“What are your feelings about a husband placing a chastity belt on a wife to prevent masturbation or fondling?” This a question I received in an email from a woman named Mary.
As I told her in my emails to her this is the first time anyone has ever written me about this. I knew what a chastity belt is but usually we think of this as some medieval device long since gone out of use.
There is a great debate amongst historians as to if chastity belts were ever actually used in ancient times or if they were simply urban myths meant to scare women into guarding their sexual purity.
But there was an actual incident this year where an Italian woman had to call the fire fighters to cut her out of her own chastity belt because she lost the keys:
“Chastity belts might sounds as though they belong in the Middle Ages, but this week an Italian woman was forced to enlist the help of local firefighters after she became stuck in her own iron number.
The middle-aged woman, who can’t be named for privacy reasons, had lost the keys to her belt and asked firefighters to help cut her out. They investigated whether she’d been forced into wearing it – but it turned out she’d had chosen to wear the belt to prevent herself from embarking on a sexual relationship.”
So with all that being said as a background here is Mary’s full story and then I will respond.
“What are your feelings about a husband placing a chastity belt on a wife to prevent masturbation or fondling? Does he have that authority? He believes that if I self-gratify myself, that I am taking away from our mutual pleasure. The device is a belt, from which a shield covers my private parts and is locked on…allowing for urination, but not for fingers. So, it works, but I always worry someone will find out, which would be highly embarrassing.
And I am grateful he cares so much for our intimacy. But, it does have that medieval bondage aspect to it. As I already stand out in my manner of dress, I feel like it is just another distinction I have from my friends and fellow Christians. Then, I wonder if there are other Christian wives out there who have to follow rules like me, and I will never know because of their secrecy. Make sense?
I am sure the issue of consent will be raised by commenters. I do consent (even though I cannot remove it, if I wanted) but the question is do I have to consent to such a request by husband as a Christian wife?”
An update from Mary
A couple weeks after Mary sent me the original email you see above she then sent me this update:
“I wanted to give you an update. I have not been a fan of wearing the belt and shield, but I see the wisdom in it. Since early July, Jim has had me wear it each day. It is amazing to me how much I had been sinning by consciously or unconsciously gratifying myself. Obviously, the belt prevents me from using my fingers or an object.
But, I found out that I had been sitting and leaning against things to evoke that same stimulus without realizing it—but the shield prevents that. For example, when in the kitchen waiting on something to bake, I would stand on one leg and draping my other leg over a bar stool in the kitchen. With the belt/shield on, I suddenly realized that I was, passively, doing this to give some light pleasure to myself. Because, the belt/shield prevents this, I realized that I had formerly been doing this as a way of comfort, and that this posture made no other sense.
Our intimacy has been greatly increased when he unlocks the belt. I still have mixed emotions about why I was so weak to necessitate him doing this. However, I love that he jealously wants to protect our intimacy and relationship.”
I respond to Mary’s seeming acceptance of this practice of wearing a chastity belt asking her why she thought she had “been sinning by consciously or unconsciously gratifying myself.” This was her response:
“My thoughts were that gratifying myself can be wrong under the following circumstances:
Hurts our spouse: Like you said, if I gratify myself often enough, then I do have much less sexual desire for my husband. This did get to be a problem for us (not proud to admit it)
Gratifying myself retrained my brain away from my husband: When I gratify myself, I have a couple or routine fantasies I dwell upon. Well, those fantasies do not involve my husband, but other scenarios or people. So, when I have sex with my husband, my body was not reacting to him like my body was reacting in my fantasies. I guess I was training it to respond to a certain stimulus in my fantasy, and my husband is just not able to provide that same stimulus in real life.
By dwelling on circumstances or people outside my marriage bed to feed my fantasies, would that not be considered mental adultery, and thus make it a sin?”
My Response to Mary and other Women who are forced to wear chastity belts
I think we really have two issues here. The first is the issue of whether masturbation is Biblically right or wrong and the second is if chastity belts are an appropriate response to masturbation if in fact it is Biblically wrong.
Now what percentage of chastity belts are worn by women trying to guard themselves from sexual temptation and what percentage are from husbands who make their wives wear them? Who knows? But in either case it is apparent there is some subculture no matter how small that is employing the use of these devices.
The first question we need to answer is about the morality of masturbation.
Is Masturbation wrong for a Christian?
This is a huge subject that could take a whole article by itself which is why I wrote an entire article dedicated to answering this question from a Biblical perspective entitled “Is Masturbation a sin” a while back.
The short answer is that masturbation is not a sin in and of itself and the Bible never condemns it.
Rather than repeat everything in the article I wrote on masturbation here I will just address the most popular argument that has been used to say God does not approve of masturbation.
“9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.”
Genesis 38:9-10 (KJV)
This story in Genesis 38 is about a man named Onan who was called upon to fulfill his duty to enter into levirate marriage with his sister-in-law after his brother had died and not left her a son to be an heir for his estate. Instead of fulfilling his duty to give his dead brother’s wife an heir, he had sex with her and then pulled out at the end.
