Lock and key

The truth about chastity belts

A screen grab from Mad Max: Fury Road

The chastity belt is back in the spotlight, and no, it has nothing to do with Mad Max: Fury Road.  Over the weekend, an Italian woman was forced to ask firefighters to help break her out of her very own chastity belt because she had misplaced the keys to the device. The woman, who has not been named due to privacy concerns, reportedly wore the belt of her own volition in order to prevent herself from engaging in a sexual relationship.

The chastity belt is a much-maligned relic, which is widely thought to have been inflicted upon medieval women so they would not have extramarital sex while their husbands were at war. The object has thus endured in history as a torturous and deeply misogynistic device. But in recent years, historians have called that view into question, casting doubt on whether the belts were ever used at all.

A 16th-century German colored woodcut depicts a woman in a chastity belt.

A 16th-century German colored woodcut depicts a woman in a chastity belt.

In The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-making Process, professor Albrecht Classen explains that the use of chastity belts is not well-documented in medieval literature. The first mention of the device consists of a sketch in a 1405 work called Bellifortis, which is also rife with fart jokes. Classen thus believes that the chastity belt existed in history as something of a lark, and most references to chastity belts appear to be satirical or allegorical. Historians of later centuries may have latched on to the myth of the chastity belt in order to prove the superiority of their own civilization to the so-called “dark ages.” Or as Sarah E. Bond, an assistant professor of classics at the University of Iowa, puts it: “The truth about chastity belts is that they are largely a fiction constructed in the Renaissance and Early Modern periods in order to conjure a more “barbaric” middle age that had come previously.”

Anonymous Italian lady, do take note.

Read the full story at The Telegraph.

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