Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Pervasive Myth of the Chastity Belt

I remember learning about these devices in my European history class in high school. They were presented as lurid examples of how horrible it was to be a woman in the middle ages. People referenced them from time to time in articles or discussion, and their existence were pretty firmly in the camp of things "everyone knew" to be true. But something always bothered me about those stories: they didn't seem like something that could be terribly effective, unless they were constructed in a way that would make their wearer likely to succumb to a nasty infection.

Belt claimed to be from 16th-17th century


Of course, my misgivings turned out to be correct. There's little evidence that medieval and Early-Modern references to the things were anything but metaphors or jokes, and the "real" ones that exist seem to date no earlier than the 18th or 19th centuries, when they were probably created as fakes to put in "medieval torture museums," or perhaps as sexual novelty items.

Here's some reading on the history of this pervasive myth.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/everything-youve-heard-about-chastity-belts-is-a-lie/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=atlas-page

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/medieval-chastity-belts-are-myth-180956341/?no-ist

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/160509

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/05/chastity-belts-never-actually-used-medieval-times/

Add this to the long list of things people "know" about the middle ages that just ain't true. As the old adage goes, a lie makes it around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

1 comment:

  1. Now, we just use societal shaming--and there's no myth to that!

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