Medieval scholar uncovers the myth of the chastity belt

11 September 2008

The chastity belt has been exposed as a popular myth, despite its becoming an icon representing male oppression in the feminist literature of the '70s and '80s.

Medieval scholar Albrecht Classen, who works at the University of Arizona, delivered a lecture at the University of Sydney medieval studies department on Thursday, 28 August, that outlined his research in the area.

After reviewing the evidence of the chastity belt's existence, Professor Classen discovered that scant research had been done on the topic. The myth had proliferated in the 19th century, he said, and was a byproduct of that century's fascination with instruments of torture from medieval times.

He added that the chastity belt had taken hold in society and had become a powerful symbol for the oppression of women, as well as a popularised product in the field of S&M and adult shops.

To hear to the full lecture, listen to the podcast.

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