I don't know if you've noticed, but the good old chastity belt is enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment in the form of some weird 'webbed' pants. One pair of these thrush-inducing beauties will have you skipping off to a blind date safe in the knowledge that if a man does drug you and attempt to have his way, he'll be so infuriated by your crotch contraption thwarting his dastardly plan that he'll probably only give you a sound beating instead. So good news all round.
This bonkers creation has caused a rash of angry responses, mostly riffing on the same theme; the frustration that, yet again, women are being held responsible for combatting rape. To be fair to the inventors of the Chastity Belt 2.0, they do include this disclaimer on their crowd-sourcing site: "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."
The problem is, products like these only further emphasise the myth that women are at a high risk of being jumped by random men at all times. This is simply not true. Only 9% of rapes are committed by strangers. Rape is far more likely to occur in the home or at work. Yet the anti-rape range is specifically marketed towards independent women who want to do all the things that 'liberated' women do, but without the assumed risk. It doesn't address the fact that the majority of rapes aren't going to be avoided by this method. It only serves to further frighten women into believing that they should stay at home. And to be honest, given the options of Medieval bush-corset versus rape, I'd take the implied option, option number three. Stay in and hide. This company is capitalising on women's fear - on the belief that those are the only options. Not only does it fundamentally misfire when it comes to pinpointing where rape occurs, it's set to profit from the perpetuated misconception. At the time of writing, AP Wear has successfully raised $41,623 in its crowd-funding efforts.
Now, just think of the concept of rape-wear for a moment. Like sports-wear. Or swim-wear. This nouveau chastity belt is in danger of normalising rape, making it just one more thing that a woman has to prepare for. Socks? Check. Shoes? Check. Weird ribbed pants that "frustrate attacks"? Erm.... no?
In the words of AR wear themselves, these nifty knickers are part of "a clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong" because "rape is about as wrong as it gets". The phrase "when things go wrong" should be reserved for culinary disasters or big nights out spent vomming in a club toilet in Clapham. It should not be applied to rape. Rape is not just something that happens when 'things' go wrong. Rape is what happens when someone rapes. How long are we going to have to keep saying this, people? Well, if products like this continue to place the impetus on women to protect themselves from rape, presumably a very long time indeed.
As I see it, these stupid pants, however well-meaning, are just another in a long line of efforts to control and limit women's behaviour. I mean seriously, they are hardly the most practical of things. They suggest we wear them clubbing. Now, I find a friggin' playsuit challenging enough to navigate at the best of times. Whatever the website might say, if a determined rapist can't get into these bad boys I sure as hell won't be able to after a skinful, and frankly, sitting in a knife-proof sackful of piss on a nightbus is not my idea of a party. They also suggest we wear them on dates. What if you meet someone you genuinely do want to cop off with? I'm pretty sure that if I went back to some bloke's house for a night of passion, spending half an hour wrestling with my reinforced chastity pants might be something of a mood-killer for all involved.
Rape is a big fucking deal. Rape is not just a 'thing' that happens. If you want to stop it from happening, stop treating it as if it's an inevitable outcome of walking through alleyways or car parks late at night. Stop treating it as if it's the product of dates and alcohol. And please, please STOP making promo videos that narrate stock footage of women's short-skirted arses whilst urging us to protect ourselves in "risky situations". It's misleading, it's unhelpful, and frankly, it's frightening. I commend attempts to empower women, AR Wear, but dusting off the chastity belt? In the quest for female empowerment, I suggest we look forward, not back.