were never banned in Iran although their public sale was frowned upon after the Islamic revolution of 1979. Despite being an Islamic theocracy, faced with a boom in the population after the revolution, government has quietly encouraged and supported the use and sale of condoms in the country in the past decade. They can now be legally obtained and in fact Iran has one of the largest condom factories in the Middle East.[3]


Condoms were encouraged in Pakistan by the government by giving inexpensive government made condoms under the "Sabaz Sitara" campaign (Green Star). However, they were of poor quality. Condoms are widely available in pharmacies throughout the country and there is no restriction on the use. Unlike many countries, the focus is on preventing pregnancy rather than STDs. Condoms do not get the promotion they do in other countries because STDs are a much smaller, but growing, concern. Other contraceptives such as birth control pills and IUD devices are more promoted.


Used condoms should be wrapped up in tissue and disposed of. Flushing down the toilet may cause environmental damage. A new condom should be used if having sex more than once.[61]

Environmental impact[]

While biodegradable, latex condoms damage the environment when disposed of improperly. According to the Ocean Conservancy, these condoms cover the coral reefs and smother sea grass and other bottom dwellers. The EPA also has expressed concerns that many animals might mistake the litter for food.[62]

Condoms made of polyurethane, a plastic material, do not break down at all. There have been no studies to determine if lubricated condoms take longer to biodegrade than non-lubricated ones, but it is believed that their landfill mass is negligible.[63]


Etymological theories for the word "condom" abound. It has been claimed to be from the Latin word condon, meaning receptacle.[64] One author argues that "condom" is derived from the Latin word condamina, meaning house.[65] It has also been speculated to be from the Italian word guantone, derived from guanto, meaning glove.[66]

Folk etymology claims that the word "condom" is derived from a purported "Dr. Condom" or "Quondam", who made the devices for King Charles II of England. There is no verifiable evidence that any such "Dr. Condom" existed.[66] It is also hypothesized that a British army officer named Cundum popularized the device between 1680 and 1717.[67] Other stories tell the word "condom" has its root in the 16th century: in particular, when Catherine de Medici married Henry II of France, she brought to France her minister Gondi and the architect Bernardo Buontalenti. Gondi and Buontalenti started producing special waxed protections to be used as condoms. The French soon called them "gondon"; "gondone" is today still used as a synonym of "condom" in Genova, Italy; "goldone", another variation, is still used in Milan, Italy.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

William E. Kruck wrote an article in 1981 concluding that, "As for the word 'condom', I need state only that its origin remains completely unknown, and there ends this search for an etymology."[68] Modern dictionaries may also list the etymology as "unknown".[69]

Other terms[]

Condom box durex

A box of Durex condoms sold in a UK chemist's shop

In North America condoms are also commonly known as prophylactics or rubbers. In Britain they may be called French letters.[70]

Condoms may also be referred to using the manufacturer's name e.g. Durex. In India they are called Nirodh, a government-promoted brand, or KS (after a condom brand name KamaSutra).


Condom 1900

A condom made from animal hide circa 1900

An Egyptian drawing of a condom being worn has been found to be 3,000 years old. It is unknown, however, if the Egyptian pictured wearing the device intended to use it for contraception, or for ritual purposes.[64]

In 16th century Italy, Gabriele Falloppio authored the first-known published description of condom use for disease prevention. He recommended soaking cloth sheaths in a chemical solution and allowing them to dry prior to use.[71]

The oldest condoms found (rather than just pictures or descriptions) are from 1640, discovered in Dudley Castle in England. They were made of animal intestine, and it is believed they were used for STD prevention.[64]

In 18th Spanish erotic verse, condoms are mentioned as available and sold in packages, albeit under the veil of secrecy from various vendors. In a poem El arte de las putas by Nicolás Fernández de Moratín the condom is attributed to the English, while its invention is attributed to a friar who devised it for protection in a brothel.

In 19th century Japan, both leather condoms and condoms made of tortoise shells or horns were available.[71]

The rubber vulcanization process was patented by Charles Goodyear in 1844, and the first rubber condom was produced in 1855.[72] These early rubber condoms were 1-2mm thick and had seams down the sides.[71] Although they were reusable, these early rubber condoms were also expensive.

Distribution of condoms in the United States was limited by passage of the Comstock Act in 1873. This law prohibited transport through the postal service of any instructional material or devices intended to prevent pregnancy. Condoms were available by prescription, although legally they were only supposed to be prescribed to prevent disease rather than pregnancy.[64] The Comstock Act remained in force until it was largely overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1936.

