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The Myth of Chastity Belts (atlasobscura.com)
82 points by tintinnabula on Aug 18, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

Always love


Beside chastity belts my favorite is the myth of the flat earth.

Learning the truth about many of those misconceptions even before discovering the whole list is what ultimately broke my trust in mainstream opinion. The whole time since I left high school has been a period of systematic unlearning of all the bullshit I've been taught - by teachers, friends, families and talking heads. Just how the hell is an adult supposed to live if every other day they discover another thing they thought is obvious is actually wrong? This is one of those things that really pisses me off about reality.

I've had to unlearn and relearn chemistry like 7 times now (since quantum chemistry finally makes accurate quantitative predictions, I'll trust it for now...)

I know you can't teach third graders quantum mechanics, but I wish they at least wouldn't have taught me wrong stuff that became ingrained into my mind at an early age.

Almost 20 years later, I distinctly remember my high school physics teacher standing at the front of the class on the first day and saying "Remember this: everything you will learn from me this year is wrong."

Buck up! I think of it as, zeroing in on truth. Historically we had approximations and good guesses. Now we're in an unprecedented period of discovery and science. Of course we have a lot to unlearn!

That's definitely a good way of looking at it, but still, most of those misconceptions aren't lack of knowledge; it's people presenting bullshit to other people as facts of nature. It's not that we had to discover how, say, microwave oven works - we obviously knew that before the first one ever hit the market! Someone somewhere just invented an explanation and it spread, and most people don't bother to even think twice if it makes sense.

My favorite wrong fact was the simple model of friction we were taught - that force was proportional to surface area and weight. In middle school we were given force gauges and wood blocks. Pull them stacked or linked and graph the force vs weight X area. I got a weird curve. Looking around, I saw everybody else fudging their data to make a straight line. Confusing.

Decades later I heard on the radio "The traditional model of friction has been proven incorrect for many materials" and I thought, I knew that in middle school.

I think you may have misunderstood something here. The high school static fiction model is:

  frictional force = normal force X coefficient of friction
i.e. frictional force is independent of surface area according to this model.

What are the units of that coefficient? Per square? And are we talking force or pressure. Hm.

The experiment used blocks with hook-and-eye screws. You dragged them across the surface linked in a chain, then again stacked, in twos and threes. The result came out nothing like a linear relationship.

The coefficient has no unity. It's N/N. And we are talking about force, not pressure.

By an ideal linear friction, you should have measured the same force on all experiments. But reality is way more complex, and sometimes the ideal model won't give you even a first order approximation.

Your teacher shouldn't have used wood blocks (unless he wanted to make a point), metal ones would give better results.

I'm sorry you've got totally the wrong end of the concept here.

Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friction#Dry_friction

You might enjoy "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". It argues convincing against the idea that we have not been zeroing in on truth. Our understanding is better then it used to be, but it's not because we're been steadily progressing. It's because we occasionally throw everything out and start over through a "paradigm shift". This book coined that phrase.

> It is rarely necessary to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person report; in instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence, law enforcement agencies in the United States often stress the importance of beginning an investigation promptly. The UK government website says explicitly in large type "You don't have to wait 24 hours before contacting the police".

Saw this myth repeated on one of those John Walsh type cop shows the other day.

Anyone who believes microwaves cook things from the inside out has never tried to microwave a frozen burrito / pizza pop.

As stated in the wikipedia article, the microwaves penetrate to a depth of about 1cm (give or take, depending on the food). So, in a sense, it can be argued that the microwaves heat from inside, though in reality, not very far inside.

The trouble is that microwaves work mostly by heating liquid water. Ice is not liquid water and absorbs microwaves relatively poorly. The already melted parts tend to heat up faster while the still frozen parts heat up very little. This, in addition to the limited penetration, is how you wind up with food that is napalm hot on the outside and still frozen in the middle. If you are trying to defrost something or cook it from frozen, you are much better off using a lower power setting. The peak power output is actually the same, but it gets turned on and off (you can hear it cycling) so that the warm areas of the food have more time to transfer some of that heat to the still cold areas through good old fashioned conduction. Incidentally, this is the same reason that the instructions for many pre-made items tell you to let them sit for 1 or 2 minutes before taking it out of the microwave.

(Some?) Panasonic microwaves claim to be able to lower microwave power linearly without the on/off power cycling. I'm mildly curious if their marketing claims of superior cooking hold up.


