Anti-rape shorts are not the secret to a rape-free life
By Sharon Miki, Columnist
Following this year’s string of sexual assaults at UBC (and the subsequent local media coverage of them), it seems that discussion of sexual assault and young women’s agency in their own sexual assaults has become a hot topic. Good news, right? Wrong. While we should indeed be talking about the underlying rape culture that exists in our society and how to combat it, it seems that more and more focus has been placed on how women can prevent having other people rape them. A perfect and so-bad-I-wish-it-was-a-joke example is AR Wear’s latest in bizarre and misguided initiatives, “Anti-Rape Clothing.”
AR Wear is a “multinational development team” that is seeking crowd-sourced funding via Indiegogo (as of writing, they have raised more than $40,000 of their $50,000 goal) to produce a line of so-called “Anti-Rape” panties, shorts, and leggings. Essentially, Anti-Rape Wear is a series of tight-fitting garments, which women wear either alone or under clothing, that can be “locked” by the wearer—with the hope that should the wearer be attacked by a rapist, the rapist will become so frustrated by the complex nature of the clothing that they will abandon their quest. It’s a modern-day chastity belt.
Certainly, I believe that the creators of Anti-Rape Clothing are well-intentioned—even though AR Wear does unquestionably serve to profit from women’s fears. A watch of the campaign’s video and read of their marketing materials demonstrates a pretty earnest and sincere intention. I believe that the creators of AR Wear do want to help prevent rape with their weird shorts—the problem is that I also believe that in the real world, this line will do more harm than good.
The basic premise of Anti-Rape Clothing is that most rapes happen by surprise and by strangers. If this were the case, then I could see the rationale that having another barrier between your surprise stranger rapist and your vagina could slow them down or deter them (though, even if the locking mechanism were impenetrable, it would not prevent an assailant from assaulting other parts of your body). However, according to statistics raised by the Justice Institute of BC, 80 per cent of sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home and 70 per cent of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. With the vast majority of rapes happening in your home and by someone you know, are you expected to wear a locking girdle at all times?
In this way, I feel that products like Anti-Rape Clothing are actually more dangerous to women than they are helpful. Even if you do everything “right” (the Anti-Rape Clothing tagline is “A clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong”), you’re still about as likely to be raped as any other woman.
So, did you do something wrong if you shell out the money for a pair of Anti-Rape shorts and still got raped by a friend in your home? Is it your fault? While not explicitly stated, I believe that this implicit victim-blaming is the very real and dangerous result of telling women to stop rape by being “good,” by not drinking, by not dressing a certain way, or by not going certain places. We shouldn’t make women feel like they can stop other people from assaulting them if they do things right—because they really can’t. What we really should be spending our time, money, and effort on is teaching people what rape is, and that it’s not okay to rape.