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  • Writer's pictureJohn Dolan

It's Just One Cover-up After Another

In my last Newsletter, I rabbited on about why sex might be the true cause of human-influenced climate change (assuming such a phenomenon exists - but let's not get into that here).

So, the natural segue to that is to talk about contraception. Well, it's one of the natural segues: I could have gone highbrow, but I'm punching low this month. Just below the waist, in fact.This is a big topic - and size, it turns out, does matter. Therefore, I shall eschew chuntering about most methods of birth control and restrict my diatribe to a history of the humble condom.

There is some evidence (albeit patchy) that some form of 'male covering' may have existed in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times; though the experts are divided on this. The myth of Minos - as related by Antoninus Liberalis in 150 AD - makes reference to condom use. According to this legend, a curse had been placed on Minos which caused his semen to contain scorpions and serpents. So, to protect his sexual partner, Minos fashioned a goat's bladder into a female condom. (It would appear that, in those unenlightened days, birth control was viewed primarily as a woman's responsibility. Nothing really changes, does it, ladies?)

Whatever actually went on in those times, condoms did not become fashionable in Europe until the Renaissance as a way of preventing the transfer of syphilis. These condoms were made from linen or from the intestines and bladder of animals. There is a documented instance of Dutch traders selling 'fine leather' condoms to Japan. Some writings suggested that, as an alternative, the penis could be covered in tar or onion juice. That must have brought tears to the eyes.

The invention of the rubber vulcanization process by Charles Goodyear in 1839 led to the production of the first rubber condom in 1855, and mass-production by the end of that decade. One of the attractions of the rubber condom was its reusability. Yeah, I know, but at least they were environmentally-friendly in that respect - unlike today's single-use latex condoms. Try washing out one of those and see what reaction you get from your partner when you claim you're trying to save the planet.

After AIDS started garnering world attention in the early 1980s, condoms began to be available in a wide variety of retail outlets. Nobody really knows how many condoms are sold worldwide, but it is likely to be a mind-boggling number. A book by Aine Collier in 2007, postulated that by 2015, the developing world's annual use of condoms would run to 18.6 billion units annually. Even if only roughly correct, that's a lot of 'how's-your-father.'

The origin of the word 'condom' remains unknown.

Ride safely, everyone.

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