Museum of Femoribilia (2)

By: Lynn Peril
May 25, 2015

beau alarm

One in a series of 10 posts exhuming and interrogating forgotten curiosities and outmoded technologies of womanhood. Reprinted with permission from BUST Magazine.


In these days of pepper spray, martial arts, and a psycho on every corner, it’s easy to idealize the “good old days” as a time when city living was safe and the suburbs were downright boring. Of course, this was never true, and the Beau Alarm is evidence of that. A personal protective device that was probably manufactured in the 1950s, the Beau Alarm’s stated purpose was “the protection of individuals, particularly women when it is necessary for them to be out in dark, unfrequented places.”

But a quick look at the instruction pamphlet that accompanied the Beau Alarm suggests it was perhaps intended to be deployed in more intimate arenas. While the words “date rape” are never used, it’s apparent from the eroticized drawing of a terrified, busty maiden on the cover, not to mention the product’s name (it’s a “beau” alarm, after all) that it was meant to protect women from untoward sexual advances — their “secret fears.” As an advice manual of the time warned, “Nothing makes a boy so violently angry as when you dangle yourself like a goodie and then withdraw when he makes the grab that you yourself invited.”

Should a girl find herself in this frightful situation, the Beau Alarm wasn’t particularly well suited to rescue her. Wind it up and it emits an anemic wail. Whether “criminals just will not hang around where an alarm has been sounded” as the pamphlet copy confidently states remains open to debate, particularly when the Beau Alarm’s whine sounds more like a lonely puppy than a screaming squad car. Then again, no pocket-sized protector has ever replaced the low-tech perfection of a good, swift knee to the groin.

Originally published in BUST #18 (Summer 2001).



CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators


Codebreaking, Spectacles

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