A chastity belt is a locking item of clothing designed to prevent sexual intercourse or masturbation. Such belts were historically designed for women, ostensibly for the purpose of chastity, to protect women from rape or to dissuade women and their potential sexual partners from sexual temptation. Modern versions of the chastity belt are predominantly, but not exclusively, used in the BDSM community, and chastity belts are now designed for male wearers in addition to female wearers.
According to modern myths, the chastity belt was used as an anti-temptation device during the Crusades. When the knight left for the Holy Lands on the Crusades, his Lady would wear a chastity belt to preserve her faithfulness to him. However, there is no credible evidence that chastity belts existed before the 15th century (over a century after the last Middle Eastern Crusade), and their main period of apparent use falls within the Renaissance rather than the Middle Ages. Research into the history of the chastity belt suggests that they were not used until the 16th century, and then only rather rarely; they first became widely available in the form of 19th-century anti-masturbation medical devices.
Renaissance chastity belts were said to have had padded linings (to prevent large areas of metal from coming into direct prolonged contact with the skin), and these had to be changed fairly frequently, so that such belts were not practical for uninterrupted long-term wear. Uninterrupted long-term wear could have caused genitourinary infection, abrasive wounds, sepsis and eventual death.
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