A New York company is raising money to develop a line of undergarments called Anti-Rape Wear, which use straps and webbing that are scissor- and knife-resistant to prevent ripping or cutting them off, or pushing them aside.
Here’s why I won’t be buying any.
• The company’s ignorance about how most rapes occur. They say their mission is to help women feel safer when they are on a first date, out “clubbing,” or visiting a foreign country. This ignores the fact that 73 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, such as a romantic partner or friend. Most women wouldn’t think about wearing undies that require a combination to remove while hanging out with their boyfriend. The combination feature is supposed to give you peace of mind. You’re the only one who can unlock it before removing the underwear. The company’s ignorance contributes to a false sense of security for women.
• Their advertising sexualizes women. The models on the video make someone who’s a size 6 look obese. I’m not even sure the underwear comes in double-digit sizes. Could I see the combination beneath my middle-aged belly? What bugs me is the subtle idea that if we wear the underwear, we’ll all be beautiful skinny women. Or that only beautiful skinny women need to worry about rape. At any rate, they are using sexuality to sell their anti-rape product. Yuck.
• #RapeFace. #RapeFace is a popular tween/teen action of using this phrase to tag photos of people with awkward smiles on social media sites. This desensitizes them to the concept of rape. This is disturbing. Even if your kids aren’t taking rape seriously, adults and the justice system are. Remember Steubenville? Real sexual assault is serious and not OK to joke about. Try downloading an app such as Offender Locator for your phone and see where actual convicted sex offenders reside in your very own Federal Way neighborhood. It can be shocking to see those little red pins populate the places you frequent. Talk to your teens about actual sexual assault and how to be aware, and help them understand the harm in using these words and laughing about this concept. How might someone who has been sexually assaulted feel if people were laughing about #RapeFace photos? For help with your discussions, go to www.100conversations.org. Investing time in these conversations with youth has a greater long-term return on investment than investing in anti-rape underwear.
The problem isn’t your underwear. It’s men who rape. I know there are female perpetrators, too, but the vast majority of rape continues to be perpetrated by men on both genders. Instead of focusing on making access to women’s genitals harder with a modern-day chastity belt, let’s band together in our community and raise better men.
Let’s invest in our youth with comprehensive sexuality education, which includes education about communication, healthy relationships and consent. Let’s teach our youth how to clearly say yes or no, how to protect themselves, and what to do if they have an encounter that doesn’t feel OK.
Let’s stop putting all the emphasis on what women need to do to protect themselves. Let's put more emphasis on what everyone needs to do to ensure there is consent before engaging in sexual activity. This won’t stop all rape, but neither will the underwear.
Women are routinely taught to take precautions against rape, and women are routinely blamed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways when they are sexually assaulted. It is never your fault if you are sexually assaulted.
That blame lies entirely with the rapist, no matter what underwear you are wearing.