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On Anti-Rape Wear and Chastity Belts

Chastity belt locked AR Wear is a collection of undergarments that the creators say will give women and girls "more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault" "when something goes wrong" using specially designed webbing and straps the make the garments impossible to remove. They're crowd-funding the project and about halfway to their goal, and their site is full of positive comments, including making a disco shorts version. The creators have their hearts in the right place, but they've understandably come under a fair deal of criticism.

Things like the insinuation that it's the potential victim's job to keep from getting herself raped, to the fact that most rapes are committed by people victims know and trust, to the risk of violence from an otherwise frustrated rapist, to the fact that $50K could go a long way to programs that teach young people about consent and rape culture. And then there's my personal observation that the models in the photos are super slim and this product requires an actual waist that's smaller than your hips to keep them on (bringing up those heinous comments about how fat girls should feel lucky to be raped. Ugh.)

Aside from all those issues, the undies keep getting compared to Chastity Belts, including in Amanda Hess's scathing take-down, which is worth a read. Seeing as our blog is about all things virgin, let's have a little teaching moment about that comparison and the devices themselves. The purpose of chastity belts was to assure exclusive access by the holder of the key, usually the wearer's husband/owner. You could compare this to an even worse owner-operated chastity system: a hideous brand of FGM, where a young woman's labia is sewn shut and then opened by the husband on their wedding night. In the case of AR Wear, it's a totally different story: The wearer has the 'key' and they're in control of access.

One of the few existing belts can be found, rightly so, in the Museum of Torture in Italy. However, many historians think chastity belts were largely a myth. There's very little record of chastity belt use, and since we have tons of other historical record on sexual practices, the lack of anything on chastity belts indicates they must have been very rare. When I interviewed the curator of the Museum of Sex in NYC, she said that she only knew of the one in Italy. On the other hand, there are loads of metal anti-masturbatory devices like this one at the Museum of Sex that they used to put on boys to keep them from touching themselves, and they're plentiful in museums and as awful as you can imagine. There are modern-day BDSM versions as well, but that's a whole other NSFW story.

Which brings me to a suggestion I've heard from several people: That it would be better to make constraining underwear for would-be rapists, except that we know you can rape someone without using a penis and without access to a vagina.