God did not kill Onan for masturbating. God did not even kill Onan for pulling out.
Neither are sinful activities. Onan could have refused to take his brother’s wife as his wife. Yes it would have been a shame on him but this would not have been worthy of death. What was worthy of death was the fact that he enjoyed his brother’s wife sexually “he went in unto his brother’s wife” but his intent was fraudulent and that is why he pulled out (“spilled it on the ground”). This is the wickedness for which God killed Onan.
Can masturbation become sinful?
I have shown from the Bible that masturbation in and of itself is never condemned in the Scriptures. However there are many things that are not sinful in and of themselves but they can become sinful if they become the central focus of our lives or if they cause us to sin by neglecting our duties.
For instance I play video games with my kids on Friday nights – that is family night for us. There is no sin in playing video games during our fun time together on the weekend. However if I were to play video games during the week to the neglect of my job or spending time with my wife and children in other ways it could become an obsession and sinful.
We need to eat. There is no sin in us desiring food and eating on a daily basis. However, if we live for food and constantly over-eat simply for the pleasure of eating we commit the sin of gluttony.
Masturbation is actually much closer to us eating food than to us playing video games. There is no biological imperative to play a video game. There is however a biological imperative to seek sexual release.
Some say masturbation, sexual thoughts and sexual intercourse are not needs but simply wants. After all – no one ever died from not masturbating or not having sex right?
What these same people miss is that while not having sex will not kill an individual – it will however kill a marriage and lack of sex if done on a consistent level worldwide would kill off the human race.
So in the same way that we are compelled as individuals to eat so we will not die, we are also compelled as spouses and as a human race to have sex so as to build intimacy in our marriages an ultimately to preserve the human race.
But can masturbation become sinful? Absolutely. If we do it too often to the neglect of our other responsibilities then it becomes a sin to the extent that we overdue it. If we come to the point where as a married people we would rather masturbate than have sex with our spouse then we need to look at how often we are masturbating.
But as I have often argued on this site in other places I believe that as Christians our sexual fantasies, the use of SOME types of porn (not all porn) and masturbation can in fact be used in positive ways to increase our desire for our spouse or help us to understand our bodies better. Masturbation can also help teens, college students and other singles to stay sexually pure and not seek sexual relations outside of marriage. Masturbation can also make up for differences in sexual desire between spouses.
So up to this point we have established three very important truths.
Masturbation in and of itself is never condemned in the Bible.
Masturbation when done in moderation can have positive benefits.
Masturbation can become sinful if it is overdone causing the neglect of our other responsibilities and especially if it causes us to neglect our spouse sexually.
Mary’s case is a prime example of masturbation impeding a person’s sexual desire toward their spouse. She admits here that her masturbation was interfering with her desire for her husband. Mental fantasies, the use of porn and masturbation can all become wrong if those things decrease our desire for our spouse.
But how should Mary and her husband handle her masturbating too much? Is a chastity belt the right answer to this problem?
Is the use of chastity belts by Christians wrong?
I believe the use of chastity belts by Christian women whether the use is voluntary by the woman or compulsory by the husband is in fact wrong and sinful.
It is sinful for two reasons.
Chasity belts are wrong because they remove free will and place people in bondage
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
II Corinthians 3:17 (KJV)
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Galatians 5:1 (KJV)
Bondage is the complete opposite of freedom and a chastity belt is a form of bondage. God wants us to freely choose to do what is right. Bondage takes away that choice.
Now are there consequences for wrong choices with God? Yes!
God gave Adam a choice regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:16-17.
God gave the Israelites a choice in Deuteronomy 30:15-18 to serve him or disobey him and he told them what would happen based on their choice.
Christ presents us with a choice to believe in him or not we are told the consequences of that decision in John 3:18 as well as many other New Testament passages.
There are few and rare times where the Bible allows for bondage or slavery. In the case of prisoners who have committed crimes or in war captives may be taken. If a person was born a slave, or sold themselves as a slave in order to pay their debts this would be allowed. Parents could sell their children as slaves and often times this was to bring their families out of poverty.
But nowhere does the Bible say that husbands can treat their wives as prisoners which is in essence what this practice of a man forcing his wife to wear a chastity devise does.
The practice of using chastity belts is a harsh and cruel treatment of the body
Here are several passages of Scripture which forbid us from being cruel to or harshly treating our bodies:
“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:28 (KJV)
“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”
Ephesians 5:29 (KJV)
“20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)
What Mary and her husband are doing with her wearing a chastity is direct violation of Colossians 2:20-23. It is textbook “self-abasement and severe treatment of the body”.
What should Mary do?
I have shown here why I believe Mary’s practice of wearing a chastity belt is wrong whether she does it by choice or is compelled by her husband to do so. Mary is not to submit herself this type of bondage and cruel treatment toward her body.
But Mary does have a problem with masturbating too much and allow her fantasies to get out of hand to the point that she cannot have good normal relations with her husband.
Instead of placing herself in bondage – Mary needs to exercise self-control and discipline. She needs to choose do the right thing without having a chastity device to compel her choice.