Picture post – Antique prophylactics [NSFW]

05/05/2010 at 6:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then I believe this week’s picture-heavy post should just about cover my weekly quota. However, I must warn you: The following post will contain pictures of antique prophylactics – that means, old condoms & contraception devices. (I am deliberately choosing the word “Prophylactics” instead of “condoms” because the former is an outdated, antique term. Much like what I am about to show you today.) While there are no full frontal nudity pictures in this post, the content & some of the box art is definitely Not Safe For Work. Let me repeat that: NSFW. All links and pictures in the post should likewise be considered NSFW. For this reason, I’m going to try using the ‘more’ tag and (if I’ve done this right) you’ll need to click to continue on. The full content should still appear in your RSS feeder if you’re using one. Thanks!

How I came into possession of the following antique condoms: Actually, they’re not mine, they’re my family’s – kind of a running inside joke from over the years. Over time, the collection just built up, but I never actually knew how big it was until recently. There was some flooding in the area a few weeks ago, and this is one of the boxes that had to be moved in order to clean up afterwards. I opened it up and thought “I just hit the jackpot” this might make an interesting blog post topic.

You know, I don’t go looking for this stuff. Between this, and classic sexuality books, you must all think I deliberately seek this stuff out. I don’t. I just kind of find this stuff. Or it just kind of finds me.

Some context to make this post more educational: You may or may not already be aware of the rich, seedy history of vibrators. A picture-heavy gallery of antique vibrators is available here. I am familiar with the history of vibrators, but I know less about the history of condoms. Seeing this box full of adult goodies was something of a shock. Not an “OMG sex stuff!!! *GASP*” reaction, but I was shocked because, I’d never seen old boxes of condoms before. Did you know condoms used to come in metal tins? And that they were wrapped and folded in half? And have you ever seen what happens to a 50-year old condom? Have you ever seen the long tube that can be used to insert a diaphragm?

If you would like to learn more about the history of condoms in person and you plan on being in New York City sometime in the near future, consider making a stop at the Museum of Sex. There is an exhibit on the history of condoms going on now. In the mean time, you’ll the History of Condoms pages on Wikipedia may be of use for reference.

I *think* that most of the condoms in this box are from the 1980s, but some of them look older, I’d estimate 1950s+ and a few look newer. I Googled around a little and some of them may be pre-1950s but I’m not positive on that. I am disinclined to have these items appraised for fear of embarrassment. But who knows – maybe one day you’ll find me on Antiques Road Show (After Dark.)

Try to imagine my surprise at finding this box while trying to clean out the basement post-flood:

[Description: a tattered-looking brown cardboard box stuffed with smaller boxes of condoms and stuff I didn’t even recognize at first like. Prominently there’s a narrow yellow box, some blue boxes, and a gold box labeled “Ramses.”]

Well let’s open it up and see what we’re dealing with here:

[Description: It looks like somebody broke open an adult, cis heterosexual-themed Pinata. The cardboard box is in the back, a lot of the colorful box-shaped contents are strewn about in front of it, on a white tablecloth. Some of the condoms are loose in wrappers and tins. There’s also two plunger-looking plastic things.]

Well my goodness but that certainly is a sight.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of safer sex goodies missing from the box – I didn’t see any dental dams, cock rings, vibrators, cuffs, etc. There’s nothing particularly kinky in here. I didn’t see anything I recognized as lubricant either.

So what do we have here…


[Description: six closed, old off-white condom tins on a white tablecloth. There’s 3 trojan tins, 2 sheiks, and one “Nutex” lol.]

Did you know that condoms used to come in metal tins? I didn’t know that! You could fit more than one condom in a tin, too.

Oh look we just made a friend. I guess this little guy wants to know what’s going on:

[Description: A little long-antenna bug on the right. A gold, metal tin of condoms on the left.]

[Description: A pale lady’s hand holding one of the Trojan condom tins. There’s some powdery residue on the hand, it came from the box.]

Now I am about to show you all what happens to a 50-year old condom. This, everyone, is why you shouldn’t hang onto latex condoms for too long.