Indeed, and they seem to make a difference: http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-microwave/

Wait a second. The Wikipedia page first says that microwave do not cook from the inside out because the microwaves do not penetrate beyond 1 cm. but then it says that microwaves really cook by oscillating the magnetic field which jostles around dipoles like the water in food.

So does the magnetic field only penetrate very close to the skin, or are all the water molecules inside the food being excited, resulting in the food being cooked indeed from the inside?

? Cut a thick piece of meat that's been microwaved. You see complex red/brown variation, because microwaves penetrate. Its not all cooked from the inside, but its different from a conventional heat oven in that there's some cooking from the inside.

Its easy to write sophomoric puff pieces about how we had it all wrong. Just assume an Aristotelian posture of black/white 'facts' and show its actually grey. Voila!

On the other hand you really can get severe burns from the filling of a microwaved jelly donut even if the dough part is cool enough to hold. It's true the microwaves don't heat "from the inside out", but it's also true microwaves heat some materials dramatically better than others.

This was interesting read, thanks!

The "everything you know about X is wrong" cliche always bugged me. I don't mind a little straw man to make a point, but not when I'm the straw man. I never really thought I knew anything about chastity belts!

It sounds that chastity belts are more of a long running trope than an actual thing, which sounds about right.

But, art imitates life imitates art especially when rule 34 gets involved. Once this idea was uploaded into the medieval blogosphere, joke or not, it almost certainly became real.

> But, art imitates life imitates art especially when rule 34 gets involved. Once this idea was uploaded into the medieval blogosphere, joke or not, it almost certainly became real.

As the final paragraph notes.

I doubt that chastity belts in the medieval fantasy sense were practical before late 20th century manufacturing technology. Technology involved in manufacture of modern BDSM-targeted belts (CNCs, stainless steel, plastics... and even 3D printers) tend to support that view.

Eh, by the late 1400 (towards the end of the middle ages) people seem to have got pretty good at hammering steel and installing hinges and rivets.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HJRK_A_56_-_Gauntlet... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HJRK_S_XIV_-_Jousting_arm...

Of course, the fact they /could/ make such things doesn't change the fact they /didn't/ in reality make such things.

Nice article. But:

For women, it's a fantasy about male cruelty and control.

Seems misogynist and like some uninformed male opinion not based on actual research or talking to women. Other than that one line, yeah, it sounds good. Actually locking women in an iron chastity belt would have horrifying health consequences. That doesn't mean people wouldn't do it anyway. Historically, women sometimes had ribs removed to accommodate the fashion of wearing a corset. But I haven't seen medical references to the serious medical problems this would cause. So I can readily believe this was a joke, not a reality.

> For women, it's a fantasy about male cruelty and control.

> Seems misogynist and like some uninformed male opinion not based on actual research or talking to women.

What people want in sexual fantasies doesn't have to align with what they want in a relationship. BDSM is a testament to that.

I am a woman. Any intrigue I have with chastity belts is not about fantasizing about men being cruel and controlling. I stand by my assertion that it sounds like an uninformed opinion. Did the author do a study? I doubt it.

Maybe it is uninformed. I see now that, yes, that might not be the only reason someone would like it. I was reacting more against the assertion that such an opinion is misogynist, because I don't really know how far that quite goes where sexual fantasy is concerned.


It seems misogynist to me because it seems to assume that women universally view men as cruel and controlling. The framing makes a very sweeping assumption about both All Men and All Women.

I struggle with how to express this, but it implicitly disregards female agency and the complexity of female psychology or sexuality.

I was sexually abused as a child. I have certainly had fantasies that I found disturbing at the time. In my teens, I would fantasize about the Russians invading and taking over my high school. In my fantasies, I would end up with some Russian officer based on the virtue of knowing 2 dozen words of Russian.

In my twenties, I did a lot of therapy. I ultimately concluded this was a rescue fantasy. It expressed how grim-dark my life felt in my teens and how trapped I felt at the time. It expressed my fear that there were no nice men and there was nothing but evil in the world. But it placed me in protective custody of a powerful figure as the least worst answer I could imagine.

In reality, I got married at age 19 to another 19 year old. He was something of a knife covered nutcase and he ultimately joined the army, which effectively extracted me from my hometown and whisked me away from my abusers. A "nice" young man would not have been able to help me. A previous attempt at a relationship to a nicer man resulted in him being chewed up and spit out by the situation.

So I have a history of both a fantasy life and real life experience of being attracted to men who aren't "nice." In neither case was it really what it appeared to be on the surface. No white knight could possibly have saved me. So I sought out an honorable dark knight.

