While the damsel in distress makes appearances in many folk stories dating back to Antiquity and features in a few fairy tales, this passive heroine does not seem to make regular appearances until the Victorian era; the Middle Ages were idealized as a time of pre-industrial innocence and the Victorians projected their ideals of men and women onto their Medieval ancestors; the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and women, displaced from farms and entering the middle class, lost some autonomy over their lives and became more ornamental, more dependent on their husbands.
Damsels in distress are often shown tied to railroad tracks, to sawmill conveyor belts, or offered as sacrifice to a dragon (or King Kong) until her knight in shining armor arrives to save her in the nick of time.
Women of that time and place were in danger of abduction, especially if they were wealthy... but it was preferable to a loveless marriage. The average "knight in shining armor" was a mix of professional assassin and local rapist, so the damsel often arranged to be kidnapped by her preferred suitor or even do the abducting herself:
Marjorie of Carrick (c. 1253-1292) was a countess in her own right, but was married young to an older husband who died in the Crusades in 1271; she was informed of this by her husband's handsome young companion, Robert de Brus. Marjorie, out hunting at the time and far from upset by the news, was so taken by his beauty that she took him back to her castle and held him captive until he agreed to marry her; she must have done something right, because they were married within days. The second of their eleven children was Robert the Bruce himself.
Person B: <SMACK> Bitch! Don't fall for that #$*^T! She's just pulling a "Damsel-in-distress!"