Sunday, November 3, 2013

Put a lock on it

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)


  1. Oh my. I love this post. There are so many things wrong with the idea of anti-rape underwear -- I don't even know where to begin. But it looks like you hit all the major points. This idea gives into the idea that we must keep women under lock and key -- which is so entirely NOT the point. The Lock Up The Cock campaign would be an awesome alternative!

    1. I had trouble figuring out where to start too. It seems so obvious ... and yet obviously it's not to everyone.

      Thanks for stopping by! :-)

  2. This is such an intense topic. Kudos to you for… this post. Wow. The concept of this underwear is absolutely sickening. Thanks for putting this out there.

    1. Thank you, Mandy. I've been in a Facebook discussion today with a couple of women who disagree with me. I'm sure we didn't change each other's minds, but I do appreciate when we can have civil discussions about such volatile issues.

      I'm glad you stopped by. :-)

  3. If I ever discover that my son raped someone, he would walk into a door (a few times) then be delivered to the girl's family.

    1. I agree!. Although I have to say this is the last thing I can imagine my son (29) doing. I'm a doting mother, but I'm not immune to my son's faults. There are some things I can be certain of about my son: 1. He will not pick up his dirty socks. 2. He will not stop drinking Mountain Dew no matter how many articles I send him about the dangers. And 3. He will not rape a woman or in any way coerce her into sexual acts. We've always talked openly about sex, and I am close to the 2 women he's been in long-term committed relationships with. I am rock-solid in my faith in him. I don't believe it's in his nature to do such a thing.

      But he also grew up with a mom who would bring the wrath of the Goddess down on him should he ever purposefully hurt a woman for any reason other than self-defense. Nature and nurture in full agreement there.

      Thanks for reading, Nathan. :-)

  4. Thank you for taking a somewhat controversial stand on this product. Since the intentions of its creators are good, most people would support it- if not buy a pair for their teen daughters, etc.

    As a survivor of sexual violence- and a professional that works with other survivors- I feel the same way you do about AR Wear. Not only does it reinforce the idea that girls "get themselves into rape situations" but it also creates a false sense of security. Like you explained, a frustrated attacker will not necessarily abandon the victim. And when a woman is coerced by threat or force into removing these underwear, will she be told that she "must've wanted it"?

    While the intent is good, the execution opens up a can of worms.

    1. Exactly! I do believe their intent is purely for good. But the message it sends just won't work in real life. Rape is more than the penis in the vagina anyway.

      Love your blog name, btw. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.