Weird History

Horrible Torture Methods That Have Been Used Primarily on Women 

Katia Kleyman
Updated July 24, 2019 4.1M views 14 items

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.

The Spanish Donkey Cut Women In Half During The Inquisition
The Spanish Donkey Cut W... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Horrible Torture Methods That Have Been Used Primarily on Women
Photo:  Wisniowy/Wikimedia Commons /CC BY-SA 4.0

Also known as the wooden horse or the chevalet, the Spanish donkey slowly cut a woman in half through her genitals. It was used throughout medieval times and during the Spanish Inquisition, and a similar device was used on Confederate prisoners during the Civil War.

The device consisted of a sharp triangular wedge supported by either two or four legs. The woman would be forced to straddle the pointed end of the device, which was sometimes covered in spikes (as shown in the above photo), so that it could slowly cut into the woman’s crotch. Weights were sometimes added to the victim’s feet to make the triangular edge dig even deeper, eventually cutting into her organs.

Although the Spanish donkey is pretty gruesome, some people thought it was sexy. The BDSM subculture adopted a mild variation of the device, using it like a restraint and spanking bench. The woman partaking in the play lays down on the "horse" face-forward with her arms and legs dangling below, exposing her rear.

Foot Binding Existed In China for A Millennium
Foot Binding Existed In ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Horrible Torture Methods That Have Been Used Primarily on Women
Photo: Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Foot binding existed in China for over a thousand years. A “beautification” procedure that left young girls disabled for life, it was considered beautiful for Chinese women of means to have small dainty feet. So, wealthy Chinese families would bind their daughters' feet in order to attract worthy male suitors. The ideal foot length was just three-inches long and referred to as the “golden lotus”; a “silver lotus” was four-inches long. Everything longer than that was considered an “iron lotus,” and was not an acceptable foot length. 

The effect of the tiny foot was achieved by breaking the young girl’s toes and binding them backwards onto the sole of her foot with silk cloth. The girls were then forced to walk on their feet to encourage the continued breaking of the arch. Over time, the cloths were wrapped tighter and tighter until the desired foot length was achieved.

Female Circumcision Mutilates Young Girls
Female Circumcision Muti... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Horrible Torture Methods That Have Been Used Primarily on Women
Photo:  layalk/flickr

Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, is considered by many to be a barbaric form of torture. According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have had the procedure done. Unlike male circumcision, there are no health benefits to female circumcision.

Most of the time, the procedure is done with unsanitary tools and in filthy conditions. The young girl, usually under 15, is held down by female family members. An older woman in the community then uses a jagged instrument to remove her clitoris, and sometimes her labia minora. In many cases, the procedure leads to a host of infections, which can result death.

The Breast Ripper Maimed Unmarried Mothers
The Breast Ripper Maimed... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Horrible Torture Methods That Have Been Used Primarily on Women
Photo:  Folminator/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The breast ripper was an appalling device that caused immense pain in its female victims. The instrument consisted of two large pointed prongs that would, as the title suggests, tear into women’s breasts and rip the tissue clean off of the body. Occasionally, the prongs were heated as well. It was meant to mark the bodies of unmarried mothers and women accused of adultery.

The use of the instrument was put to an end during the Middle Ages.