The truth about chastity belts is that they are largely a fiction constructed in the Renaissance and Early Modern periods in order to conjure a more “barbaric” middle age that had come previously.

As Judith Bennett and Ruth Karras have argued, “In early modern Europe, these stories did what cross-cultural comparisons of women and gender have often done: they elevated one civilization and denigrated another” (2013: 2). It was likely Conrad Kyeser who first created the modern image of a chastity belt. It was for his book on war machinery, Bellifortis (1405). He noted that they were used in Florence–but is perhaps mentioning them in jest. A splendid book has been written on the subject by Albrecht Classen (2007). In it, he shows that the idea of medieval men locking up their women in metal girdles in order to stop marauding men or lustful wives is a myth that “modern” peoples constructed in order to show the lack of civility prior to their own age–much in the way that it was alleged that medieval peoples believed in the idea of a flat earth.

 

Sarah E. Bond, “Unlocking the Dark Ages: A Short History of Chastity Belts” (June 5, 2015)

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