Are Anti-Sexual Assault Products The Answer To Rape Culture?

In our battle against the pervasive societal emphasis on sexual violence, these one-off items for women might not be the best strategy.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Hairy stockings are not the answer to rape culture” was written by Homa Khaleeli, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 19th June 2013 14.16 UTC

What would make women feel safer? For perpetrators of sexual assaults and abuse to get more than a 15-month sentence after they assault 13 women and girls? A culture where the victims of sexual crime are not blamed when they are attacked? Or would having hairy legs do it?

In the battle against rape culture some innovators seem to think that old-fashioned notions of strong legislation need a few more, bells, whistles and technological wizardry. Here are some recent ideas from around the world.

Anti-pervert stockings

Fact: women with hairy legs are never sexually harassed or assaulted. At least that seems to be the thinking behind these fetching hairy leggings, which have become a viral sensation in China. Posted on the microblogging site Weibo, they are described as “full-leg-of-hair stockings, essential for all young girls going out”. Sadly, once posted in the UK, commentators were quick to point out the flaws of the inventor’s cunning plan. “This is exactly the sort of thing that drives us perverts wild,” wrote one.

Banning lingerie mannequins

If a fatal and exceptionally violent gang rape had left your country reeling, with protesters pouring out on to the streets to complain about a culture of impunity for rapists, who would you blame? One municipal council in India knew: shop mannequins wearing lingerie. According to a Mumbai municipal council resolution they “promote rapes”, and were ordered to be removed as a matter of public safety. “After all,” said city councillor Ritu Tawde, “a mannequin is a replica of a woman’s body.” There is no news yet as to whether the council thinks scantily-clad women should also be banned.

The screaming alarm

If you think standard personal alarms are easy to ignore, the ila Dusk has a more tech-savvy approach. When you pull the chain of the device it emits “an ear-piercing 130-decibel female scream that research has shown others are more likely to respond to than a traditional alarm”, according to the packaging. But when the Guardian asked the personal safety campaign group Suzy Lamplugh Trust for their thoughts on the device, they pointed out that screams just confused bystanders and that shouting instructions such as “Call the police” would work better.

Electric shock underwear

Again in India, a trio of engineering students have come up with a prototype to deter would-be attackers: a camisole that not only transmits stun-gun levels of electric shock to groping hands, but also calls the police for you. “Lawmakers take ages to come up with just laws and even after that, women are unsafe,” point out the Chennai-based students behind the device. “Hence, we have initiated the idea of self-defence, which protects the women from domestic, social and workplace harassment.” It’s not clear whether the device would be legal or any safer than wearing a Taser in your bra.

Rape-aXe

Perhaps the most controversial anti-rape device comes courtesy of Dr Sonet Ehlers. Based in South Africa, which has been called the world’s rape capital, the terrifying female condom has rows of hooks inside it, which attach themselves to a man’s penis during penetration and can only be removed by a doctor. Critics have described it as a “medieval” response and although there are no reports that anyone has actually tested it, the doctor was allegedly distributing them to women working as prostitutes during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Although these inventions are eye-catching, well intentioned, and draw attention to the fact that sexual attacks and harassment are endemic worldwide, they only highlight what we have always needed: legislation to protect women that is properly enforced, along with a change in the focus of rape prevention from the victims to the perpetrators. And you can keep your hairy stockings.

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