Do women really feel so threatened in their daily lives that they want to wear – literally – a modern-day chastity belt? Apparently so.
A company that fundraised over the last two months on Indigogo.com raised nearly $55,000 – $5,000 more than its requested amount – to develop and release a product that will do just that. They call it “AR Wear.”
“It is, in fact, anti-rape wear,” one of the founders says in a video on the website. “The product is designed to present a substantial barrier to sexual assault.”
Citing a first date, clubbing, an evening run, or traveling in another country – even going so far as to mention women who are drugged or passed out – the underwear, which looks like boxer-briefs but also come as shorts, will “frustrate an attack” and is “resistant to cutting and pulling,” the video asserts. The signature piece is a combination lock mechanism the size of a small button that secures the underwear’s “reinforced skeleton structure.”
It’s designed to be “a clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong,” the company states. The video markets the idea that women can wear these underwear and shorts and still participate in normal activities. (Insert sarcastic “yeah, right” cough here).
AR Wear designers say they hope to protect women from rapists, though the campaign recognizes that this product will not solve the problem of rape.
Its creators say they want to give women and girls more control over their bodies if they are assaulted, yet on their website they discount real empowerment by pointing out that self-defense methods such as martial arts, pepper spray, tear gas and guns, are not always effective in deterring attackers.
What’s more, most rapes, especially in college settings, take place long after things have gotten hot and heavy, as studies show the majority of victims ages 18 and 29 have a relationship with their attacker. My best guess is what most qualifies as “rape” on college campuses nowadays takes place after the panties come off willingly.
Meanwhile, the anti-rape prototype has made headlines across the globe this fall, and many college newspapers have also weighed in as well. In one of the best campus write-ups on the product thus far, Emily Eldridge of the Ohio-based Miami Student newspaper sums it up as follows:
The Washington Post asks if this anti-rape wear is feminist. The Guardian wonders who would ever donate money to this kind of product.
And a UK newspaper called The Telegraph said in an online article that there are three problems with the undergarments: One, men get raped too. Two, why is it the woman’s responsibility to prevent being raped. And three, just because they can’t get your pants off doesn’t mean you’ll be OK.
And finally, a Slate.com article is full of satirical commentary. Author Amanda Hess writes, “After all, nothing makes a woman feel comfortable in her own body like a constant physical reminder that she’s expected to guard her genitals against potential sexual assaults at all times.” …
These things can’t look good under a slim-fitting dress or pair of skinny jeans. And if you forget the combination, you’re literally stuck.
But looking a bit deeper, I want to ask when it became the woman’s responsibility to guard areas of her body with a “bulky vagina plate?”
Like Emily, I take issue with this invention. But I have a different take.
Instead of some kind of cosmetic fix for rape, as this hopes to be, there should be a bigger discussion about self-defense in the form of concealed carry laws on campus.
A lot of people, women especially, fret at the thought of carrying a gun, however I see that as the best and most effective way to defend yourself.
In a culture where people are scared of their own shadow, we think we are not responsible enough to own and safely carry and use a firearm, when in reality this kind of anxious thought process is what leads us in the direction of a nanny state that we’re headed in.
My family raised me with the idea that no one except for myself is responsible for my safety in any regard (physical, financial, emotional, etc.), and that we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone is nice and will do no harm.
I think that coming generations are being raised with the opposite idea, and instead of being taught how to properly defend themselves are told to wear uncomfortable underwear, protect their vaginas under lock and key, and cross their fingers that it successfully “frustrates an attack.”
Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take a pistol.*
Fix contributor Katie Jones is a student at University of Arizona.
*NOTE: I do not have my own firearm yet, though I have been trained with many different kinds. I plan on getting my own when I turn 21.
IMAGE: AR WEAR