Anti-rape pants no answer

TAKE a look at them here, via indiegogo.com, the crowd-funding website which enables entrepreneurs to appeal to the world for funding for their big ideas. Two New York women called Ruth and Yuval – who only go by their first names, but don’t let’s judge – have formed a company called AR Wear ( AR for Anti-Rape), which aims to produce “confidence and protection that can be worn”.

These items of underwear feature cut-resistant fabrics, a “reinforced skeletal structure” around the crotch, and combination locks on the thighs and waist – intended to allow women to “feel safer” whether “on a first date”, “clubbing”, or “out for an evening run”.

In their sales pitch, Ruth and Yuval are quick to point out that “rape is about as wrong as it gets” (thanks for that), and that “the only one responsible is the rapist”.

But, they argue, a woman will feel safer if she is wearing pants that are “very difficult for someone else to remove by either force or stealth (in situations where the victim cannot resist because she has had too much to drink, was drugged, or is asleep)”.

The bizarre fundraising video – which looks like a cutesy Apple advert combined with, well, pants that are impossible to remove – includes shots of women smiling and having a boogie alongside footage of a man trying unsuccessfully to cut through the pants with a dagger.

There’s even a bit where a group of white women in mini-skirts walk confidently past a black man. But I’m going to gloss over that. According to indiegogo.com, AR Wear has raised almost $35 000 (R360 000) so far, from about 1 700 individual funders.

They have more than two weeks left, and seem certain to meet their goal of $50 000, which will see these pants become a reality. So not everybody thinks this the epitome of absurdity, then.

Many people do though, particularly the feminists. One blogger railed against AR Wear’s description of rape as “when things go wrong”, and suggested “let’s focus on men preventing rape by not raping rather than curtailing women’s freedom to exist”.

Another advocated a range of clothing for men which contain audio chips that continuously play phrases like “Remember! Don’t be a rapist!”

The thing is, you can see where Ruth and Yuval are coming from. They’re talking a last line of defence. The problem, however, is with the message these pants send out.

Firstly, that it’s the woman’s responsibility not to be raped; secondly that all men are automatically a potential threat (men do get raped too, don’t forget); and thirdly that so long as an attacker can’t get your pants off, you’ll be OK.

Moreover, there is something rather Sweet Valley High about the image of AR Wear. These pants are clearly designed for – indeed, designed by – preppy, waspish college girls with rich daddies and a background in cheerleading. Not real people with real bodies and a background in partners prone to domestic abuse, oh, no. (But, like, who would want to rape them, right?)

Nevertheless, if your teenage daughter was going travelling in India, wouldn’t you be just a little bit relieved if her pants were conscripted to the cause of preventing sexual assault? My other concerns are rather more prosaic. Would anti-rape pants put the wearer at risk if she needed urgent medical attention? What if, buoyed by the knowledge her chastity is protected, she sinks a bottle of Merlot and forgets the combination to take the pants off? And she really, really needs the loo? Is there an emergency helpline?

Or does she have to call the fire brigade?

I jest a little. But jokes aside, these pants will simply
not solve the very big and important problem they set out to tackle in the
first place and that’s not funny. It’s just a bit sad.

– The Daily Telegraph

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