Back in the olden days, condoms weren’t as readily available as they are today. If you wanted some form of contraception during sex, you had to make them yourself or purchase them from a shop that specially made them. The late 18th century gave way to the emergence of shops devoted entirely to the sale of condoms, and the process and handwork required to make them is surprisingly precise and complex. The condoms during this time were originally created by animal membranes. There seems to be a specific recipe used during the Victorian era, transforming the guts of sheep into carefully produced forms of contraception.
First off, the ingredients that go into the making of the Victorian style condom begin with the caecum of the sheep, which is carefully soaked in water for a couple of hours so as to ensure they are readily easy to slip on. During this process, you would repeat the soaking in a weak ley of soda. This is changed every four to five hours for five or six successive times. The sheep guts must be thoroughly washed in an alkali solution and stripped of its tissue to leave simply the gut wall. It must be handled with great care so as to make sure the sheath is not ripped.
After the gut is cleansed, it is cut into lengths and draped over a wooden former. A ribbon is rolled onto one end, and the other end is firmly tied by thread. When the condom is mostly dried, it is removed and allowed to dry completely before it is boxed up and ready to go. Due to the cost of these condoms, they were typically reused.
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Once the condom is ready for use, a ribbon is tied around the base to fasten them securely. Once they are used, they can be carefully washed out, dried, and stored in a small box until they are ready to be used again. The sheaths used were especially convenient for wealthy men at the time who had attained an established mistress or frequented brothels. The condom, although essentially used as a form of contraception and prevention of pregnancy, was mainly used by men to prevent the transfer of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases from prostitutes and mistresses.
These were typically prevalent among the upper classes, as the condom making process was complex and required time and planning. The making of the more effective, stronger, and thinner condoms was usually more costly.
Io9 team used this recipe to make a condom of their own, and you can see the whole procedure and the end result in the video below:
The making of Victorian style condoms is definitely a complex and time-consuming process that may not be as reliable and safe as today’s condoms. If you’re willing to obtain ingredients similar to the original recipe, such as sheep caecum, lye, and a dilated solution to wash the condom, you can even make them yourself. Even so, it might just be better to stick to the easy and efficient way of just purchasing already made condoms at your local drugstore.