hastity belts are devices that women have traditionally used to prevent sexual intercourse. They’ve been used throughout history, with some dating back to the Middle Ages. Chastity belts are intended to restrict a woman from participating in sexual behaviour outside of marriage or while under the supervision of a guardian, such as a father or a husband. The origins of chastity belts are unknown, but they are thought to have originated in ancient Greece and Rome. Women were frequently restricted to their houses in these societies and were not permitted to engage in public life.
History of Chastity Belts
During the mediaeval period, chastity belts grew more common and were used by the upper classes to restrict the sexual activity of their wives and daughters. Chastity belts were sometimes used to keep women from having extramarital affairs or being raped.
Chastity belts were employed by Europeans and Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries to restrict the sexual behaviour of women who were thought to be mentally ill or developmentally handicapped. This was predicated on the assumption that these women were incapable of managing their own sexual appetites and needed to be safeguarded from themselves.
According to popular belief, chastity belts were first worn by young maidens to keep themselves pure. The belts were thought to be some kind of metal underwear with padlocks that the females used to keep themselves safe till marriage.
Apart from the maidens who wore it, the chastity belt myth dates back to the 11th and 13th centuries, when it was claimed that knights and crusaders forced their wives and daughters to wear chastity belts in order to maintain their dignity while the former was at war.
The belt was regarded as a symbol of protection as well as a severe tool for fidelity enforcement.
It was thought that the belt would make it difficult for married women to seek out other sexual partners and would make them less vulnerable to deceptive males. It was also assumed that wearing the belt kept occurrences like rape at bay.
According to some sources, chastity belts were more fashionable in Europe throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, where they were mostly worn for decoration rather than discipline. When worn, it exclusively allowed female users to urinate, excrete, and even menstruate without having to remove it.
The Bellifortis, a 1405 book, evidences the fact that the use of the chastity belt actually happened. The book contains designs of chastity belts as well as other wartime devices and torture items.
Apart from the Bellifortis, other textual references speculating on the use of chastity belts are mostly theological. For instance, a Latin source once encouraged honest virgins to:
“Hold the helmet of salvation on your front, the word of truth in the mouth… true love of God and your neighbor in your chest … the girdle of chastity in your body…”
Myth of Truth?
Several arguments have been advanced over the years to question and refute the presence of chastity belts. Many people are still confused about whether the belts were employed to retain chastity, prevent infidelity, or for any other ceremony.
Some argue that the use of the chastity belt was primarily imaginary, a made-up narrative that survived until the Renaissance and Early Modern periods in order to make previous generations appear extremely primitive. For this school of thought, simply because the belts represented chastity did not imply that they were ever used to bind the female genitalia.
Sarah Laskow also underlines in the Atlas Obscura that chastity belts did not exist because there aren’t many photographs or reports of their real use in the past, save from a few physical specimens. Whereas the majority of what is visible is a small number of limited literary representations and largely satirical references depicting men putting belts on their wives.
Furthermore, many depictions depicting the use of belts are cartoonish and humorous. In some of these photographs, the wives are holding duplicates of the chastity belt keys, while their lovers are hiding and waiting for their husbands to go to war.
Other historians and academics believe that the chastity belt did not exist during the mediaeval period, but was a product of the 18th-19th century fixation with societal injustices against women.
There is also a strong probability that many analogies between the origins of the chastity belt and its current use resulted in the construction of various myths that never occurred.
Among the several holes in the history of the chastity belt, specific attention is placed on the fact that it is irrational and impossible for a belt designed to prohibit vaginal and anal penetration to nevertheless allow for urination and excretion.