• Deborah Yaffe

Staying safe

Four years ago, I blogged about a rather unusual type of Austen-themed merchandise. Who needs fridge magnets or tote bags when you can have Mr. Darcy condoms? (Crucial accoutrements for those who wish to avoid any need for Jane Austen cloth diapers.)


At the time, I assumed the book-themed condoms were merely novelty items – jokes, rather than literary criticism. But now an online platform called Dazed Beauty, spun off from the British style magazine Dazed, has shone a light into a little-known corner of Jane Austen’s oeuvre.


In a recent article about a line of vegan, compostable, all-gender condoms, writer Alice Gibbs notes that historically, prophylactics have sometimes gotten a bad rap. “In common use since the 1800s, condoms have seen bans. . . and disapproval from the likes of Freud and Jane Austen,” she writes.


I’m wracking my brains here, but I’m drawing a blank. Jane Austen disapproved of condoms? Jane Austen mentioned condoms? Perhaps in an early version of Pride and Prejudice entitled Pride and Protection?


Jane Austen certainly knew how babies were made – in one of her letters, she famously recommended separate bedrooms for a couple who had recently welcomed their eighteenth child – but I don’t think we possess any statement of her views on artificial methods of contraception. I get that a Jane Austen mention sprinkles gravitas onto even the least remarkable online utterance, but this one seems like a . . . stretch.


But hey: If you know otherwise, please pipe up. I’d be first in line to read Sheaths and Sensibility.

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