In 19 days (at the time of writing) AR wear (an Anti-Rape clothing company) plans on having raised $50000 in funds to kick start their clothing line. The range will consist of women’s underwear and running shorts, with plans to branch out into travel shorts. All of the items are designed to apparently allow their wearers to feel safer and empowered when they go out.
The idea is that a woman will put on the garment, adjust the sizing and seal the lock, thus leaving her in a kind of reinforced chastity belt which cannot be pulled down or adjusted at the waist or thigh. The items each have a central panel on the thigh, waistband and edging of the leg holes made of “specially designed, cut resistant straps and webbing” as demonstrated with industrial style scissors in the Vimeo video. As they claim on their Idiegogo.com fundraising page, the items will “allow women and girls to passively resist an attacker”.
However, I believe the product will perpetuate rather than diminish rape-culture by allowing for an increase of victim blaming. Now if a girl is raped it will not just be ‘but you were drunk’, ‘you didn’t explicitly say no’ but also ‘why were you not wearing anti-rape wear? You must have not minded being raped’. Indeed the entire video seems to say; ‘OK Girls, we give in, you can wear your short dress out, you can even go out when it’s dark- but only if you wear a padlock over your vagina’.
This puts the blame on the female rape victim. It doesn’t try to solve the issue of men thinking it’s acceptable to force themselves on a woman. Its message is wrapping the women up, making them responsible for the mindless objectifying as a better alternative to dealing with the root of the problem.
There are other issues with the video advertising the products. It’s racist for one. The models are predominantly white or paler females of colour, and as the video narration says they’re in “potentially risky situations” we see a group of pale skinned females walk past a homeless black man, thus reinforcing the outrageous stereotype that all rape victims are white cis-women, and all rapists black cis-men.
Furthermore it does nothing to address that the findings of studies that show percentages of rape by a stranger is 4 per cent, whereas it is 46 per cent of the incidents are committed by “someone you love”. These findings are not isolated, similar figures are frequently quoted in the media. Women cannot wear these chastity belts all the time. The advertising perpetuates the false perception of rapists solely being strangers, being someone who jumps out in the middle of the night. Yet this will not protect them from the majority of situations where a rape could occur.
What is meant to happen after the rapist realises he can’t get the AR wear off anyway? He is hardly likely to just walk off find another; that’s not how rapist phycology works. Indeed the AR clothing may just cause a more dangerous situation as the attacker becomes more aggressive through their frustration.
Women (and men) should never be blamed for sexual abuse they suffer. Ultimately the issue is not what women choose to wear, when they choose to travel, if they have had a drink on the night out. The issue is the rapist. They are who we should condemn, who should be taught how to respect women, who should be locking their genitals into anti-rape wear.