The Terrifying, Mythical Chastity Belt Was a Joke

Chastity belts are things of legend, and looking at one of these penis bear traps is pretty awe-inspiring and scary. The idea of a man locking up his wife while he went away to fight valiant wars has captured the imagination of people for centuries. But it turns out that the chastity belt is likely a myth, invented and perpetuated by Renaissance and Victorian societies eager to distance themselves from the terrors of the Middle Ages and play naughty jokes on one another – the blow up doll of the 1800s. Earlier this month, this article from the Telegraph and this one via Dangerous Minds outlined how while there may have been the occasional legit use of chastity belts in the Middle Ages, historians now believe that they didn’t exist the way we’ve always been led to believe. And when you do a little research on perceptions of sexuality in the Middle Ages, it makes sense why these iron contraptions would not be placed on women. According to this article published via Birmingham-Southern College, in the Middle Ages it was believed that both men and women had seminal fluid or “seed” that was released during intercourse at the point of orgasm. Of course, men’s seed was treated like gold and considered the more important of the two, while women’s was considered inferior, and even dangerous to her health. Ironically, this meant two things that were unfortunately erased from the perceptions of sex that were later developed by the Victorians – one, that a female orgasm was considered essential for procreation, which was the whole point of having sex, therefore women were encouraged to orgasm every time they had sex; and two, that if a woman was not having sex, masturbation was encouraged in order for her to rid her body of the dangerous build up of her seed that may cause her health problems. In an even further turn of irony, men were vehemently discouraged from masturbating because their seed was so precious! Hilarious, considering how the tables turned so sharply in subsequent centuries. So with this information in mind, it makes it highly unlikely that chastity belts were ever used in practice, because women whose husbands were away would be subject to a dangerous buildup of poisonous female seed with no way to release it. But they are still fun to look at!

 

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UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 22:  Chastity belts originated in the 15th century. They were devices designed to prevent the female wearer from having sexual intercourse, and incorporated openings to facilitate urination and defecation. They were locked to prevent their removal. Front view with padlock lying next to the belt.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 22:  Chastity belt decorated with a flower design and a heart pierced with arrows. Chastity belts originated in the 15th century. They were devices designed to prevent the female wearer from having sexual intercourse, and incorporated openings to facilitate urination and defecation. They were locked to prevent their removal.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 22:  Chastity belts originated in the 15th century. They were devices designed to prevent the female wearer from having sexual intercourse, and incorporated openings to facilitate urination and defecation. They were locked to prevent their removal.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

UNSPECIFIED - DECEMBER 29:  Richly decorated metal chastity belt, consisting of two panels hinged together. Chastity belts originated in the 15th century. They were devices designed to prevent the female wearer from having sexual intercourse, and incorporated openings to facilitate urination and defecation. They were locked to prevent their removal.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Rome, ITALY:  TO GO WITH AFP STORY  "Le "taureau de feu" et la guillotine des papes au musee du crime a Rome" A chastity belt is seen at the Criminal Museum in Rome 12 January 2006. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI  (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Caption: Silver bound cowrie shell, hinged, opening to reveal a small painting of a male unlocking the chastity belt of a female. Inv: A641131 Photographer: David Exton Science Museum, London Date: 4 December 2006 Colour Profile: Adobe RGB (1998) Gamma Setting: 2.2
Silver bound cowrie shell, hinged, opening to reveal a small painting of a male unlocking the chastity belt of a female.

UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 20:  Metal chastity belt, 15th to 16th century. Metal chastity belt, consisting of two panels hinged together, richly decorated, 15th-16th century. Grey background. Top 3/4 view.  (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

CHASTITYBELTBW image italy-trip-133-e1281763863185 Prague-Museum-of-Medieval-Torture-Chastity-Belt

 

 

 

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The Author

Meghan

Meghan

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing.

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  • Patrick Bertlein

    Did you find this out first from the Cruel and Unusual punishments desk calendar? If not, that was quite the coincidence, as that was what it said yesterday!

    So much of history is a myth, who knows what to believe anymore, but stuff like this definitely challenges preconceived notions of how women were seen during these times.