If you lock up your genitals, don’t lose the key.
A 60-year-old Italian woman learned that lesson the hard way last week.
At first, Padua firefighters assumed the woman was locked out of her house when she turned to them in a panic, saying she’d lost her keys.
But it turned out she needed help cracking open her chastity belt.
According to media reports, the woman began using it as a form of protection after hearing stories of sexual violence.
That’s unusual, but not for the reasons you’d think: 21st-century chastity belts have become a popular form of bondage within the BDSM community.
“Sales have been surging,” says Jess Wilde.
“The thrill is all about domination — denying themselves pleasure and finally letting themselves go.”
Wilde, whose last name is a pseudonym, is a bondage expert for sex toy retailer Lovehoney.com. She credits E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon for the surging sales.
Lovehoney.com says page views of chastity products on their website have increased 20 per cent over the past year, and searches on their site for chastity belts have surged by 46 per cent.
Chastity belts are more popular with men than women, according to a BDSM educator who goes by the name of Scarlet Riot. She works for a BDSM studio called Dungeon Toronto.
A former partner of Riot’s used to wear one himself, she said.
Riot said female chastity belts are tougher to find and “much more inconvenient.”
“In nine years of doing this work, I have never encountered a female chastity belt in actual [BDSM] sessions. They are typically custom-made.”
A number of online providers offer tailor-made female chastity belts.
Male chastity belts are also customizable, to a degree.
Oh, and the locks are plastic — no need to worry about setting off metal detectors.
“My ex used to take his off prior to working out at the gym but wore it the rest of the time,” Riot said.
The material is typically metal and plastic that’s easy to clean and urinate through.
Putting a penile package under lock and key can set you back upwards of US$150.
It comes with a one-year warranty. No returns allowed.
Male chastity belts usually should be put on when the penis is flaccid, as they tend to fit tight, Riot advised.
Once the wearer is aroused he’s typically unable to remove it “which is part of the appeal of chastity play.”
But play with care: “There are definitely risks,” Riot warned.
That includes “surface trauma if too tight and circulation issues if the device isn’t fitted properly.”
Historically, chastity belts have commonly been associated with non-consensual control or suppression of women’s sexual activities and impulses.
While they’re believed to have been used by medieval men who would lock up their wives while they went off to battle, historians say that’s not just not true.
“The fact is we have no archaeological or really any literary evidence for them existing in the Middle Ages,” said Sarah Bond, a professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Iowa.
Aside from a 1405 drawing that historians believe was actually meant as satire, Bond said, chastity belts didn’t really come into existence until the 18th and 19th centuries.
She believes they became popular as people became obsessed with artifacts and were set on defining the Middle Ages as “backwards.”
Chastity belts fit that conception. When they came onto the scene, they were mostly used for show and as pieces of wonderment, according to Bond.
“We’re kind of fascinated by this idea … that this was a period of women without a lot of agency and without a lot of power in society and a time when people were so wild that in order to protect the women while men were away, you would put a chastity belt on.”
“But the thing is, anyone who’s ever worn a chastity belt for any period of time would know how difficult it would be ever to wear one.”
But Share has a feeling the Italian woman’s story will only spark more interest in this genre of toys.
“Rather than being alarmed by her predicament, more sexually adventurous couples will read her story and think, ‘Chastity belts sounds like fun!'”