Anti-rape underwear: the newest fashion statement? Or the modern chastity belt?
I first encountered these “innovative” and “smart” underwear via a Facebook video, demonstrating how these “safe,” “simple,” and even “sexy” underwear worked. These anti-rape underwear are designed by a company called AR Wear, and the story behind the product design is heartbreaking. The designer of these underwear has faced two sexual assaults. Luckily, though I hardly think that word belongs here, these rapes weren’t completed, due to the woman being able to fight back or distract the assaulter. She then decided that part of the problem with sexual assault is how easily the assaulters are able to disrobe women, leaving them vulnerable. She combined the idea of frustrating and distracting the assaulter with them being unable to undress the woman they are assaulting. From this, AR Wear anti-rape underwear was born.
Here’s how the underwear work. They are made of fabric that cannot be pulled down at the waist, pulled up around the thighs or cut off once locked into place. The lock used is a type of removable dial with a unique combination.
While this idea comes from a good place and, sadly, from someone who has experienced not one but two sexual assaults, it is flawed and, in my opinion, perpetuates rape culture rather than dissipate it.
I won’t go into the arguments that were presented in the Daily Mail and Guardian articles about how a woman being assaulted while wearing these underwear could still be threatened with a lethal weapon if they don’t unlock the device, or the fact that men are sexually assaulted as well. These underwear are extremely illogical for many reasons. There is always the possibility of forgetting the combination to remove the underwear, and since they cannot be cut off, this leaves women in a dire situation. There is also the fact that women are most vulnerable after drinking. I cannot speak for all women’s abilities when inebriated, but I’m lucky if I can unbutton my jeans, let alone undo a locked undergarment, when drunk.
Design issues aside, what deeply worries me about anti-rape underwear is that they are not just a tool for stopping sexual assaults, but also perpetuating rape culture and victim blaming.
AR Wear has reached its funding goal on Indiegogo, making it possible for them to start mass production. If these hit the market, the expectation is that “sensible” women will buy them and wear them in “dangerous” situations. And yes, I am aware of the overwhelming amount quotation marks being used in this post. Soon the expectation will be that all women should buy and strap into these 21st century chastity belts.
But what if they don’t? What if some women – crazy, nonsensical women – believe that no matter what they say, no matter what they wear, no matter who buys them a drink at the bar, that no means no, locked underwear or not?
We have been taught from a young age to use our words, so why is it that saying no is no longer enough?
By placing the expectation on women to take control of their bodies by locking them away, the responsibility and blame for sexual assault and rape also falls on women and victims. We already see victims bombarded with questions such as, “Why didn’t you fight back?”, “Why didn’t you yell for help?”, “Why did you wear such a scandalous outfit?”, “Why did you drink too much?”
Will we hear the question, “Why weren’t you wearing anti-rape underwear?” next?
These questions make it appear as if the assaulted didn’t do enough to stop the assaulter. That they were weak and cowardly. That maybe they wanted it and are making excuses for their sexually charged actions.
Rape culture is a strong, pulsating vein that runs straight into the heart of our society. Our own president, accused by dozens of women of sexual assault, said one wasn’t attractive enough to be assaulted by him, as though she should be so lucky to have her body graced by the touch of his small, self-tanned, grimy hands, voluntarily or otherwise.
The solution to stopping sexual assault is not to wrap up our women in baggy clothes and lockable underwear.
It is to teach young boys and girls about consent. It is to give victims the justice they deserve, not a lecture on what they could have done to prevent it. It is making rape kits a priority, giving victims peace of mind and taking sexual predators off the streets.
It is embracing womanhood, not eroding it.