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July 18, 2010

Are anti-rape condoms "empowering"?

Okay, let's get serious here. Most of my posts are chock-full of fluff, bad puns, and sorry attempts at humor, but this post doesn't warrant any of my usual silliness. I recently came across something disturbing: it's called Rape-aXe, the anti-rape condom. The basic idea is that women can insert this "device" like a tampon and if she were to be, you know, violated, little barbs lining the condom would grab onto the perpetrator's you-know-what and cause mild discomfort. But since the only way to get rid of the thing is to have it surgically-removed, it would be incredibly easy to convict them.

This makes me uncomfortable on several levels, and I'll let you know why. First of all, I checked out Rape-aXe's
official website and was less than impressed. I find it hard to take any product seriously when its (should-be professional) website is littered with grammar and spelling mistakes:

The Rape-aXe anti rape condom was developed by a South African woman ,Sonnet Ehlers, after witnessing first hand the horrific aftermath of an sexual assault. She felt that something had to be done to stop this growing thread against woman. and start to work on the anti rape condom the Rape-aXe. The first prototype was launched on 31 August 2005, at Kleinmond, Cape Province, South Africa.
How are women supposed to respect and trust a product when its major marketing campaign seems to have been written by an 8-year-old? Not only is the site poorly written, it doesn't even make a strong case why Rape-aXe would be useful:

One of the major benefits of the Rape-aXe system is the fact that it helps in the prevention of the rape victim contracting an STD like HIV. An additional benefit of the anti rape condom is the fact that it helps in the prevention of unwanted pregnancies resulting from rape.
Correct my tenth-grade Health class education if it's wrong, but don't all condoms reduce the risk of unwanted STDs and pregnancies? Adding little, junk-grabbing "teeth" to the equation seems a little sadistic. Of course, that's not to say rape itself isn't an incredibly horrific and sadistic act.

I just can't help but think: what woman on the face of this earth would want to walk around wearing this thing? It's not as if she would have time to slip it in if (Heaven forbid) she were to be sexually assaulted. Does that mean she'd have to wear it all day, every day for it to be effective? What does that say about the condition of our world if women are seen as constant targets for rape? Has our society crumbled so much that we have to live in constant fear of being taken advantage of?

I think Victoria Kajja, a fellow for the Ugandan Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention, hit the nail on the head:

The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to.
And back to a point I addressed in my essay Should men and women be treated equally?, I don't understand why so much time, energy, and money has been invested to make sure women protect themselves when a considerably less amount of time has been spent educating young people about the seriousness of sexual harrassment and abuse in the first place. It's like the situation with Middle Eastern women being forced to conceal themselves from head to toe because "men can't control themselves." Are we forced to live in fear because of the same reason? Not only is that the lamest excuse on the planet, it's a horrible insult to the men in our lives.

In short, I don't support Rape-aXe. It seems like a mediocre product that will never gain widespread acceptance. No woman - scratch that, no person - deserves to be violated or sexually abused, that much is certain. But in the case of this product, no woman deserves to walk around with a ticking time-bomb in her body, constantly tortured by the idea that she could be violated at any moment. What kind of life is that?

Want to read more? Check out this CNN article: "South African doctor invents female condoms with 'teeth' to fight rape."