Any degree of intrigue I have with something like a chastity belt would be rooted not in vilifying men as cruel and controlling but in trying to imagine some means of finally feeling washed clean of the stigma of the abuse I endured. I am 50 years old. It happened long ago and far away. There are people who still judge me as a bad girl or dirty girl because of the crimes and failings of other people. Some things are incredibly hard to wash off.

If you look at female fantasies as an outsider, as a man who sees his own frustrations with women, perhaps they look pretty condemning of men. But if you treat women as human beings, you have to wonder what's in it for them. You have to ask what they are getting out of it. And that results in a very different conclusion about why a specific unpleasant image might interest them.

Speaking of painful body modifications for fashion: Lotus Feet [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding

The author was possibly referring to how chastity belts are often used in less-informed feminist writing as an example of how patriarchy looked in the past.

Ah, thank you. I don't read a lot of feminist writings. Not my cup of tea.

It still strikes me as a not great thing to say, even with that context added.


Whoa. This comment is a poster child for why HN has this guideline:

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them."

Your off-topic comment overwhelmed and ruined the thread, and provoked users to flag a fine story about medieval and 18th century history.

Please don't post things like this. Their awful effect is predictable.

On the other hand it stimulated an interesting and important discussion about reproductive control and autonomy.

Please don't flag interesting discussions just because you personally don't like them.

A comment on the article that you linked:

In germany every child, mother and father has the right to get a paternity test. If any party refuses to give his/her consent to a paternity test you have to get a court order and that will replace the missing consent. It is illegal to get a paternity test, when one of the parties doesn't consent and you don't get a court order. The order is just a formality, very cheap and you don't need a laywer. This formality exists, because in germany it is generally forbidden to get a genetic fingerprint of a person without his/her consent. Edit: In Germany a father has to accept fatherhood. If the mother denies a paternity test, he is not liable for child support. A court will usually order a paternity test if a father refuses to accept fatherhodd or the mother denies a paternity test.

So if you are in doubt - the only thing you have to do is claim that you doubt and the full support of the state will be with you.

Paternity tests are not banned in France. At will, secret, testing is banned. Parents can get court orders if they want a paternity test.

The US is similar: although there are kits you can buy off the shelf the results are for personal knowledge only and can't be used in legal proceedings. If you want to use a paternity test in court you need a court ordered paternity test from an accredited lab.

Yes, if you really want to be paranoid about it: it's probably more a result of accredited labs' lobbying than crazy feminists.

The reddit link is to a men's movement forum, so expect conspiracy theory and misinformation to be rife - it goes with the territory ... And feminism suffers from the same problem. Any prejudiced movement will suffer from victim mentality and reality distortion. That's not saying that sexism doesn't exist - but "taking a gender preference" leads to bias in one's views and ultimately creates more prejudice from those who believe in a gender superiority. The best solution is to think of everyone as people. Only accept a gender difference if it's essential. For example, avoid giving jobs based on gender as many companies do today ... Unless there is an absolute need, doing so is sexist (and quotas/targets to reach 50% are almost always sexist).

That doesn't make any sense: "French men often circumvent these laws by sending samples of DNA to foreign laboratories". Did you mean foreign labs lobbying in France?

From DanBC above: At will, secret, testing is banned. Parents can get court orders if they want a paternity test.

The "labs lobbying" comment was kind of tongue-in-cheek: making fun of the "crazies" being paranoid about "crazy feminists"...

The real reason's probably more about bioethics: no dna profiling of people who don't consent without a court order (and children being too young to consent, you need a court order for a paternity test).


Fair? Men have a slightly different cost/benefit situation than women. And if I recall, the whole activity is voluntary. No, I have to label abusers as cheats, who played the game and when it starts to cost them, try to evade the consequences.

In the modern world the cost benefit is more complex than it was 50 years ago. Men have huge costs for unwanted children -- not as high as women but still very high. And men have far less control than women upon whether it happens.

> No, I have to label abusers as cheats, who played the game and when it starts to cost them, try to evade the consequences.

What do you even mean by this sentence?

'Abusers' == Folks gaming the system to avoid responsibility.

You have the right to not sleep with someone who does not share your life goals / abortion views. I'm pretty sure you have that right even in France.

So I take it you have never been lied to or tricked or misled? You are either a lucky person or one with an uncommon ability to read other people.

Until there are male birth control measures on a par with the pill/IUD there is a gender gap in terms of reproductive control.

