In his 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Dr David Reuben, a physician and surgeon, described chastity belts as an “armoured bikini” with “a screen in front to allow urination and an inch of iron between the vagina and temptation.”
The chastity belt or the “girdle of purity” reached peak popularity during medieval times when the crusaders and knights were away from their wives, in some cases years at a time.
The belts, manufactured by blacksmiths, can still be seen in the Musee de Cluny in Paris, the British Museum and the Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.
It appears that chastity belts have been forced on women since ancient times. Homer’s Odyssey describes how Aphrodite cheats on her husband, Hephaistus, and in order to prevent further “away day” activity, he forges a “girdle” for her privates. Though the Greeks, however, never adopted the device. It is generally assumed that the Crusaders of the 12th century found out about chastity belts during their travels in the East, where they also encountered the rather sinister practice of female infibulation, in which the lips of the vagina are temporarily closed with rings and wires. Virgins were infibulated from the age of puberty until the day they married; it was the husband who removed the obstruction on their wedding night
Some scholars claim that there is mention of a chastity belt within the Old Testament in the Bible. The book of Exodus tells how Moses whilst building the Tabernacle asks for donations to meet the cost. According to Rabbi Rashi (1040-1105) a renowned French biblical scholar, among the objects donated was a “koomaz” – a kind of plate. This he claimed was “a plate which could be fixed on a womans private part “in support of this he offered quotations from the Talmud in which koomaz is an abbreviation of the Hebrew phrase “here in the place of shamed deeds”
Alcuin of York (735 –804), the English scholar, and teacher wrote in his On the Use of Psalms
“Divest me of my past sins, protect me from presently imminent ones, fortify me against future ones. Provide me with due abstinence from food and drink, a chastity belt, purity of heart and lips, grant me patience, forbearance, good will, modesty, spiritual joy and total contempt of the world.”
The use of chastity belts did not flourish until the 12th century. The first models were made in Italy and were called “florentine girdles.” As they were adopted throughout Europe during the crusades, the contraptions acquired such names as “drawers of iron” and “padlock of purity. The French philosopher and writer Voltaire (1694 – 1778) dedicated a whole poem to the Padlock of Purity
I triumphed; Love was master
And I was nearing these too brief instants
Of my happiness and yours perhaps
But a tyrant wants to trouble our good time
He is your husband; a prison keeper of sex
He has locked the free sanctuary
Of your charms; and abusing our desires
Retains the key to the sojourn of pleasures
There appeared to be two basic models, the partial pudenda and the full pudenda. The partial pudenda was a metal plate which covered the vulva. The pudenda – from the Latin pudere, “to be ashamed” and the origin of the Word prudishness – contained a narrow vertical slit through which the wife could have a pee, though with little or no accuracy. The aperture was usually fitted with outwardly pointed teeth, often spring loaded, to discourage a suitor`s exploration with so much as a finger.
The “full monty”, as it were, according to Eric Dingwall’s sadly non best selling A Girdle of Chastity (1931) covered both the anterior and posterior regions. In addition to the small widdle slot, the full pudenda had a large rear aperture that allowed for number 2`s but the rear orifice could not be too large, since it had to prevent anal intercourse, and just to be on the safe side it too had a set of metal teeth.
With a full pudenda, maintaining bodily cleanliness was even more difficult, which in itself could serve as a deterrent to would-be suitors. Doctors of the time claimed that a woman could wear a chastity belt for months at a time, as long as she bathed frequently.
The earliest description of chastity belt is found in a German manuscript by Konrad Kyeser (1366-1405) entitled Bellifortis (c.1400) which gives advice to any husband about to go to war on what kind of girdling device he needs to ensure his wife’s fidelity.
The oldest model still in existence once belonged to the Italian despot Novella Carrara, who in 1388 upon his father’s abdication as ruler of Padua, became Francesco the Younger. Carrara preferred a full pudenda model for his wife to wear in his absence. For her comfort, he thoughtfully padded the interior of the metal girdle with soft leather. Her frontal chastity was fortified by thirty six metal porcupine-like spikes, while the small botty orifice discouraged would be visitors with fifteen razor – sharp teeth. When at home, the sexually adventurous Carrara liked to attempt intercourse by attempting to violate his wife through the girdle. In this sense, it also served as a sex toy.
Carrara was Imprisoned following a political battle between Padua and Venice, and was later strangled by his Venetian captors in the summer of 1206. Mrs Carrara’s pudenda , however, remains in perfect condition and is prominently displayed in the Doges Palace.
Chastity belts are still with us today, as a trawl through the magical internet reveals that:
In 1998, racial riots against the ethnic Chinese in Java prompted the production and sale of “anti-rape corsets”. These were Florentine-type belts of imitation leather-covered plastic, fastened with a combination lock. The belts had a solid crotch strap without holes, and were intended only for brief outings.
In April 2002, the Uwe Koetter Jewellers company of Cape Town, South Africa, completed and delivered a spectacular diamond and pearl-encrusted chastity belt made of gold to a British customer. The belt reportedly cost R160,000 and was a wedding gift from a husband-to-be for his bride to wear at their wedding.
On February 6, 2004, USA Today reported that at Athens airport in Greece, a woman’s steel chastity belt had triggered a security alarm at the metal detector. The woman explained that her husband had forced her to wear the device to prevent an extramarital affair while she was on holiday in Greece. The red faced passenger was then allowed to continue her flight to London.
In 2007, the Asian Human Rights Commission reported that women were being forced to wear chastity belts in the Indian state of Ragasthan
In 2008, masseuses in Batu, Indonesia were required to wear belts with a lock and key during working hours, to prevent prostitution.
On February 8, 2010, where else but in America; AOL News reported that a man called Dexter Blanch (sounds like the name of a 1970`s porn star), a dog breeder from Louisiana, introduced a chastity belt for dogs, called PABS (Pet Anti-Breeding System). It is made of polypropolene and uses an eight-buckle locking system and a washable mesh pad to prevent intercourse in female dogs. Dr. Kathleen Makolinski, director of veterinary outreach at the ASPA, commented that “For the majority of animals, spaying and neutering remains the most beneficial option”.
On September 19, 2012, China People`s Daily reported that a man in his 50s, naked except for a homemade chastity belt, appeared with a pair of banners in Changchun World Sculpture Park in Jilin province in China, seeking a wife. He stated that he wore the chastity belt to symbolise fidelity to his future wife
Even Amazon have got in on the act, on their website under the heading “Health and Personal care” there are pages upon pages of the damn things the cheapest starting at a more than reasonable £48 plus postage and packing.