Flickr/ Janos Balazs

Chastity belts were once the scourge of women. Locked into mechanical devices to allow their husbands or fathers to feel secure of their virtue, the belts were cumbersome, unwieldy, and uncomfortable. The design kept a woman’s virginity “safe,” but wasn’t exactly comfortable. Not to mention what a HUGE breach of trust it was to monitor your wife or daughter in that manner,

Nowadays, chastity belts serve a different sexier purpose, and are being embraced by celebrities and kink-sters alike. They are not for “confining” anymore, in the way they were traditionally used. As well as changing their role in the home, many modern belts look radically different, think hi-tech cyborg like electronics blended with WiFi sensors. Though you still have metal and leather versions for those who are old school.

For example, Rihanna gratuitously wore a jewel encrusted one for video “Pour It up.”

As she shook and thrusted to the lyrics, her belt was a direct contradiction to her actions. She was displaying, it was protecting. It's unlikely Rihanna was consciously making a “hands off” statement in the video. Indeed it's more likely she was embracing a role reversal power play. She refused to be owned by something traditionally used to enforce power over women. She's owning it, rather than being owned. She has the key to her belt; she is the one in charge of her sex life.

Many other women are also rethinking the role of the chastity belt. Forget seeing them purely as a form of control and power, now they’re something that can be used to titillate and enjoy - consensually. Those who partake in belt usage call it “chastity play.”

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Chastity play involves being denied sexual release. The intimate areas are covered and no matter what the bound one does, they are unable to orgasm till the “keyholder”, the person who locked them into their belt, chooses to unlock them and allow fulfillment. Basically, it’s having an itch, but being unable to scratch it.

Belts for both sexes are being created. They offer different elements.

For example, Chastity Belts for Men offers male chastity belts in a number of finishes (wood, plastic, etc.) complete with a heavy duty padlock.

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“The attraction for people that find it interesting is that it puts all the focus on sexuality,” said Lady Regina, a full time dominatrix from Miami-based, Command Performance. “It’s all on the male arousal and controlling that, and men who are submissive find that area more attractive.”

Another company, DreamLover Labs, also offers a number of male chastity belts that can only be opened by the “keyholder.” You can even remotely log into the belt through an Android app, and make it vibrate on whim. Once “logged in” this hi-tech belt can cycle through a range of pulsating modes to enable pleasure for the wearer.

A chastity belt like this one is intended for dominatrices and submissives.

However, it’s a little disturbing that the DreamLover chastity belt is being compared to “electric dog collars,” according to their website. (unless you’re into that). Nothing like attributing animal qualities to men, right?

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Leaving that aside, these chastity belts are designed to, “not be a form of torture,” according to their website.

A submissive male who goes by the name “Aarkey” has had three-chastity based relationships. “Over time, each woman who acted as a keyholder developed her own different and personal style,” he said via email. “In one relationship I was sometimes locked when I was away from my girlfriend.”

With chastity play, trust is a big part of the equation. Whether you are a woman or a man, you are entrusting your private parts into the hands of your “keyholder” and this takes a certain leap of faith. Women and men both participate in this fetish, but they can often experience it - and act on it - differently.

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Women might like chastity belt play, but they don’t tend to visit dominatrixes. “They find this type of play in the context of their relationship in general,” Lady Regina said. “Men are more prevalent in seeking out a “keyholder” and just sexual services in general.”

Whether you're male or female, chastity play can be enjoyed as long as certain parameters are set down: Trust, respect and understanding limits.

We talk so much about "virgins" (for example the Alicia Menendez inaugural show) that we don’t think about the fact that chastity and virgintiy have a lot in common.

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Chastity is about maintaining virtue, while virginity is the epitome of that state. Chastity play is all about preserving a virgin like state, with a time limit.

“It’s fascinating to watch people who are just starting out in the scene,” said Lady Regina. “You watch the cycle of how they react; the first weeks get more and more intense and they’re so frustrated they’ll do anything to be relieved.”

Image Credit: Flickr/Janos Balazs