The development of clothing to protect women from rape seems to be this year's newest favourite rape prevention tactic running a close second to the ubiquitous "women shouldn't drink alcohol" advice.
Bras and coats that give electric shocks to sexual predators have been designed by a number of people. "Anti-pervert hairy-leg" stockings hit the news in June with many a commentator making oh so hilarious 'jokes' about frightening away "good-looking" men rather than perverts, as if "perverts" were all creepy old men in dirty raincoats. Or, that women's only reason for appearing in public is to attract men. Whether or not these tights were just an internet joke taken seriously [or not so seriously by those making jokes about sexual violence] is actually irrelevant, what many commentators neglect to discuss is the reality of sexual violence and the myth that only women who pass the patriarchal fuckability test are vulnerable to it.
AR Wear are the newest clothing range featuring underwear and jogging shorts in order to help women 'passively' resist rape by "sending a clear message to her would-be assailant that she is NOT consenting". Their tagline: "A clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong" demonstrates the quite serious problems we have when discussing rape. Rather than naming rape for what it is, we obfuscate.
Rape is not "something that goes wrong". It is a crime with a clear perpetrator who chooses to rape. It isn't an accident.
Nor is rape a miscommunication.This comment suggests that women who are raped are partially responsible for not saying no clearly:
... a clear message to her would-be assailant that she is NOT consenting. We believe that this undeniable message can help to prevent a significant number of rapes.
Wearing anti-rape underwear won't make it "clear" to a rapist that they do not have consent. Rapists already know they don't have consent. We need to move out with this idea that men are too stupid to know when a woman is or is not consenting. Rapists rape because of they choose too; not because they are confused.
Anti-rape clothing won't help protect women because it doesn't stop rape. As Christina Paschyna points out:
Anti-rape wear is another measly Band-Aid on the societal infection that is male privilege and sexual entitlement. It requires heavy medication and surgery: If we're going to bring an end to gender-based violence we need products and campaigns that re-socialize men from their misogynistic upbringings.
We need to start talking openly about consent; we need to start talking about why men choose to rape. And, we need to start deconstructing rape myths that assume that women are responsible for being raped because of something they did or did not do.
I'm not really surprised that people are inventing clothing to protect women from male violence. Women have been taught since birth that we are responsible for being raped because of how we dress, the way we talk, where we work, where we live, our hobbies and even the act of breathing. In many ways, clothing to prevent rape is the perfect response to a rape culture which blames victims: it's your fault for drinking alcohol; it's your fault for going out in public at night; it's your fault for going jogging without wearing anti-rape shorts.
This type of victim blaming language makes women who have been raped feel guilty about being raped. It also ignores the fact that the vast majority of women who are raped are raped by men they know. It ignores the fact that many women are raped in their own homes by the men who are supposed to love them: fathers and husbands are far more likely to be a rapist than a stranger met at a club.
At what age are women supposed to start wearing anti-rape clothing: 18? 35? 2? Children, both male and female, are victims of sexual violence daily. Should we be putting babies into anti-rape nappies to protect them? Should children be forced to wear anti-rape underwear when they are at church? Little League? At home?
This is the reality of sexual violence: it can happen to anyone.
Anti-rape clothing is just another way of victim blaming women for getting raped rather than dealing with the epidemic of male violence in our culture. It is nothing more than a new-fangled chastity belt. It does nothing to change our rape culture. It doesn't stop men from raping. We need a fundamental restructuring of our culture to end rape. Underwear will not do this.
Frankly, if we're going to get into the underwear to stop rape business, design some underwear for men which will prevent them from raping women; underwear that won't allow them to use their penis as a weapon in women's bodies.
We will not end rape culture until we start naming the perpetrators instead of blaming the victims.
Let's focus on men preventing rape by not raping rather than curtailing women's freedom to exist.
Follow Louise Pennington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LeStewpot