Throughout history, the ways women have been tortured at the hands of the men who tried to control them will send a shiver down your spine. Women have been tortured to repress their sexuality, silence their tongues, and conform to standards of beauty. Most of all, women have been tortured to break their spirit and to keep them submissive to the men who feared what a liberated woman might mean for their fragile worldviews.
The majority of the methods and devices men created for the purpose of this cruelty were intended to humiliate the female victim. Many of these instruments of torture used on women display an overt sexual-sadism that torture methods used on men simply did not. There are devices below created with the sole purpose of mangling the genitals, and other sexualized body parts, i.e. the breasts, of the woman. Most of these torture methods were abolished centuries ago, however, a few of these barbaric punishments are still practiced today.
For the medieval man, the easiest way to get his wife to stop constantly nagging him was to put her in a scold’s bridle. "Scold" refers to a woman accused of gossiping, or simply complaining too much. In those times, gossiping was feared to be the work of the Devil.
The first recorded use of the device - an iron mask locked over a woman's head - was in the 16th century. The bridle was an iron mask locked over the head of the woman. Sometimes, spikes would be extended into the mouth and placed over the tongue, making it impossible for the woman to speak without immense pain. However, the torture of the scold’s bridle was primarily psychological; the woman was publicly humiliated as she was paraded through town wearing the bridle, while onlookers cursed and spit at her.
“I want to play a game.” Let’s hang you upside-down and cut you in half starting at your genitals. Unlike the Saw movies, there is no way to get out of this nightmare. This method of torture was used during the Middle Ages as an economical way to bring about the greatest amount of pain with the least amount of effort. All you needed was a two-person saw, no moral compass, and a very strong stomach.
Women who were accused of witchcraft, adultery, or blasphemy would be hung upside-down with their legs spread apart. Because all the blood rushed to the victim’s head, they would typically be conscious as the saw ripped through their body. Sometimes the process lasted hours before the executioners eventually cut the entire body in half. Or, they stopped at the abdomen to prolong the excruciating death.
This torture device's name speaks for itself. The pear of anguish, named for its resemblance to the fruit, was a grisly torture device used during medieval times and into the 17th century. The metal instrument was divided into four petal-shaped segments that opened when a corkscrew lever was turned at the opposite end. The primary victims of this device were women accused of witchcraft and abortion. The pear of anguish was inserted into the vagina and would be gradually cranked opened, tearing apart the woman’s reproductive organs.
The instrument was also used on suspected homosexuals. It was later modified to be forced into the mouth of people accused of heresy. It would be expanded till it broke the jaw bones of the victim.
Death by burning was a classic form of capital punishment reserved for women who were suspected of witchcraft, treason, and heresy. (Men accused of heresy or treason were typically hung or drawn and quartered.) Burning women at the stake was popular in England in the 15th through the 18th centuries, but despite popular belief, no women were burned during the Salem Witch Trials in the American Colonies.
If the victim sentenced to death by burning was unlucky enough to not pass out due to smoke inhalation, they would suffer an agonizing death. First they would writhe in pain as their epidermis cracked open, then the fire would burn through their fat layer. The only relief came when the fire damaged the nerves in the skin so badly that the victim could no longer feel pain.