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Two dedicated practitioners talk about rituals and women:
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Author Noelle Howey was entering puberty when her father announced that he wanted to change his sex. A provocative memoir...

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Chastity belts went out with the Middle Ages--now that's wishful thinking. Historians debate whether medieval women were forced to wear them, but no one disputes the fact that during the nineteenth century, Western doctors recommended putting girls and boys in chastity belts to prevent masturbation.

Fast forward to the Erotica USA convention in New York City last April, where a company called Access Denied was selling customized chastity belts for both women and men. The belts, like the one shown, consist of a rubber-cushioned stainless steel waistband, a plastic-coated front shield (or tube, on the men's version), rear chains, and a strategically placed high-security lock. Weighing in at just under five pounds, the armor starts at $375 for the female model and $440 for the male version. Access Denied claims they sell hundreds worldwide yearly, mostly through the Internet, and that 75% of their customers in the U.S. and Western Europe order the male version.

Excuse me? A sizable number of chastity belt Web sites do in fact reveal a slew of male users, many of whom, it seems, like to indulge in erotic fantasies about power and submission. Enthusiasts also include couples who don them as a symbol of commitment. Imagine that ceremony--"Don't call the preacher, honey, call the locksmith!"

But there's a sinister side to all of this. In countries outside the U.S. and Western Europe, the majority of devices sold are for women. Who knows whether girls and women are being forced to wear the contraptions? After all, if they are, they're unlikely to log onto a chat room to extol the virtues of this heavy-metal gear. Brigitta Tooker, co-owner of Access Denied, does know that among Western women customers, many are sexual abuse survivors who use the belts to help them feel safe. Who'd have thought that wild fantasy and grim reality would meet in the same device?

- Ophira Edut

PHOTO COURTESY OF ACCESS DENIED

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009