[Description: A white lady’s hand holding a condom tin open. Inside are 2 brown rubber rings, tattered & falling apart. The rings are folded in half and wrapped with a purple piece of paper. The brown rings were once condoms. There’s some powder residue made of old fall-apart condoms inside the tin. Ironically, the inside of the lid of the tin says, “Insist on Trojan: The sensitive product.” We can now make out some text on the bottom of the box, which says, “3 for $0.50 / Dozen for $1.50]

Wow. These condoms are completely disintegrated. Now that… isn’t going to protect anything! There’s a giant hole at the thinnest part of the rubber! It’s all falling apart! It’s like holding old shredded paper! Can’t use this! You wouldn’t want this on, in, or near you. I mean look at how much it’s falling apart, just holding it is leaving my hand covered in brown condom dust.

Those are two words I hope I never have to put together again. “Condom Dust.”

There’s a few items in the box for women, or at least, heterosexual women. Here’s the condoms supposedly designed with women in mind. Mm-hmm. Yep:

[Description: 3 boxes of a dozen condoms. One is “Ramses for her (extra protection, – FREE CARRYING CASE INSIDE!)” one is “Lady Trojan designed for women… with extra lubrication” (and a pink gender-coded box…) and one is “Ramses extra Ribbed.” These boxes look on the new-ish side.]

Well there you are then ladies. Don’t say condom makers never did nothin’ for you. It says right on the boxes, it’s implied that it’s all about you. We got your spermicidal condom with a pretty pink flower on the box. Women like flowers, right? And women ❤ spermicide, don’t they? Some of these “For women” condoms even come with their own carrying case! I wonder if that would do any good if you’re living in New York City or a city where carrying around condoms while female may soon be grounds for arrest. A little purse for your condoms. Well at least these condoms have extra lube on them. And then there’s Ramses condoms – ribbed and spermicidal for your pleasure or something. And if that wasn’t enough for you, we have some tubes!

[Description: A blue box labeled “KOROMEX APPLICATOR” and three old plastic plunger things.]

I have no idea what these things are. I’m guessing it’s something for vaginal use but I don’t know what it is exactly that we’re supposed to be applying via tube. I’m guessing it’s lubricant, spermicide, a female condom, a tampon, or a diaphragm. I honestly don’t know. The box didn’t tell me how to use these things. I have no instruction book.

[Description: White lady’s hand holding a tattered old box labeled “KOROMEX DIAPHRAGM INTRODUCTOR”]

Well. I guess these applicator things are for inserting a diaphram. Wow that’s a long box. Is the applicator really that long? Wait, how do you insert a diaphragm anyway? I thought you could just use your fingers to insert one. Oh Planned Parnethood says something about using an inserter if you need to. So this must something you can use if you need help.
Well not that you’d want to use this particular inserter anymore since it’s so old.

You know what’s really weird though? I have all these applicators but no actual diaphragm. Do you need a prescription to get a diaphragm? You’re supposed to get them specially fitted just for you, right? Because if you need to have a prescription for a diaphragm or place a special order to buy one, then that might explain why there aren’t any in the box.

Here’s some various bric-a-brac from inside the old box of condom stuff. It’s not ALL condoms in there!

[Description: a large-ish blue box of skin ointment, illusrtated with a 1950’s-era picture of a white man, woman, and baby; 2 lubes of something called “SANITUBE (for masculine hygiene,)” two wrapped condoms out of a box, two packets of wet wipes, two wrapped trojans (folded in half inside their wrappers) and a small condom box.]

Look at this stuff. I looked up the SANITUBE online and didn’t find many results. It’s something called “Pomade.” What’s pomade? Nm; my boyfriend recently bought some pomade, it’s hair gel or something. That doesn’t sound very sanitary to me. Why is there hair gel in the giant box of expired condoms? Do I really want to know? …Am I supposed to use my imagination…? Oh god, I just did. Use my imagination, I mean. Oh god! The image in my head now.
I like the HR blue box best, it has like a picture of the Pep Boys or something on it. Well that’s what it reminds me of – it’s very Pep Boys-esque. Very 1920s. 50s. Something.

Next picture is one of two most NSFW in this set, so you may want to shoo the kids out of the room if you haven’t done so already. Here’s some boxes of condoms with I’m estimating 1980s-era box art:

[Description: 5 big boxes of condoms in various styles – Rough Rider, Bareback, Kiss of Mint, Erotica, and Wet N’Wild. All of the boxes are gray with white lettering with a photo of a woman or part of a woman above the wording. One of the boxes is illustrated with a close-up of a white woman’s lips. 4 boxes are illustrated with scantily-clad white women. Only two boxes show a woman’s face.]

