According to various texts and legends, the chastity belt is a metal device that locks around a person's genital area to prevent sex and masturbation.
The design of the chastity belt was not the same in different regions, although they all had the same basic design. Medieval chastity belts were often made of metal, although some had leather straps to tie around the waist. They were called "belts", in reality they looked more like metal underwear, with small holes for the evacuation of feces and urine.
Design of medieval chastity belts
In the Middle Ages some chastity belts had vaginal slits with protruding spikes to discourage men from approaching them. Other medieval chastity belts were more sober and less painful to wear, though probably still extremely uncomfortable.
Medieval chastity belt
Two medieval belts are on display at the Cluny Museum in Paris, the first one would have belonged to Catherine de Medici, Queen of France from 1547 to 1559. It is made of a simple velvet hoop with a small iron plate fixed on the front. The second would have been worn by Anne of Austria, Queen of France & Navarre from 1615 to 1643, it is made of a pair of hinged plates attached by a metal belt.
Some of these medieval chastity belts would have been padded to avoid cutting or scratching the women who wore them. Unfortunately, the pads were easily soiled and had to be changed regularly. As the belt had to be removed to change the padding, the points that went around the vaginal slit were then sanded down. Medieval belts were not meant to inspire comfort, their purpose was to make the women who wore them chaste, while their husbands were at war.
Invention of the Chastity Belt
Chastity belt Middle Ages painting
References to chastity belts have been found in texts dating back to the first century, but according to the medieval historian Albrecht Classen, the existence of these items may be a myth.
It is believed that the invention of the chastity belt dates back to the Middle Ages, when men locked up their wives or daughters to ensure their virginity and fidelity during their long absences. Texts suggest that the belts were used during the Crusades, when men left their wives to fight in the war. While they were away, their wives were fitted with a chastity belt to avoid temptation and preserve their fidelity until their husbands returned with the key.The earliest descriptions of chastity belts are found in religious texts. The oldest descriptions of chastity belts are found in religious texts, however, few of them relate the actual wearing of these metal belts. It is for many a metaphor for the idea of preventing sexual intercourse.
Medieval Chastity Belt SketchAlthough the symbol of a knotted rope belt was used to represent bridal chastity in ancient Rome, the idea that medieval women wore metal belts for long periods of time is medically dubious; prolonged skin contact against the metal would lead to abrasions, wounds, and infections.
The first drawing of a belt was depicted in a book called Bellifortis, written in 1405 by a German military engineer named Konrad Kyeser. However, historians have noted that Kyeser's writing was often comical, and the book included several jokes and references to things that were not meant to be taken literally. With this in mind, it is possible that the drawing of the belt was another of his jokes placed throughout the book.
It was not until the sixteenth century that references and depictions of chastity belts became commonplace. Even in the Middle Ages, references do not show the actual use of belts.
Era of the female chastity belt
In ancient times the chastity belt was undoubtedly a comic reference to the specific fear of men that their wives would cheat on them with younger men. Although fears may have been common at the time, there is little evidence that men actually forced their wives to lock up their bodies to allay their fears.