You have been warned. You are allowed to read this if you are 17 or over. Otherwise, you can ask your parents to read this to you. Here is a famous old condom puzzle in the version I heard when I was a teenager myself:
A man hires three prostitutes and wants to have sex with all three of them. They all might have different sexually transmitted diseases and they all want to use condoms. Unluckily, they have only two condoms. Plus, they are in the forest and can’t buy new condoms. Can the man have sex with all three of the women without danger to any of the four?
Everyone in this problem is so health-conscious, that it might not be such a dirty problem after all. I leave you with the fun challenge of figuring this problem out.
Another fun variation of this problem is when you have two men and two women and two condoms. Every woman wants to have sex with every man. How can they do that?
If you are a teacher and want to use these great puzzles for younger students, you can follow the example of MathWorld and pretend that it’s a glove problem between doctors and patients.
Recently my younger son and his MIT friends invented another variation of this problem:
Suppose three gay men all want to have sex with each other and every pair among them wants to do two penetrative sexual acts, switching roles. They want to avoid contaminating each other, and in addition, each man also does not want to cross-contaminate himself from either region to the other. How can they do that using exactly three condoms?
Let me remind you that they plan to perform six sexual acts altogether, meaning that six condoms would be enough. On the other hand, each of them needs two condom surfaces, so they can’t do it with less than three condoms. My son showed to me his solution, but I will postpone its publication.
Of course, you can say that this is a glove problem about three surgeons operating on each other.
In addition, you can generalize it to any number of gay men. Here is my solution for four men and four condoms, where letters denote people, numbers denote condoms, and the order of people represents roles: A12D, B32D, C2D, A14C, B34C, D4C, A1B, B3A, C21B, D41B, C23A, D43A.
Can you solve the problem for five or more people?Share: