I yell a lot. I would put footnotes in the mysteries but my editor won’t let me. And I post on my blog and others like this. Just for example, one of the most dearly held myths about the Middle Ages is that women were put in chastity belts when their husbands or fathers were off looting and raping.
Look at this picture I took from the web that’s supposed to be a genuine article. You will note that there are holes for elimination. Too bad if it wasn’t in your size. I particularly wonder about the sharp teeth at the back. A month in this would result in a serious infection. And what if one’s husband gave one a parting gift before setting off? I don’t think anyone could deliver a baby through that.
But the most important reason why these didn’t exist is that women, particularly upper-class women, weren’t chattel. They had rights, owned their own property and spoke their own minds. They wouldn’t have allowed such behavior. Not to mention that anyone with a file and a hairpin could get out in about five minutes.
So, logically, no one should think that chastity belts ever existed. People do because they don’t think logically and because the idea plays into already established beliefs.
This doesn’t just happen to me but to people in every line of work. But the good news is that the mystery form is ideal for dispelling myths. Many mystery authors use common assumptions as part of the plot, like G. K. Chesterton making the postman the murderer because no one counts him as a person. Charlotte MacLeod in THE RECYCLED CITIZEN, took the idea of the old bag lady and turned it upside down, making the other characters, and the readers, look at her in a new light. The work of solving the puzzle of who did it, how and why, opens the reader to an acceptance of other ideas, ones that might contradict common assumptions.
In my experience, many writers have chosen to write mysteries set in their area of expertise, not because of the adage “write what you know”, but to tell the world the real story.