Everything You’ve Heard About Chastity Belts Is a Lie …

… so goes the headline at this Atlas Obscura article on that very subject. The article leads off:

In his 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), David R. Reuben described it as an “armored bikini” with a “screen in front to allow urination and an inch of iron between the vagina and temptation.” “The whole business was fastened with a large padlock,” he wrote. With this device, medieval men going off to medieval wars could be assured that their wives would not have sex with anyone else where they were far, far away, for years at a time.

Yes, it sounds simultaneously ridiculous, barbarous and extremely unhygienic, but…medieval men, you know? It was a different time.

This, at least, has been the story that’s been told for hundreds of years. It’s simple, shocking, and, on some level, fun, in that it portrays past people as exceeding backwards and us, by extension, as enlightened and just better. It’s also, mostly likely, very wrong.

So that old joke about Lancelot and Guinevere? It remains a joke, apparently.

When one considers the evidence for medieval chastity belts, as Classen did in his book The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-making Process, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that there’s not much of it. First of all, there aren’t actually all that many pictures of or accounts of using chastity belts, and even fewer physical specimens. And the few book-length works on the topic rely heavily on each other and all cite the same few examples.

So, pretty much like Bigfoot or Alien Technology writers – they all pretty much cite each other.

“You have a bunch of literary representation, but very few historical references to a man trying to put a chastity belt on his wife,” says Classen. And, any literary reference to a chastity belt is likely either allegorical or satirical.

References in European texts to chastity belts go back centuries, well into the first millennium A.D. But until the 1100s, those references are all couched in theology, as metaphors for the idea of fidelity and purity. For example: One Latin source admonishes the “honest virgin” to “hold the helmet of salvation on your front, the word of truth in the mouth…true love of God and your neighbor in the chest, the girdle of chastity in the body….” Possibly virgins who took this advice went around wearing metal helmets and keeping some physical manifestation of the word “truth” in their cheek, like a wad of tobacco, in additional to strapping on metal underwear. Or, possibly, none of this is meant to be taken literally.

It’s interesting that today, chastity belts/devices are most assuredly not a path toward purity, but are used as sex toys, and (at least for men) seem to enhance, rather than restrict, their sexual thoughts.

But wait – how did people back in those days take the depictions of chastity belts?

In other words, even in the 1500s, no one took the idea of locked-up metal underwear very seriously as an effective anti-sex device. When chastity belts were depicted, it was in the Renaissance equivalent of Robin Hood: Men in Tights—and the audiences for those pieces of art probably thought the idea of a metal chastity belt just as giggle-worthy as late 20th century teenagers did.

The authors make an entirely relevant point:

Why has the myth of the chastity belt endured? It’s hard to disprove an idea once it’s firmly lodged in people’s minds. As a result, the same scant information has managed to convince generations that medieval men locked up their wives’ nether regions. Even the practical difficulties of such a device—as one historian wrote, “How could such a mechanism have been designed to permit the normal activities of urination, evacuation, menstruation, and hygiene, yet prevent both anal and vaginal penetration?”—have not dissuaded people from believing in chastity belts.

Certainly a good portion of the conversations on many chastity boards – and especially on our own The Chastity Forums – are involved with creating or modifying a device for long term wear that will allow users to take care of basic hygiene and comfort.

But the article ends with the suggestion that the authors may have been around this or similar blogs:

But for many people, it’s simply a fantasy about sex. Even if chastity belts used to enforce medieval fidelity were not real, modern-day chastity belts, sold as fetish objects, definitely, definitely are.


Not specifically medieval, but at least chastity related…

 

 

 

About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
This entry was posted in chastity, Sex news. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Everything You’ve Heard About Chastity Belts Is a Lie …

  1. Caged Lion says:

    My understanding is that there are no examples of female chastity belts before Victorian England. Devices in museums are fakes. Most, if not all, have been removed from exhibit. In the 1800’s masturbation was believed to cause insanity. Cruel devices were made for mental patients to wear. Devices were widely promoted for boys to prevent them from masturbating. There are hundreds of U.S. Patents for these male devices. Interest in chastity devices resurfaced in the context of a sex toy in the 1980’s. Modern, ball-capture devices appeared in the early 1990’s. While there is an active online male chastity community, the practice is still very rare compared with other kinky pursuits.

    • Tom Allen says:

      Over the last few years (driven by what, I’m not sure) it’s coming to light that “chastity belts” have been a Romantic myth.

      As to how rare modern male chastity devices are, consider that for some adult toy companies, chastity devices rank right behind dildos and vibrators in terms of sales. They may not have the public eye, but *somebody* is sure buying a hell of a lot of them.

  2. Diane Jones for a Long Time says:

    About ten years ago I met the owner of one of the huge sex toy presences on the internet. This person said, “I wouldn’t still be in business if it weren’t for CB sales.”

    • Tom Allen says:

      The fact that the Millers now have gone into a 4th generation device, plus have spawned several companies that make knock-off devices speaks to the sheer numbers that must be sold out there.

      • Caged Lion says:

        Mr. Miller invented the modern ball capture cage. His CB2000 started the low-cost, off-the-shelf CD industry. I reviewed his very first CB2000. I still have it; hand made with acrylic tubing and rods. It took a while for him to afford an injection mold. Over the years his device is still a winner.

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