I looked online and the company that makes these condoms, Contempo Condoms. You can still buy them online from a few vendors, and it looks like they have their own website with a .za domain, but I’ve never heard of these before. The box art looks very 1980s or 70s to me, and it’s pretty sexist. Faceless blonde women, emphasis on parts other than face… I’m getting the impression that the marketing plan for these condoms was aimed at het men only with little concern for women partners.

Here’s another interesting old condom box with a double entendre slogan:

[Description: An old box of condoms labeled “SHADOW-ENZ SOMBRAS.” English text underneath spanish reads, “FOR THOSE WHO WISH A SPECIAL END AS A RECEPTACLE”]

This box of condoms is ahead of its time – it’s bilingual, so I guess that means that if this brand of condoms still existed today, they would be frowned upon in Arizona pretty soon. Strange choice of words to describe what it’s for – Wait, wait, wait, “Receptacle?” What? What does that even mean? Do the condom makers mean the condom itself is the receptacle or the person  you’re putting the condom into? Unfortunately this is another product that I can’t find much information about online.

One more for you. Last one for the day, and it’s all joke items. I think… I hope. Maybe not? This is another particularly NSFW photo.

[Description: a big box of “Licketty Dicks Edible Condoms,” with an illustration of a white lady’s mouth licking a phallic candy cane; a Lifestyles condom in red wrapper folded into the shape of a rose with a plastic stem attached; a neon pink box that says, “See Dick with a fox, see Dick with no love socks, see dick in a box, [grave] Don’t be a Dick,” and a box that says “The Invisible CONDOM – When it comes to pleasure we stop at nothing,” and there’s a silouhette of a couple walking down a beach. They are talking and saying, “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” “It’s my invisible condom.” Price sticker attached: $3.99]

Flavored condoms still exist today, I checked online and yep you can still buy Licketty Dicks brand condoms, so that’s a real thing. The condom folded into a rose shape, obviously you wouldn’t be able to use anymore in real life. The Dick in a box thing – may have been ahead of its time since Saturday Night Live did that one skit with a similar joking theme awhile back. The difference is that this Dick in a box carries the message that  you should use a condom or else PIV SEX WILL KILL YOU. And the invisible condom – I didn’t take a picture of the back of the box but yes it’s just an empty thing. There is no spoon condom.

And that’s pretty much all I got for you. I hope you found this post both humorous & educational despite my relaxed analysis. If not then I’ll have to do a panic jig for a week; we shall return to our regularly scheduled vagina blogging shortly. Thanks for giving me this break in the mean time.

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24 Comments »

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  1. Oh, don’t apologize for a break! I laughed, I learned, I scratched my head at the marketing.

    Those tins are actually pretty wonderful, when you think of all the condoms fatally damaged by being stuffed into a wallet (and then possibly slowly degrading into – ewww – brown condom dust, if the poor fellow was unlucky). I would love to have one of ’em.

    Did you know that some social hygienists in the 1920s advocated wearing two condoms at once? At a time when condoms were considerably thicker than today’s – and quite expensive to boot? It’s a marvel that condoms survived that sort of marketing.

    You can take a break from vagina blogging anytime, if it’s gonna be this much much! Actually, I think it’s hard to sustain blogging if it’s always serious, without an occasional silly or lighthearted post. Sorta like activism that way.

    • Really, wearing 2 condoms was recommended by experts? I’m so used to hearing that advised against nowadays (with good reason.) I wonder if that’s the reason some folks still advocate wearing 2 condoms today!

      • Yeah. I study dead German doctors (among other things), and the social hygienist Dr. Alfred Grotjahn called for using two at once.

        I suspect it’s just magic thinking: If one’s good, two must be better!

  2. This brightened my afternoon 🙂 (I love all your posts, mind you)

  3. The plunger things are spermicide applicators aka “foam.” It was a popular, not very effective contraceptive in the late 1970’s. I know two people born while their parents used foam.

    • Really? Thank you for telling me this. I have cardboard cases that I *think* were used to ship batches of contraceptive foam. But no boxes or tubes of foam to take pictures of.

      It’s… the case that would have had foaming contraceptive in it, I think, it says, “Transi-Lube.” Aerosol cans. Is that the same thing?

  4. I assume the “Shadow-Enz/Sombras” condoms had a reservoir tip.
    The diaphragm introducer makes me giggle – “Hi! I’m a diaphragm!”

