Term Paper: History of Condoms

Pages: 15 (3851 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The labor-intensive process meant that the products were correspondingly expensive (though reusable) and thus only available to a limited proportion of the population."

In 1844, Goodyear, a company best known for its tires, and Hancock started producing condoms out of vulcanized rubber (Parisot, 1987, p. 21). Vulcanization is a process that treats crude rubber with sulfur and subjects it to intense heat, transforming it into a strong elastic material. Companies like Goodyear may have given the condom a new nickname that is still widely used today (" a rubber"), but these rubber condoms were much different than the ones used in modern society.

Men were instructed to wash their condoms before and after sex, and to reuse them until they broke. Today, we know that this is a dangerous practice. Still, regardless of the flaws of the rubber condom, this invention was the beginning of the prevalence of the condom that we see today.

Still, when the vulcanization of rubber, cheaper condoms were produced in greater quantity, making them widely available to the public (Hall, 2001). The first rubber condoms were seamed but around the beginning of the twentieth century, condoms were produced by dipping glass moulds into liquid rubber. Various forms of condoms were created, such as the teat-ended condom and the "American" condom, which covered the glands only.

However, despite mass production, condoms were still largely unavailable to the poorest people. In addition, many people disregarded them as coarse, clumsy and unaesthetic (Hall, 2001). In addition, there was a pervasive feeling that the condom was an immoral attempt to interfere with the laws of God and nature. The device was seen as a high level of liberalism. Thus, the attempts of liberal propagandists to promote the social benefits of condoms as birth control were ruined by their association with freethinking secularism.

Challenges to Early Condoms

The American Social Hygiene Association tried desperately to prohibit condom use in the early part of the 20th century (Knowles, 2003). Social hygienists held the opinion that anyone willing to risk getting sexual diseases should suffer the consequences, including the U.S. soldiers who fought in World War I.

The American Expeditionary Forces, the formal name for the armed forces, were the only armed forces involved in the war that were denied the use of condoms. For this reason, American troops had the highest rates (70%) of sexually transmitted infections of all.

The Secretary of the Navy was only one of many military leaders who felt that condom use was immoral and "un-Christian (Knowles, 2003)." It was a young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, when his boss was away from the office, distributed prophylactic kits to help sailors treat venereal infections that they could have prevented with condoms.

Early advocates of condoms faced many challenges. For example, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, faced the problem of a standard regarding condom use. Doctors were allowed to "prescribe" condoms to protect men from syphilis and gonorrhea when they had sexual intercourse (Knowles, 2003). Women, however, were not permitted to obtain condoms to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexual diseases.

Sanger produced a pamphlet, called "What Every Girl Should Know," which discussed topics like physical growth, mental development, puberty, menstruation, sexual impulses, reproduction, hygiene of pregnancy, and various venereal diseases (Sanger, 1914, p. 1).

While her book was criticized as being "obscene, lewd and lascivious material" (Gray, 1979, p. 43), Sanger knew that education about these topics were necessary. Sanger advocated condoms, saying, "Birth Control will make parenthood a voluntary function instead of an accident as it is today. When motherhood and children are free, we then can go hand in hand toward the emancipation of the human race" (Sanger, 1931, p. 40).

Sanger knew that condoms were being used in various other countries as methods of birth control and that they were available for purchase within the United States. However, while condoms were legally available, they were not for use between married couples. Their only legal use "was to protect the male from venereal disease" when engaging with prostitutes, "and not to protect the female from contraception" (Douglas, 1970, p. 69).

Overseas, the Nazi government of Germany would not permit its citizens to use condoms or any other kind of birth control, for that matter. The Germans were expected to breed warriors to create a "superior" race of "Aryans (Knowles, 2003)." However, the Nazi military did allow soldiers to use condoms to keep them on the front lines instead of being overrun by syphilis and gonorrhea.

By World War II, military leaders developed a more realistic attitude about condoms. Concerned that the soldiers would bring home diseases and infect their wives, the military aggressively promoted the use of condoms. Government training films encouraged soldiers, "Don't forget -- put it on before you put it in (Knowles, 2003)." This military acceptance led to breakthroughs for many other groups, including women and married couples.

The Acceptance of Condoms

When condoms were approved for soldiers during the First World War in an attempt to control the high rate of venereal diseases, the general public developed a greater acceptance of condoms.

After the Civil War, there was a large boom in prostitution and men became very concerned with protecting themselves, so condoms gained much popularity (Parisot, 1987, p. 31). In 1861, the first advertisement for condoms was displayed in an American newspaper, when the New York Times printed an ad for "Dr. Power's French Preventatives." These condoms were so popular that they were available all over the U.S., and cost was only about a dime for one.

The concept of a specialized condom shop as first seen in the 18th century, when a condom shop opened in Amsterdam (Parisot, 1987, p. 43). In The Hague, the trader Mathijs van Mordechay Cohen sold "condons" that he made from lambs' bladders and ribbons. In the middle of the eighteenth century, trade in condoms rapidly increased in London. At the center of London's condom activity were two women, Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Perkins.

Both women had a condom shop and openly competed with each other in their brochures. Mrs. Phillips also ran a wholesale condom company. The two women both carried large stocks of bladders, sheaths and other contraceptives, which they sold to locals, travelers and ambassadors. The ladies used rhymes to market their products, showing evidence of a liberal business strategy. For the poor class, it is rumored that there was a lady named Miss Jenny, who sold washed second-hand condoms.

In the United States, with the rise of a significant birth control movement during the 1920s, condoms became more acceptable. While they were not the most favored method of most birth control advocates, as they were still largely perceived as unreliable, unaesthetic and dependent upon the actions of a male partner, they were still rather popular, as they did not require expert fitting and could be purchased over the counter (Hall, 2001).

As the years went by, the technology of condoms improved. The latex process simplified manufacturing to the point where it could be automated, making the product cheaper (Hall, 2001). In addition, manufacturers created a thinner, more elastic, and more reliable condom. Since then, there has been little additional technical innovation, though some brands now include added lubricant or spermicide. Novelty condoms, which hold no practical value, are marketed as sex toys, with a variety of supposedly stimulating features, such as different colors and flavors.

With the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s, the condom lost most of its popularity as a birth control method, as antibiotics meant that venereal disease was no longer seen as a great risk (Hall, 2001). The condom retained associations with male promiscuity rather than male responsibility. Still, the current estimate of its reliability in preventing pregnancy runs from 85-98%, making it clear that it should be associated with responsibility.

In the 1960's, the sexual revolution ended the popularity of condoms. The "good girls" of the 1950's were now willing to engage in sexual acts before marriage, so fewer men turned to prostitutes (Knowles, 2003). In addition, the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections, gonorrhea and syphilis, were easily treated, and birth control pills provided the most effective reversible contraception in history.

Condoms Today

When HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was identified, it became clear that condom use and safer sex was the key to curbing the epidemic (Knowles, 2003). Therefore, technology has taken many measures to improve condoms.

Eros UK (2003) describes how modern technology has furthered the growth of the condom industry: "One of the most modern in Europe, the production facility for Safex condoms utilizes the most advanced modern technology to allow around 770,000 condoms to be manufactured every day. It begins in the plantations of the Far East, where latex buyers select the trees from which the latex will be extracted. A liquid, the latex is drawn off the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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