Several readers have asked me to write about the latest insult to women everywhere: the anti-rape underwear. It's such a ridiculous idea, I thought it might be a prank. So I did some research on this 21st-century chastity belt, already
knowing what my opinion would be if it turned out to be real.
Turns out it's an Indiegogo campaign. The designers are still trying to raise money to fund prototypes of the product. That means you can't run out to your local Walmart and buy a pair to wear on your blind date Friday night. My apologies to women everywhere for getting your hopes up.
I had the same reaction many people did to the idea that women should buy special underwear or shorts to prevent a sexual assault. Maybe when my daughter Elvira was a teenager I might have considered forcing her into a pair of these, but just the idea sends a seriously wrong message.
I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir, but let's make sure we're all on the same page: Rape doesn't happen because women and girls forget to lock their vaginas up when they go out. Rape happens because some men choose to commit sexual violence on those who are unable to defend themselves for some reason -- lesser physical strength, fear, alcohol or drug consumption, mental incapacity, physical incapacity, you fucking name it because it's about power and control. It's not because women aren't wearing the anti-rape underwear.
This cuts too close to home for many women, and I'm one of them. The people who want to produce the anti-rape clothing line certainly make an attempt to defend their product. They posit that it's a choice women can make when they're going into a potentially dangerous situation, "such as going out on a blind date, taking an evening run, 'clubbing', [sic] traveling in unfamiliar countries, and any other activity that might make one anxious about the possibility of an assault."
I'd like take that further and suggest that since most women are targets for sexual assault, we should all wear anti-rape clothing all the time. From Pampers to granny panties to thongs to Depends .... all made of anti-rape technology. Why not?
I hope I'm preaching to the choir when I say the product targets the wrong audience. It's not women who should have to wear panties with a key. It's men who should have to wear locked-up tidy whities, and the only key to open them is the word "yes."
I really think I'm onto something here. I'm going to call it my Lock Up the Cock campaign. Anybody want to invest?
Seriously, the real problem is men who rape though, not the clothes women -- or men -- are wearing. The real problem is that we live in a rape culture that actually encourages and supports treating women like objects -- the very thing that leads to many rapes. (I'll have more to say about rape culture in at least one future post this month.)
The real problem is that women aren't responsible for the fact that men rape us (and each other), so our putting on special underwear isn't the answer. Men don't rape us because of what we are or are not wearing, and to suggest that a woman can have control over the situation when a man intends to rape her is both naive and dangerous. We don't.
Rape is an act of violence, so I worry that anti-rape underwear could give women a false sense of protection. You'd have to be an idiot to think that a determined rapist couldn't breach those special underwear. If a man beats a woman long enough or shows her his gun or his knife, or threatens her kids or her friends, she'll likely take the underwear off for him. Special underwear will simply not protect a woman from a man who is determined to commit sexual violence. It could, in fact, incite him to worse violence. (The video claims that resistance to rape prevents attacks and doesn't increase the likelihood of violence. I'd like to see those studies on a topic that's almost impossible to study.)
Let's not forget, the vagina isn't the only place a woman can be raped. Are they going to come up with a special mask to cover our mouths too? Because if a rapist can't get into one orifice, what's to stop him from going at another one?
I'll admit, an argument could made that if the underwear prevents just one rape it's worth giving women the choice to wear it. Maybe so.
I can just imagine what my dad might have said if these had been available when I was a teenager going out on a date. "Reticula, you march right back upstairs and wipe some of that makeup off your face. And I want to see that your panties are locked before you even think about getting in a car with that boy .... " Kinda creepy, huh?
The whole thing rubs me the wrong way like a pair of scratchy wool panties. It's the other side of the "she was wearing a short skirt so she was asking for it" coin. Only in this case the rapist could claim that she was asking for it because she wasn't wearing her special "I said 'no' and I mean no" underwear.
I won't be contributing money to this campaign, but I see almost 1000 people have. Maybe they liked the video, which shows thin young models twisting and turning and pulling at their skimpy shorts. And some disembodied hands gently trying to pull those shorts down. It's unexpectedly sexy. Not rapey at all. Rape is not at all sexy and it's a lot more violent than the gentle tugging shown on the video.
On the scale of rape culture horrors, this is barely a blip. Lock your vagina up. Don't lock your vagina up. Either way, rapists are going to rape. The problem is far more complex than what can be covered by a pair of Kevlar panties.
What do you think? Would you buy them? Would you buy them for your daughter? How about your son?
(Photo credits: AR Wear)