In 1912, a German named Julius Fromm developed a new manufacturing technique for condoms: dipping glass molds into the raw rubber solution. This enabled the production of thinner condoms with no seams. Fromm's Act was the first branded line of condoms, and Fromms is still a popular line of condoms in Germany today.[72] By the 1930s, the manufacturing process had improved to produce single-use condoms almost as thin and inexpensive as those currently available.[71]

Condoms were not made available to U.S. soldiers in World War I, and a significant number of returning soldiers carried sexually transmitted infections. During World War II, however, condoms were heavily promoted to soldiers, with one film exhorting "Don't forget — put it on before you put it in."[64] In part because condoms were readily available, soldiers found a number of non-sexual uses for the devices, many of which continue to be utilized to this day.

Other uses[]

Condoms excel as multipurpose containers because they are waterproof, elastic, durable, and will not arouse suspicion if found. Ongoing military utilization begun during World War II includes:

  • Tying a non-lubricated condom around the muzzle of the rifle barrel in order to prevent barrel fouling by keeping out detritus.[73]
  • The OSS used condoms for a plethora of applications, from storing corrosive fuel additives and wire garrotes (with the T-handles removed) to holding the acid component of a self-destructing film canister, to finding use in improvised explosives.[74]
  • Navy SEALs have used doubled condoms, sealed with neoprene cement, to protect non-electric firing assemblies for underwater demolitions—leading to the term "Dual Waterproof Firing Assemblies."[75]
  • Spies during the Cold War used condoms to protect ultra-miniature Minox cameras and film for covert storage and transport.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Other uses of condoms include:

  • Condoms have been used to waterproof boxes of matches and kindling, often by hikers and campers.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
  • Condoms can be used to hold water in emergency survival situations.[76] The British SAS carry condoms as a method for carrying water in these emergencies.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
  • Condoms have also been used in many cases to smuggle cocaine and other drugs across borders and into prisons by filling the condom with drugs, tying it in a knot and then either swallowing it or inserting it into the rectum. These methods are very dangerous, for example if the condom breaks the drugs inside can cause an overdose.[77]
  • In his book entitled Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams reported having used a condom to protect a microphone he used to make an underwater recording. According to one of his travelling companions, this is standard BBC practice when a waterproof microphone is needed but cannot be procured.
  • Condoms are used with wireless microphone belt packs to prevent sweat from entering the electronics.
  • Condoms are used by engineers to keep soil samples dry during soil tests.[78]
  • Foot travelers in Amazonic South America wear condoms when wading through water to prevent a small catfish known as candirú from swimming into the urethra. The fish is attracted to the scent of blood and urine.[79]
  • In movies like The Incredible Shrinking Man, condoms filled with water are a cheap way to simulate giant raindrops.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
  • In special effects, condoms are often used as containers for fake blood on actors, bursting open upon detonation with a squib to simulate gunshot wounds.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
  • Condoms are used to cover endovaginal ultrasound probes for sanitary reasons during medical ultrasound examinations.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
  • Condoms are used as a one way valve by paramedics when performing a chest decompression in the field. The decompression needle is inserted through the condom, and inserted into the chest. The condom folds over the hub allowing air to exit the chest, but preventing it from entering.[80]
  • Condoms are used by geological engineers when using displacement rods/probes to measure soil resistance by the cone penetration test method. The condom is unrolled over the pointed metal probe head to protect delicate sensors near the tip during the initial penetration.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hatcher, RA; Trussel J, Stewart F, et al (2000). Contraceptive Technology, 18th Edition, New York: Ardent Media. ISBN 0-9664902-6-6.
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Birth control edit

Natural methods: Coitus interruptus, Fertility awareness methods: Natural family planning, BBT, Billings, Creighton, Rhythm Method, Lactational.

Avoidance Methods: Celibacy, Abstinence. Barrier: Condom, Diaphragm, Shield, Cap, Sponge. Intra-uterine: IUD, IUS (also progesterone).

Hormonal: Combined: COCP pill, Patch, Vag.Ring. Progesterone only: POP mini-pill, Depo Provera. Implants: Norplant, Implanon.

Post-intercourse: Emergency contraception & Abortion methods: Surgical, Chemical, Herbal/Drug. Sterilization: Tubal ligation, Vasectomy.

Category contraceptive devices