News & Politics

Graham Crackers and Other Chastity Devices


These days, kids can choose from a variety of items to help them abstain. Available at the conference were ATM—abstinence-till-marriage—cards (expiration date: wedding day); chastity rings (to be replaced only with a wedding band); “Don’t Play With Fire” abstinence candles; and “No Trespassing” underwear. Here, a sampling of some devices used to squelch sex in times past.

The chastity belt: It began in medieval times as a simple cord worn around the waist to symbolize sexual purity. Only later were metal, locks, and keys added to guard both men and women from sex.

Bundling: In the late 18th century, many families used material barriers to prevent premarital sex. Some courting couples were allowed to spend the night in the same bed (usually the man had traveled some distance for the visit), but they slept fully clothed and separated by a wooden “bundling board.”

Circumcision: In the 1880s, when the practice was still rare in this country, Dr. Henry Hanchett recommended circumcision as a way of minimizing stimulation that “can ignite animal passions.”

The Graham cracker: In an 1834 lecture on chastity, health reformer Sylvester Graham recommended cold baths and bland food—including a cracker he made for that purpose—as means of staving off sexual excitement.

The Kellogg approach: Meanwhile, another culinary innovator, John Harvey Kellogg (as in the breakfast cereal), recommended tying together young boys’ hands and covering their genitals with metal cages to prevent masturbation. For women, Kellogg recommended applying carbolic acid to the clitoris.

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