AR Wear, a company started by two New Yorkers, has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money that will go toward producing its rape-resistant underpants. The garments are sleek and promise to be comfortable and easy to wear, just not so easy to break into. The material around the hips, groin and thighs is bolstered with a “reinforced skeleton structure” that is impossible to cut or pull off. Designed to “present a substantial barrier to sexual assault” (based on studies that show rape is less likely to occur when a victim is resistant in some form), the product aims to make “women and girls feel safer” and also keep their loved ones’ minds at ease. The AR in the company’s name stands for “anti-rape” and while the idea behind its product is understandable given statistics such as the Department of Justice’s estimate that 300,000 women are raped every year, it still raises the following question: Are items such as these really what we should be investing in when it comes to eradicating sexual assault? According to Slate:

“Rape is about as wrong as it gets,” the two New York women behind AR Wear note in their Indiegogo campaign, which has raised a little more than half of its $50,000 goal for finalizing production-ready prototypes of the design. “The only one responsible for a rape is the rapist and AR Wear will not solve the fundamental problem that rape exists in our world. Only by raising awareness and education, as well as bringing rapists to justice, can we all hope to eventually accomplish the goal of eliminating rape as a threat to both women and men. Meanwhile, as long as sexual predators continue to populate our world, AR Wear would like to provide products to women and girls that will offer better protection against some attempted rapes while the work of changing society’s rape culture moves forward.”

While we’re working on that whole rape culture thing, AR Wear will help women move freely about the world with the confidence that only a reinforced skeletal structure around her vagina can provide. 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.

Aye, there’s the rub. Making women constantly fear the threat of an attack only perpetuates rape culture. Purchasing or wearing these modern-day chastity belts will surely increase feelings of trepidation if every time a woman dons AR Wear she is expecting to be assaulted. And there’s a strong case to be made for more attention and funding to be put toward fighting rape culture with education rather than asking women to always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Although the creators of AR Wear acknowledge that a combination of raising awareness and education is needed to combat rape culture, products such as these seem to place more responsibility on the victims than the assailants. Others have been similarly concerned with these and other flaws apparent in the campaign, according to the International Business Times:

The concept of “anti-rape” underwear has been criticised for being a symbol of victim-blaming. Other people remarked that men should be taught not to rape women. Some noticed only white-skinned models were featured in the product’s promotional video.

People also questioned how medical staff can cut through the clothing in case of emergencies. Women who will wear the anti-rape underwear may have trouble unlocking the latch in the bathroom when drunk.

But AR Wear stands behind its idea, explaining that the product also sends the message to an assailant that there is no consent involved. Again, the notion is worth exploring, especially since, apparently, “women who want better security welcome the idea of anti-rape clothing.” However, AR Wear seems a bit reminiscent of Rape-aXe, the condom with teeth invented by a South African doctor a few years ago. And Rape-aXe, though admittedly a more aggressive alternative, raised a lot of the same concerns.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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