Dr. Shruti Kapoor Featured in The Alternative

Anti Rape Underwear? No, I Won’t Keep My Vagina Under a Lock

AR Wear’s Indiegogo campaign has raised $52,442 USD. While the campaign and the idea of such a product has touched on the nerves of many feminists, the 2172 funders of the campaign are nothing short of excited and grateful at the prospect of an anti-rape underwear.

The new anti-rape underwear, shorts and yoga pants promise to keep women safe. The clothing creates an effective barrier layer that allows women and girls to passively resist an attacker. The cut-resistant straps and webbing create an “innovative skeletal structure” that the wearer locks at the waistband, so that panties can’t be pulled down or pushed aside. Ruth and Yuval, the founders of this product cite studies that prove resisting rape increase a women’s chance of escape and say their products will do just that.

While the funders, mostly women, think it’s a great idea and are raving about this new invention, feminists are anything but happy.  The motto of the company is “A clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong” and the blogosphere’s reply to that is one big WTF. According to Louise Pennington, “Rape is not something that goes wrong. It is a crime with a clear perpetrator who chooses to rape, it’s not an accident”. Clearly many feminists are not happy and the big question being asked is, “Are anti-rape panties anti-feminist?”

The Telegraph said the idea of anti-rape wear is wrong on many levels. Others believe that such garments are a form of victim blaming and that instead, anti-rape menswear should be developed to remind men not to rape.

As the founder of Sayfty, a company that aims to help women protect themselves against violence with the help of personal safety products, information & awareness, I am always looking for innovative ways related to women’s safety, but the anti-rape underwear encourages the idea that women should not ‘get raped’. No I won’t put my vagina under a lock.. While I am all for women’s protections and preventive measures, wearing a panty that looks like a chastity belt is not my idea of protecting myself.

Today it is underwear. Tomorrow are we going to start promoting anti-rape clothes that no one can tear, rip, or pull out? I don’t want to be walking around town feeling like I am carrying a safe deposit box full of prized possessions and only I have the key to unlock the treasure.

My personal views aside, here are some practical questions that popped up when I first read about the anti-rape underwear.

1. If a rapist can’t easily take off the anti-rape underwear, how long will it personally take me to undo all the secret locks every time I want to use the bathroom or even have sex? #Inconvenient

2. How comfortable will I feel wearing that anti-rape garment constantly worrying about whether or not it will protect me from sexual assaults when needed? #Stress

3. Most victims are raped by people they know – 82% (Department of Justice). The perpetrators are not strangers. If the perpetrator knows the victim intimately what use is the anti-rape underwear then?  #Useless

4. If the rapist is unsuccessful in removing the victim’s underwear, will it lead to greater anger and frustration to the point of hurting the victim in other ways? #Aggression

5. What about other forms of sexual violence that don’t require you to remove your underwear?

6. Is this a product for the common women or only the rich? Clearly at a potential price of $50 or more for an anti-rape underwear, average women in high crime countries like India and Africa cannot afford it.

What we really need to address is the cause of rape. Do rapes happen because of what a woman is wearing (or not wearing)? Are panties with thigh locks really going to make women safer? All these questions and more make me think this is yet another way to make money off a grave social problem.

With women being raped every 20 minutes in India what we really need is not for us to lock our vaginas and hope that the rapist gets tired of trying to rip our underwear. Instead, we need campaigns that can change the society’s attitude towards women.