A brief history of condoms
by Kim Addonizio
© 1999

 
 

1. Origins of the American Condom
The so-called American Condom (Prophylacticus Americanus) began behind the counters of druggists, springing to life in the dust and dark among prescription bottles. 1 1 The largely discredited "Big O Theory," first developed by Holstein, posits a divine origin, to wit: that the universe was originally the size and shape of a gigantic, cosmically conscious condom, which masturbated itself and exploded into particles which ripped it apart and sent particles streaming outward into space. There are still some elements of the scientific community who claim that there is an inner condom in each of us, remnant of the Great Rubber, and that we are reabsorbed into it at the end of earthly life. It's interesting to note that numerous mythologies of so-called primitive peoples offer variants of this proposition. In the diaspora which followed, some migrated into the air-conditioned light of Walgreens and Thriftys, others to the flickering fluorescent haze of convenience stores. Still others settled behind glass cabinets in large grocery chains. The most colorful varieties live crowded in baskets on the counters of medical clinics. Condoms thrive in great numbers throughout the continent of North America, and tend to be concentrated in large cities. Fundamentalist Christians and the occasional zealous Catholic have decreased their numbers slightly, but the overall impact of such predation has been insignificant on the population as a whole.

2. Life Cycle of the Condom
A condom is a simple one-celled organism which appears, at first look, to be round and flat. When released from its foil "nest" and massaged, it changes its shape into a sock-like, membraneous creature which clings to human flesh-specifically, the male sexual organ. Condoms have a symbiotic relationship with humans; sperm released during human sexual activity is caught and eaten by the condom, allowing the condom to reproduce itself. Having fulfilled its evolutionary purpose, the condom then shrivels and dies. The fetus, or "conda," microscopic in size at this point, becomes airborne until it finds a suitable "nest," slips inside it and gestates in the warmth and protection the foil offers. A condom may lie dormant in its nest for years, but life outside the nest last from only a few minutes to half an hour or so. 2 2 The briefest known lifespan is .078 seconds; the longest, evidenced by a videotape of pornographic artist Jackoff Holmes, was well over an hour. Research has indicated that short-lived condoms tend to exhibit a high level of anxiety, whereas the longest-living emit alpha waves-an indication that, in human terms, these latter condoms tend to "stop and smell the roses," i.e. the odors of anal or vaginal secretions. It is fair to say that these brief moments, however, are by far the most gratifying; condoms have been observed to burst from sheer pleasure, and occasionally to squirm off of the male penis and travel excitedly upwards into the interior regions of the partner's body. 3 3 Emergency Room records indicate that a small percentage of patients seek treatment, but the incidence is undoubtedly more frequent, according to anecdotal sources.

3. Common Uses of the Condom
There are many valuable uses of the condom beyond the aforementioned use in sexual activity. Condoms may be filled with water and dropped from high windows to terrify old people, or loaded with jello and thrown at parties. They may be blown up like balloons. The flavored variety, once the lubricant is wiped away, is favored for eating by adolescent girls. Condoms may be used in delaying sexual activity, as in, " I won't fuck you if I have to wear that thing on my dick." 4 4 In the late twentieth century, this statement is an indication of gross stupidity on the part of the speaker. The best response to such an attitude is probably, "Go fuck yourself." Such a statement may have unfortunate results if the condom is then discarded, as it will simply dry up and die without reproducing itself. Condoms are dependent on human males, some of whom have an ambivalent relationship with them, and see them at best as a necessary evil.

4. Inner Life of the Condom
It is hard to ascertain whether a condom is capable of the emotions you and I regard as a part of sentient life. Does a condom experience depression, or fear death? Does it have a soul? If so, then we must examine carefully our treatment of this useful creature. Should it, for example, be so quickly relegated to the floor beside the bed, or the trash in the bathroom, or the weeds of the vacant lot? Perhaps our responsibility should extend to a decent burial, a few words said to mark the passing of our pleasure-seeking, short-lived friend. Perhaps it loves the woman whose vaginal walls drench it for a few minutes, or the man whose anus contracts around it. Perhaps it realizes that such bliss must soon, too soon, turn into pain and diminishment, into the awful isolation of the separate self. If the condom could speak, what truths might it tell us, privy as it is to some of our most intimate moments?

