AR Wear’s Anti-Rape Clothing: Just another chastity belt.
AR Wear have designed a new clothing range featuring underwear and jogging shorts in order to help women "passively" resist rape by "sending a clear message to her would-be assailant that she is NOT consenting". Whilst the product itself concerns me greatly with the implication that women can prevent rape, it is the use of rape myths and victim blaming which I find both horrifying and frightening.
Anti-rape clothing is just another way of victim blaming women for getting raped rather than dealing with the epidemic of male violence in our culture. It is nothing more than a new-fangled chastity belt. It does nothing to change our rape culture. It doesn't stop men from raping. We need a fundamental restructuring of our culture to end rape. Underwear will not do this.
Anti-Rape underwear whose advertising campaigns are based entirely on rape myths will not help protect women or children from rape. They simply reinforce the very myths which make it easier for rapists to rape whilst blaming the victims for being raped.
The tagline for AR Wear's advertising campaign demonstrates just how damaging the entire campaign is: "A clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong." Rape is not "something that goes wrong". It is a crime with a clear perpetrator who chooses to rape. It isn't an accident. It isn't a miscommunication. And, it is mostly certainly not "something that goes wrong". This is a rape myth. It is a damaging rape myth which blames women for existing rather than men for raping.
The following information taken from their website but is a reflection of what is stated in the video. I have replicated paragraphs in full as it is important to see the context of the victim blaming statements.
"We developed this product so that women and girls could have more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault. We wanted to offer some peace of mind in situations that cause feelings of apprehension, such as going out on a blind date, taking an evening run, “clubbing”, traveling in unfamiliar countries, and any other activity that might make one anxious about the possibility of an assault."
Insinuating that women and girls [but not boys?] have the power to control the outcome of sexual violence is victim blaming. The implication is that if you go clubbing or traveling without wearing this product and are raped it is somehow your fault.
Women have every right to be anxious about being raped. We are all aware of how common rape is but we do not need more people profiting from our fears and blaming us. We need men to stop raping and men to stop making excuses for rapists.
"We read studies reviewing the statistics of resisting assault, whether by forceful or non-forceful means. We learned that resistance increases the chance of avoiding a completed rape without making the victim more likely to be physically injured. We concluded that an item of clothing that creates an effective barrier layer can allow women and girls to passively resist an attacker, in addition to any other form of resistance they may be able to carry out at the time of an assault."
The video uses the phrase "studies show that resisting sexual assault lessens the chance of a rape taking place without increasing the violence of the attack." Obviously, they haven't actually linked any research to support this statement, nor have they linked to any research which states the opposite. They haven't explained how they came to the conclusion that "an item of clothing" will help women will help women "resist" without increasing the possibility of physical violence. Nope, instead they've gone straight to the victim blaming language based on a statement without listing any research to support it.
It is simply unacceptable and unethical to make such blanket claims about research into rape without even bothering to list what research they have read. There is research that "fighting back" can increase the level of physical violence which accompanies rape. Blanket statements do not help women. It just makes it easier for women to blame themselves: had I fought back, he wouldn't have hurt me is the clear response to this statement. It is clearly not true. It also presupposes that there is one "correct" way to respond to rape and any woman who deviates from this pattern has done it "wrong".
"No product alone can solve the problem of violence against women. Nevertheless, a woman or girl who is wearing one of our garments will be sending a clear message to her would-be assailant that she is NOT consenting. We believe that this undeniable message can help to prevent a significant number of rapes."
It's ever so kind of them to suggest that their product won't solve the problem of violence against women. It would just be, well, nicer, if they didn't use yet another rape myth to advertise it. Rapists are not confused about the issue of consent. They are more than aware that the woman or child has not consented. They just don't care. They choose to rape. It doesn't matter how many times or ways a woman expresses her lack of consent, rapists rape because they want to.
Wearing anti-rape underwear won't make it "clear" to a rapist that they do not have consent. Rapists already know they don't have consent. We need to move out with this idea that men are too stupid to know when a woman is or is not consenting. It is harmful to all rape victims.
This product won't help protect women because it doesn't stop rape. In fact, it is possible to argue that the existence of the advertising campaign which accompanies this product will make it easier for rapists to rape women.
We don't tell men to stop raping. We just tell women that it's their fault.
We need to stop blaming victims of rape and start challenging rape myths:
These are the things which do not increase your vulnerability to rape:
Going out in public.
Wearing a black dress.
Visiting another country.
These are things which do increase your vulnerability to rape:
People responsible for rape:
Let's focus on men preventing rape by not raping rather than curtailing women's freedom to exist.
An earlier version of this post is here
AR Wear's campaign can be found here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ar-wear-confidence-protection-that-can-be-wornDownload this post as PDF? Click here