If/when that has occurred it did not result in a pregnancy AFAIK.

>there is a gender gap in terms of reproductive control.

Yeah, and?

What's wrong with condoms?

Somewhat playing devil's advocate, but they do have a failure rate. An insanely small one with perfect use, but still

'perfect use' for condoms is a somewhat pointless idea. In the real world this is an activity where things are not perfect. It's dark, people are rushing to get to the good bits, you may be a little tipsy.

We should consider real world use and here they have a rather high failure rate. For me they have failed 100% to protect unwanted pregnancy in a real world setting.

Seriously. Condoms have one the worst user interfaces of all modern technology.

They're not modern technology. The material is (somewhat) but the method isn't. Condoms are at least 400 years old, and there's plenty of evidence of other forms of contraception even by the Egyptians, Greeks, etc. The first rubber condom was produced in 1855, with them primarily being made of sheeps' guts and other natural materials before. Latex condoms came into play in the 1920s.

Every time you've had sex it resulted in conception? That's amazing fertility. I'm certain that reproductive medicine specialists would love to have a word.

Having children is a binary state. A single contraceptive failure flips that bit and changes everything. On a personal level one failure is a 100% failure.

That makes it a risky venture, to an insanely small degree.

Given real world usage and failure rates it is a risky venture to a moderately high degree.

What is wrong with condoms is that they reduce sensations by half (at least for me).

My advice here would be to get creative. There are so many ways of making sensations more intense that it's very easy to offset any loss incurred by a condom. And that's even before mentioning ways of making each other feel good other than a simple penetration. And before going to a sex shop for a couple of toys.

You're using the same argument for condoms than Agile : if it doesn't work for you then you're doing it wrong.

The fact is, imagination or not, condom means less sensation for a lot of us : Bill Gates is financing research to produce even finer condoms to help facilitate its acceptance.

I think people who down-voted me, read more in my comment than what I was saying. Less sensation doesn't mean you should take the risk of a STD (I sure don't).

Or you could have sex with other people who take care of their sexual health and use another form of contraception.

Then simple penetration with just. feel. better. (for both parties) and getting creative will be a fun thing rather than a requirement.


In my experience a massive failure rate (it's a good job that I do tend to sleep with people who's 'life goals' are aligned with mine) this combined with hugely reduced sensation means that that I'd rather take care of myself than use a condom.

Well, of course the middle ages would never invent sex toys - that chastity belts exist now can only mean they are recent, because people had not kinky fantasies back then.

Kink was a lot easier back then, because anything other than man-on-woman top-down missionary penetration was either not considered sex, or was blasphemous/unnatural. But there's also evidence of a lot of kink going on, even if it was somewhat tame by today's standards. The simplest examples were fashion that emphasized the male's, uh, manliness, like the poulaine shoes and codpieces.

The most popular sex trope of the day was probably 'the wayward nun' and 'the mischevious monk'. Plenty of people have written about sexual misconduct in the clergy - probably far more than was actually happening - because of the inherent naughtiness of the chaste getting away with lascivious behavior. Then there's just the stories in general of religious or political figures being objectified and chased after like veritable Ricky Martins, and of course, always gallantly rejecting all these people trying to fuck them all the time. Sir Gaiwan and the Green Knight, a poem from the 14th century, does much with the trope of Knights as manly men who are constantly being lusted after and rejecting random women's objectification of them, and has plenty of bondage jokes, apparently.

One of my favorite stories is from a book on the history of flagellation. There was some traveling monk who got called on by a woman while he was passing her house, and she was asking him for help or something, so of course he went in with her - while her husband was away - but only to help, of course. Once inside, she throws herself on him, trying to fuck him for like a good four hours, him rejecting her advances the entire time of course. Finally he succumbs. (Awwww, poor monk!) And as a result of her wickedness, he flagellates her for another couple hours so she can pay for her sins. When the husband comes home to see his wife beaten & flogged by this monk, the monk tells him the whole story. The husband's response? Thank god you beat & flogged her! Now she won't have to pay for her sins in the afterlife!

The Handbook of Medieval Sexuality goes over some other common examples of 'unusual' sex documented in the middle ages, such as homosexuality, cross-dressing/gender role change, prostitution, contraception, castration, etc. And sure, we had to wait 'til the 17th and 18th century to see famous examples of kinky personalities such as John Wilmot and the Marquis de Sade, but you have to assume there were others rejecting the puritan attitudes of the day before them.

Thanks for the interesting posting. I was trying to speak facetious, but well, that bombed.

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