Woman Asks Firefighters To Free Her From Chastity Belt After She Forgets The Combination

Photographed By Lauren Perlstein.
No, this is not a headline from The Onion, nor the 1400s. The Huffington Post writes that according to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, last week, a 60-year-old woman in Padua, Italy walked into a fire station to inform the firefighters there that she'd forgotten the combination to open a padlock. Her request for help cracking it open only became unusual when she showed them that the lock in question was on her chastity belt. The fire crew suspected that the woman may have been the victim of domestic violence, but she insisted that she had chosen to wear the device herself out of fear of sexual assault.

While we're having flashbacks to the chastity belt scene in Robin Hood: Men in Tights ("It's an Everlast!"), we're also disheartened that any woman felt so threatened by the possibility of rape that she "resurrected" a patriarchal device that probably never existed in the Middle Ages in the first place. (Medieval experts hold that depictions of chastity belts were intended as metaphors for either chastity or a man's control over his wife, and that it wasn't until the Victorian period that people believed they had really been in use.)

A modern day woman's use of the device seems ridiculous, but it's not so different from the many other attempted applications of technology to prevent assault. In 2013, an Indiegogo campaign to fund "anti-rape underwear" attracted 110% of its funding goal — and much controversy, with critics arguing that the product implied that women bear responsibility for avoiding assault. Last year, the Indiegogo campaign for the more savory ROAR, a "smart safety gadget" that emits emits an alarm and sends the wearer's location to his or her contacts when pressed, received 667% of its funding goal. A handful of apps, meanwhile, strive to connect potential victims with emergency contacts and encourage open discussion of harassment and assault.

While some of these may be effective, they're Band-Aids on the underlying problem of men's entitlement to women's bodies around the world. In other words, a padlock can't take down the patriarchy. It might get you in the newspaper, though.

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