    • With the shadow enz, my mind was squarely in the gutter at first but then I remembered that you can buy colorful or solid black condoms. Maybe it was a solid dark color too? Or else the marketers meant it felt like a shadow (like nothing)?

  5. delurking to comment, because i lolled so hard!

    and to confirm: Contempo Condoms (with the bad 80’s hair!) were def. a product of the 80s, so still available in the local XXX video store well into the 90s. in fact, i don’t think i’ve ever seen them anywhere except adult video stores and toy shops, so your analysis for the target audience is spot on (like that wasn’t obvious anyways!)

    the “Don’t Be a Dick” condoms were semi-novelty condoms being sold in the 90s, once the AIDS crisis hit the mainstream and was clearly no longer a “Gay Disease.” semi-novelty meaning they were still perfectly functional (unlike the flavoured condoms) but packaged in a “fun” way. somewhere, from that same era, i have a button that says, “A tisket, a tasket, a condom or a casket.” they were dark times. we faced them with dark humour.

    • While I was Googling for info some of these products, I saw some of the marketing slogans re: Contempo Condoms. They were (are still) like, “Unleash your inner man and do it YOUR way” or something to that extent. And I’m like, you know I’m probably overthinking this but the “Unleash” part makes it sound like the man is an animal, something less than human, and the “Do it YOUR way” part just completely ignores the partner. It just seems like a bummer. Very one-sided, for such a two+ sided activity.

      I think we have at least one more novelty condom somewhere in this house. Probably more than one novelty item but the one I’m thinking of, it must be in another box. About… a year, year & a half ago, a Man On Stilts in New York City sold my mom an Obama Condom. That’s a fully functional and completely ordinary condom in a novelty cardboard covering. Something about Barack Obama on the novelty cardboard.

      It was like $4 too!

  6. Hi K, AWESOME POST. I’m interested in linking to this on my blog tomorrow; would it be possible to use one of the images if I gave you a photo credit?

    – Amanda

    • Hello Amanda,

      Yes you may use one of the pictures with credit. Thank you.

  7. Rough Riders were still available ca. 2003, at least. My boyfriend bought one from a condom dispenser in a southern missouri gas station bathroom as a joke. He thought it was the worst condom name ever – and I have to agree.
    Of course, it is entirely probable the condoms have just been moldering in there since the ’80s. Even if it was viable when purchased it definitely isn’t now, it’s been sitting in his glove box for 7 years!

  8. […] with Female Sexual Dysfunction has a nifty article on old school prophylactics – “Picture post – Antique prophylactics [NSFW]”.  She found a box of of the stuff in her family’s house, and – awesome – […]

  9. We sold Rough Riders and Wet N Wilds at the (fairly conservative) university bookstore where I worked 1997-2000. And they were the only brands of condoms we sold. Good times.

    • Did the company update the box art by then?

      • Nope! They were exactly like the ones pictured here.

  10. Also, the plunger things are probably also for spermicide injections. You could buy them up until a few years ago. I haven’t seen them in awhile.

  11. According to the book Calomel in America: Mercurial Panacea, War, Song and Ghosts by one Richard M. Swiderski (thanks, Google!), Sanitube was a medicated “Prophylactic Pomade” containing various nasty chemicals (including calomel) intended to prevent or treat syphilis (it was also vaguely suggested to be a contraceptive). The (male) user was supposed to apply it to the exterior of the penis before intercourse and squirt some directly into the urethra afterwards. The brand dates to 1912, so you may have some real antiques there!

    Also, I think the “FOR THOSE WHO WISH A SPECIAL END AS A RECEPTACLE” on the Shadow-Enz is just an awful translation of the Spanish, which means “for those who prefer a condom with a receptacle”, probably meaning that the condoms were shaped with the little nubbin on the tip.

    • Woah that’s like, mercury chloride. That’s serious stuff. More serious than hair gel.

      Thanks for the note on Sanitube & Shadow-Enz!

  12. Any chance you want to sell some of the condom tins?

    • Haha, yes, but I’m sorry to say that they’re not mine to sell 🙂

  13. […] reason this follow up never generated the same number of views as the original, which bums me out. Picture post – Antique prophylactics [NSFW] – People really liked this funny picture post! Someone even offered to buy the antiques off of me […]

  14. I found a 1968 Durex condom package. LOL that nearly 45 years old


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