How Anti-Rape Tech Perpetuates Victim Blaming and Increases the Burden of Responsibility
Strong content notice for mentions of rape and sexual violence. If you feel
Note: This piece focuses on women (cis and non-cisgender) as well as non-gender binary people as survivors of rape and sexual assault as it disproportionately affects me as a cis-gender woman and that population. This is not mean to erase sexual violence against other genders.
Across my social media, I’ve seen the anti-rape shorts come up again after a much too brief hiatus. They’re deemed as an effective method of preventing rape and sexual assault. These chastity belts fashionable shorts are made with wearer’s comfort and safety in mind by adding special locks and creating special fabric that prevents assailants from ripping, tearing, or pulling down the shorts. While the creators cite statistics that resisting sexual assault decreases the likelihood of being raped or hurt (which is a dodgy and unsupported claim), they fail to address what the shorts can’t do:
1. The wearer could be coerced to take them off or sexually assaulted after taking them off.
Through coercive action, the wearer could be forced to take them off. Even if the wearer removes the garment without any sort of coercion, the danger of sexual assault remains.
2. They will not prevent sexual assault, which goes well beyond unwanted genital penetration.
Rape, strictly using a textbook definition, is unwanted sexual intercourse or other forms of unwanted sexual penetration. While the shorts may prevent an assailant from accessing one’s body below their waist, they can still penetrate orally or force them to conduct other sexual acts.
3. They will not prevent groping, unwanted contact, stalkers, or other forms of sexual predation.
4. Stranger rape is not the most common form of rape.
According to RAINN, 28% of rapes are committed by a person the survivor has never met. While that is a high number, consider that 45% of rapes are committed by an acquaintance, and 25% by a current or former significant other. 7 out of 10 survivors know the person who raped them. The marketing for this product is clearly centred around prevent rape during potential stranger danger scenarios i.e. jogging, going to a bar, etc. One is probably not going to be wearing these specialized shorts 24/7 or around people they trust.
5. This product places a financial burden on potential victims and perpetuates victim-blaming.
Victim blaming is a common practice globally. Survivors are forced to accept responsibility by society for the sexual assault they experienced due to what society deems as risk factors i.e. wearing tight and revealing clothing, getting intoxicated, being outside late at night, living one’s life, etc. These virginity vaults anti-rape shorts are also just another financial burden to protecting our right to go outside and exist as normal human beings. I’m going to need to start a new savings account to keep up with all of the latest anti-rape tech, lest I be blamed for not taking what society deems as appropriate measures to protect myself.
6. There are more effective ways of preventing sexual assault.
Teaching men (inb4 #notallmen!) how to avoid compromising situations and intervention techniques to prevent and stop unwanted sexual contact is important and effective. Prevention also manifests as providing education around debunking rape myths, rape-supportive attitudes, gender roles, and socialization. Research into such programs have hit a few barriers, such as lack of data collection, using different tools to collect data, and lack of standardization or implementation, data collection, and analysis. Despite these barriers, there is enough research and evidence out there that have shown that prevention and educational programs are effective.
I’m not saying all anti-rape tech is bad. Trust me, I think it’s pretty awesome that we can create nail polish that detects common date rape drugs and condoms with teeth that can only be removed by a medical professional (and the great thing about the condoms especially is that they’re being widely distributed at no cost). And hey, if you can afford it and it makes you feel safer and more confident, then, by all means, go for it. But once we start going down the capitalist rabbit hole with $50-$60 genital jail cells locking garments and $100 rape whistles, you start to wonder who these products are really for *cough skinny able-bodied well off white women* and where the burden of preventing rape really lies with *cough definitely not with the perpetrators*.
Here are links to some of the resources I used to put this piece together:
An Evidence-Based Review of Sexual Assault Preventive Intervention Programs- https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/207262.pdf