A 43-year-old virgin has revealed how she fastens a wire chain around her upper thigh every night to ensure she remains celibate.
Sarah Cassidy, a Manchester University physics graduate, is a senior female figure in Opus Dei, the controversial Catholic group that's depicted in the Dan Brown bestseller The Da Vinci Code and stands accused of everything from misogyny to elitism.
As fans of the big-screen adaptation of the aforementioned tome will remember, the group's predilection for 'mortification of the flesh' was graphically portrayed via the character of Silas, played by Paul Bettany.
In a similar fashion to that delightful white-haired chap, Sarah attaches a cilice to her upper thigh for two hours every night.
Note, however, that although the sharp-pronged contraption digs into the skin and flesh, it generally doesn't draw blood.
Sarah's fellow Opus Dei member, Eileen Cole, tells the Daily Mail that the apparently masochistic practice is actually 'less painful than a bikini wax'.
‘The mortification helps you to keep your passions under control and channel your energy,’ she explains.
'We live in such a materialistic, hedonistic society that people can’t understand you’d actually make yourself a little uncomfortable to help you be more mindful of God.
'They’ll understand if you go jogging and pounding the streets - which I think is disgusting -just because you want to be thinner, but they won’t understand this.'
Sarah, for her part, had a boyfriend and was in the middle of her degree when she decided a nightly dose of barbed wire was just the ticket for spiritual fulfilment.
'When I was little, I always imagined that I was going to get married and have children,' she says.
'But this is the vocation that God gave me. It’s such a gift, and there’s so much love in there.'
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