The problem with 'Anti-Rape Panties'

The problem with 'Anti-Rape Panties'
Never underestimate the divisive power of knickers.

When I first saw the current advertisement for Anti Rape pants, I thought it was a YouTube parody.

I thought some smart person was highlighting public disgust with the Roast Busters, and Willie Jackson and John Tamihere debacle. But no.

AR wear, a New York clothing design business, has been fundraising for $50,000 on Indiegogo to start mass producing their new Anti Rape underwear. They’ve reached their target, and so will go ahead in making them.

The knickers have a coded chastity belt-esque device. Only the wearer can take them off. So if someone attempts to rape a girl on a night out, they can’t get her knickers off.

The ads are targeted at young, white girls who go out drinking. Girls like me. In the advert, which is going around the web right now, the girls try on the pants whilst pouting into mirrors. They then go out, get sloshed, and get eyed up by a black homeless man. 

And this masterstroke of marketing is a serious advert.

It’s targeting girls like me who go out, as the key victim of rape. Public discussion makes us the centre of the rape debate too. Is everyone just ignoring facts? The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network states that 73 percent of rapes are committed by a person who isn’t a stranger to the woman. This group isn’t the one most at risk.

Never underestimate the divisive power of knickers. The subject is polarising my friends right now.

The practical girls say “when I’m walking in town at night, I do feel unsafe. If I had Anti Rape pants on I’d feel safer.” The argument is coated in that level headed, reasonable tone that makes it so damned logical and sensible.

Such pragmatism is so convincing in conversation. So I’ll be practical.

Girl about to be raped by stranger. Stranger can’t get pants off. Do they get up calmly, apologise and walk away? Or do they get even angrier and, led on by sexual and power frustration, attack the girl even more violently?

They’ve already made the decision to break the law when they tried to rape her. Why stop now?

Furthermore, the ‘practical’ scenario they’re marketed for is not as realistic as it appears. As I said above, girls going out to town aren’t the ones who need to be most worried about rape.

And on a theoretical level, because it’s me wearing the pants, it feels like my responsibility to prevent myself being raped. When did being raped become my fault? Shouldn’t we be attacking the overall rape culture?  

I know that’s a difficult culture to change. But surely we should focus on trying to change it rather than distracting people by waving around miracle panties. Changing and educating about rape culture, consent, judgement and dignity might be hard to do. However, it is the most important place to start attacking the rape debate.

On another note, if I go out jogging without my Anti Rape pants on, and I get raped, is it my fault? Can you hear the war cry “If you’d worn the pants it wouldn’t have happened….”

I know it would have to become fairly common to wear the pants for people to start thinking like that. But girls my age are scared, and getting more so. Rape seems to be everywhere. In this tense atmosphere, it is easy to see Anti Rape pants becoming normal.

Does that mean we are going to start relying on these pants to feel safe? I reckon that feeling like we have to wear them will just exacerbate our existing fears of rape.

We’re already worried, so we wear them, we depend on them, which constantly reminds us of our fear, which makes us more worried…..

When it becomes normal to wear them, the pants become a  serious privacy invasion. Our underwear is one of the most intensely private parts of us. It should belong to us. And only us. Letting them be regulated kills a little part of our freedom.

And think about it, is this going to lead to us arguing women should cover up everywhere?

After all, the Anti Rape knickers show that women should bear the responsibility for rape prevention. Will we soon need to cover all of ourselves, for protection against the uncontrollable lusts of men? As a woman, that idea makes me sick. But if I was a guy, I’d be livid.

 My knickers are my knickers. They are not controlled by my boyfriend. They are not controlled by society. And they are certainly not controlled by fear.

Verity Johnson blogs at verityjohnson.com