5. One Condom's Story
She carries me in her purse. She intends to be faithful, but just in case, she wants to be prepared. She is on a long trip, away from her lover. She meets a man who delights her, who is clever and interesting. He puts his hand on her hip as they are walking. They find a bar and drink until they can hardly stand up, then stagger to a hotel room. I hear them laughing and giggling, hear the rustle of clothes and good intentions being rapidly discarded. There is a blinding light as I am freed, feeling the cool air wash deliciously over me, and then I am lost in sensation, nothing matters but this, it is glorious, I am stretched taut, headed for that beautiful deadly opening; I go in and in. My head floods with sperm and I gorge myself, losing consciousness, and when I wake I find myself flushed down the pipes, along the sewers and out into the great river of the unborn, riding the currents down to the mothering sea. 5 5 The account is fictional; see Christopher Peckerwood's "I Am A Condom." There are no authenticated stories of condoms speaking or writing their views, though apocryphal ones abound. Various people have claimed to be kidnapped by condoms from outer space, or to hear the voices of dead condoms speaking to them.

6. Social Organization of Condom Communities
There are many classes-one might even say castes-in the condom community. Brightly colored and flavored condoms are usually ostracized by those with a more uniform look and packaging. These second-class citizens are more likely to attempt to form what we can only call personal attachments with other condoms. Through a process known as "nest-ripping," two separate condoms may leak their lubricants and form a sort of gluey mass which causes the nests to bind to each other. They then become unfit for human use and hence unable to reproduce, so why this occurs remains an evolutionary mystery. 6 6 For further readings see "Nest-ripping: Nature or Nurture?" in Scientific American; "Nest-Rippers, Menace to Society," ibid.; and the San Francisco journal "Honey, Let It Rip."

7. In Conclusion: A Personal Note
There is much still to learn about this deceptively simple creature. I have here attempted the briefest outline of serious study and research. My own fascination began, perhaps, when as I boy I unrolled my first condom and jerked off into it, finding it a much neater method than rutting into the sheets my mother would have to wash. I have, frankly, never encountered a human body which gave me as much pleasure as the simple, unassuming condom, always eager to please, ready to take my jism and lap it up deliriously, then lie peacefully hanging from my penis while I relaxed with a cigarette. Several times during these jottings I have stopped to "denest" and massage one of the little creatures, to slip it over me and caress it, to squeeze and pull until we were both deliciously sated. 7 7 I can't get enough. Desire is endless. Sometimes I want to fuck everything in sight. I want to fuck the sheets, the trees outside my window, the men and women passing on the streets below; I want that ecstasy that only sex provides, the loss of self and finding of it, the petit-morte that tells me there is no true death, there is only connection and ceaseless change, there is only love against the darkness surrounding us, we are all ripped from the nest, helpless and exposed together; oh friends and colleagues, it all comes down to this: So many condoms. So little time. I confess to you now that I love them, that I think of nothing but their moist dripping bodies, that at night they come to me in my dreams, they hover over me and smile, and at last begin to speak.

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1 The largely discredited "Big O Theory," first developed by Holstein, posits a divine origin, to wit: that the universe was originally the size and shape of a gigantic, cosmically conscious condom, which masturbated itself and exploded into particles which ripped it apart and sent particles streaming outward into space. There are still some elements of the scientific community who claim that there is an inner condom in each of us, remnant of the Great Rubber, and that we are reabsorbed into it at the end of earthly life. It's interesting to note that numerous mythologies of so-called primitive peoples offer variants of this proposition.

2 The briefest known lifespan is .078 seconds; the longest, evidenced by a videotape of pornographic artist Jackoff Holmes, was well over an hour. Research has indicated that short-lived condoms tend to exhibit a high level of anxiety, whereas the longest-living emit alpha waves-an indication that, in human terms, these latter condoms tend to "stop and smell the roses," i.e. the odors of anal or vaginal secretions.

3 Emergency Room records indicate that a small percentage of patients seek treatment, but the incidence is undoubtedly more frequent, according to anecdotal sources.

4 In the late twentieth century, this statement is an indication of gross stupidity on the part of the speaker. The best response to such an attitude is probably, "Go fuck yourself."

5 The account is fictional; see Christopher Peckerwood's I Am A Condom. There are no authenticated stories of condoms speaking or writing their views, though apocryphal ones abound. Various people have claimed to be kidnapped by condoms from outer space, or to hear the voices of dead condoms speaking to them.

6 For further readings see "Nest-ripping: Nature or Nurture?" in Scientific American; "Nest-Rippers, Menace to Society," ibid.; and the San Francisco journal Honey, Let It Rip.

7 I can't get enough. Desire is endless. Sometimes I want to fuck everything in sight. I want to fuck the sheets, the trees outside my window, the men and women passing on the streets below; I want that ecstasy that only sex provides, the loss of self and finding of it, the petit-morte that tells me there is no true death, there is only connection and ceaseless change, there is only love against the darkness surrounding us, we are all ripped from the nest, helpless and exposed together; oh friends and colleagues, it all comes down to this: So many condoms. So little time.