by Stephanie Self
A small clothing company called AR Wear started an IndieGoGo campaign recently in order to fund their new product, which they say is “confidence and protection that can be worn.”
Intrigued? So is the rest of the Internet.
Usually confidence and protection in this context makes one think of bullet proof vests, K9 bite suits, military uniforms worn during combat and condoms. However, this product is not similar to any of those types of protection, and that’s because we’re talking about underwear. What kind of underwear, you ask? Anti-rape underwear.
If you’re still reading this, and have not already heard about this, you’re probably at least now sporting a rather contorted facial expression reflecting the confusion that so many people, including myself, experience when simply reading or hearing the phrase “anti-rape underwear.” The explanation of the product is not very helpful when it comes to alleviating that confusion, but I’ll attempt to offer one anyway.
Let’s just say what everyone is thinking: it is essentially a more comfortable and much less cumbersome chastity belt made for the 21st century woman. Operating under the results from various research studies, which said that “resistance (from sexual assault) increases the chance of avoiding a completed rape without making the victim more likely to be physically injured,” the underwear is meant to frustrate an attacker and cause them to essentially give up on trying to rape at all.
The fabric itself is not of Kevlar-strength, but there are other elements of the design that make it difficult to get the underwear off. There are straps sewn into each pant and into the waist that are resistant to tearing and cutting. On top of that, each strap must be fastened with a special lock that can only be unlocked with a special combination, which is determined by the user.
So once they’re on, you better not have to pee for, well, until you don’t feel at risk of being raped, I guess?
As ambitious and well-intentioned as this product is, it is not without its problems. And, to be clear, even AR Wear knows that this product will not stop the social problem that is sexual assault. On their website they write, “No product alone can solve the problem of violence against women.” So it would be unfair to criticize them for making such a product with the belief that this product could do that.
After all, rape is not only about someone wanting to “get theirs” at the risk of another. Rape is about asserting power over others in a violent, disgusting and terrifying way. With that in mind, we have to consider that when actually trying to confront rape as a social problem, it does not come from women wearing clothing that prevents them from being penetrated. It comes from a shift in consciousness that would begin with the end of inequality that is prevalent for many different groups, not just women. That is a really fucking big fish to fry.
With all of that said, it is also important to consider that most sexual assaults against women are not committed by strangers, which seems to be the only situation that this product would be useful in. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 73 percent of rape is committed by non-strangers, and 28 percent is committed by intimate partners. This is not to say that the other 27 percent of rape that is committed by strangers should not be of any concern, but this particular product does not protect women against the type of situation that they are (unfortunately) more likely to be confronted with.
While the efforts of AR Wear should not be entirely chastised, it does only contribute to a small part of the solution. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a person who would be convinced to never rape again after having a difficult time getting off someone’s underwear. Perhaps it would make them question their decisions, but who knows?
Unfortunately, this debate stretches far beyond the word count of this page on this modest newspaper, but I encourage you, dear readers, to continue this conversation on your own. Why would a product like this anger some people? In what ways could this product be effective? In what ways isn’t it? Why or why not? If you’re a woman, would you wear it? Would you feel more protected? Would wearing it only remind you of your place in a society where apparently underwear like this is necessary?
AR Wear isn’t proposing to fix this problem, and surely their product won’t, but it is a step in the direction of thinking about how women must protect themselves and how we can act against the perpetrators.
Stephanie Self studies English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.